When Your Abuser Dies - Funerals,Obituaries, & Condolences
WHEN YOUR ABUSER OR ESTRANGED RELATIVE DIES
CONDOLENCES, OBITUARIES, AND GOING TO THE FUNERAL
By Rev. Renee
One of the biggest dilemmas faced by escapees from abusive families is what to do when our abuser or estranged relative dies. Should we make an appearance at the wake and funeral, or not? Should we go to the burial? Should we send flowers? Should we offer our condolences- and if so, to whom? To the very people who took our abuser’s side against us or shunned us from their family? What kind of an act will we have to put on if people offer condolences to US? How will we be able to pretend that the death of our abuser was a great loss, when we can’t even come up with one nice thing to say about him?
Since I’ve been ministering to adult survivors of abusive birth-families, I’ve been moved by the amount of anxiety and years of conflict these questions generate. It angers me that our abusers still manage to put us in the middle of such painful situations, which we did absolutely nothing to bring on ourselves, and force us to deal with them and their trail of wreckage even after their deaths.
Awhile back, I took an informal survey of people’s opinions and attitudes about attending the funerals of estranged relatives. I did not refer to the deceased as “abusers”, only “estranged relatives”, so many of the respondents did not consider themselves to be abuse victims. They simply were not on speaking terms with whoever had passed away, or would pass in the future, although we could assume that in many cases there was indeed some abuse involved. I’m guessing that if the survey specified “abusers”, most of the respondents would have been even more adamant in their refusal to commemorate their deaths. The respondents were both men and women, and ranged in age from their twenties to their seventies. They came from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, locations, and religions, including many Christians.
Out of 72 responses, only four people said that they would go to the funeral of an estranged relative. The reason they gave was that they felt it was the right thing to do, and they felt that their cultural background and how they were raised influenced them in their decision. The remaining respondents either would not go if they were ever in that position, or had not gone in the past when they WERE in that position. Of the respondents who had actually been in this situation and did not go to the funeral, not one had any regrets. Every single one said that if they had to do it over again, they would make exactly the same decision.
I then asked what factors would affect, or had affected, their decision either way, and I found the responses quite interesting. For instance, it didn’t matter how closely related they were to the relative who had died. Whether it was a parent, sibling, or distant cousin, if they were estranged, the respondents felt no obligation to attend their funeral. It did not make any difference whether the estrangement was recent or a long time ago. It did not make any difference whether the respondent was the one who had ended the relationship, or the estranged relative was the one who had ended it. If it was over, for whatever reason, they would not attend the funeral. The respondents felt no need to go to “support other people.” Some did anticipate being criticized or judged for not attending, but said that the possible disapproval of others would not affect their decision.
While some respondents believed they would probably be criticized for not going, the majority did not anticipate this, and several indicated that was because others knew the deceased was an abuser and so would not fault a former victim for staying away. This made an interesting point about the Silent Partners in abusive families. Normal folks seemed to understand the logic of not attending the funeral of someone who wasn’t speaking to you. Normal folks also seemed to grasp the hypocrisy of memorializing abusers, lying to make them look good in death, and pretending they lived their lives well.
But the Silent Partners in abusive families don’t seem to get this. They actually expect you to mourn for someone who abused you, or who was no longer a part of your life, perhaps for many years, and they just can’t wait to criticize you if you don’t. Even if you feel like mourning, you can’t just do it in private. You have to put on a show for them. They want to SEE you mourn, or it doesn’t count. This is because they are sadists who enjoy seeing you suffer. That’s why they stood by silently all those years while you were abused. If you don’t cry in front of them, they feel cheated, because you are depriving them of something they get their kicks from. In an abusive family, there’s no such thing as everybody dealing with their own grief in their own personal way, because personal boundaries are not acknowledged. You have to grieve in the way THEY want you to grieve, in the way THEY deem to be acceptable, or you will be criticized and gossiped about for years to come. Yes, abusers and control-freaks think they have the right to dictate even this. Nothing is sacred, not even mourning.
When I asked whose feelings were most important in this situation, I was actually quite glad to see that all the respondents said their own feelings should take precedence over the feelings of the deceased, the rest of the family, or anybody else. I did not perceive this as selfish at all, but instead, I considered it to be indicative of a very healthy attitude. It emphasized for me another difference between abusive families and normal families. It highlighted the difference between those of us who still have those messages of guilt and shame echoing through our heads, and those of us who have either never had them instilled in the first place, or have reached the level of self-protection in our recovery process that enables us to shut them off or ignore them.
The unjustified guilt that so many of us struggle with is simply not a factor in the lives of so many others. Healthy people make decisions, do what they believe is the right thing, and remain confident and unshaken in their positions despite the possible disapproval of others. This is a big reason why we’re so often targeted by bullies and abusers, and the rest of the world is not. We send out the signal that the opinions of others, even users, liars, bullies, schemers, unstable mental cases, and evil sociopaths, are important to us- so important that we will do whatever they want us to do, tolerate their misbehavior, hide the truth about them, keep the family skeletons locked in the closet to protect them, and let their abuse slide to avoid conflict. This type of passive personality that is willing to allow them to operate without challenge or exposure is what attracts abusers to us. It’s like a flashing neon sign on our foreheads that says “Victim”.
But other people are never targeted, because they are not sending out those signals. They have the confidence to do what they feel is right without worrying about what others will think, including telling the truth and exposing the abuser. Once we remove that keep-our-mouths-shut-and-keep-the-peace mentality as a factor in our decision-making process, we have neutralized one of our abuser’s and Silent Partner’s greatest weapons.
MY ESTRANGED MOTHER’S FUNERAL
I did not attend my estranged birth-mother's funeral because I knew it would not accomplish anything constructive or helpful, and my presence would be used by her Silent Partners to make a scene and create gossip. I wasn't about to walk in and have all heads turn to me, and the whispering start. There was no need to expose myself to that. By nature, I’m very shy and have an aversion to attracting attention, especially at somebody else’s funeral. I had gone through weeks of intense grief and upset when Mommy Darling cut me out of her life, without a shred of support or care from the Silent Partners who would be at her funeral. By the time she passed away almost a year later, I had already mourned losing my mother and had begun to recover. Going to her funeral would have meant revisiting all that pain and opening all those old wounds. It didn't matter to her whether I went or not, but going would have set me back in my recovery. So for pretty much the first time in my life, I made a decision that was best for ME. I stayed home. And it was the best decision I ever made.
A few weeks after our mother’s funeral, my birth-sister returned the birthday gifts my husband and I and our children had sent her, with an angry letter breaking off our relationship. The letter contained shockingly little about the person who had actually died, but ranted on about how terribly I had treated my sister. It was all about how I wasn’t there to comfort HER during OUR mother’s funeral, and support HER while she “struggled through the eulogy”. Our jaws dropped in amazement at the gall. It wasn’t HER mother who had died. It was OUR mother. But only one daughter was apparently entitled to any support, sympathy, or comfort- her. And I was supposed to give it to her. Not a word was mentioned about any support, sympathy, or comfort for me.
In the past, I had always offered the appropriate condolences when birth-sister lost a friend or someone she cared about. But two years before our mother’s death, my beloved cousin Tony passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, just before Christmas. Tony was like a brother to me and we had been best friends since childhood. I was absolutely devastated. My birth-sister never offered a single word of sympathy. In fact, she never mentioned Tony’s name again. When I was the one struggling through the eulogy at Tony’s memorial service, my selfish sister didn’t do or say a single thing to support or comfort me. In fact, she didn’t even bother coming to his service, and neither did my mother, who was Tony’s first cousin. My friends and other family members were just as appalled at her failure to be there for me as she supposedly was at my failure to be there for her two years later, when it was HER turn.
And now the shoe was on the other foot. She was in the exact same situation that I had been in only a couple of years previously, but apparently what was good for the goose wasn’t good for the gander. Now she was the one going to a family member’s service and giving the eulogy. It’s not like no one else was there to support her- she had all the two-faced relatives who had judged me and disowned me after my mother ended our relationship. But that wasn’t enough. Narcissists are bottomless pits of needs and demands. Even though she had all the support that a normal person could possibly need or expect, my birth-sister was so offended by ME not giving HER the attention she felt entitled to when OUR mother died, that she ended our relationship. She even took it out on my kids, and hurt her young nephews by returning their gift to her. Abusers frequently accuse us of turning our kids against them, but they conveniently forget all the things THEY did, all by their own little selves, to turn our kids against them, with no help at all from us.
Birth-sis using our mother’s funeral as an excuse to villain-ize me and unload on me gave me the push I needed to tell her how I felt about HER decades of self-centeredness and neglect. Her letter was certainly a case of the pot calling the kettle black. I wrote a long letter of my own, detailing all the years and times she had not been there for me OR our mother, while I took care of everything and suffered the brunt of our parent’s abuse. I reminded her that she had even gotten married, not once but TWICE, and didn’t invite our mother to her wedding either time. I added that since I pretty much never heard from her when we WERE on speaking terms, it wasn’t going to make much difference in my life now that we WEREN’T on speaking terms. The selfishness and entitlement in her letter had been shocking to me, especially coming from someone who never lifted a finger to do anything for me, or her family, for almost twenty-five years. I was amazed that she could possibly think I should do what she herself wasn’t willing to do, and had never done.
I was also appalled that majority of her letter had nothing to do with our mother. It was all about her. In our entire lives, she had never been there for me, but how dare I not be there for her! She tried to use her own mother’s funeral as an excuse to get attention for herself, and I had enraged her by not being there for her drama. I did not know much about narcissists back then, but I do now. My birth-sister had the typical everything-is-all-about-me-even-somebody-else’s-death mindset. Her letter convinced me even more firmly that I had made the right decision by staying away from our mother’s funeral, and not giving the family narcissists a target for their histrionics, or an excuse to act out and make a big scene.
My decision may not be the best one for you or anyone else, but I have certainly never regretted it. We each have to do what we think is best. However, I do wish that more victims would give greater weight to what is best for THEM, and not best for everyone else- certainly not deceased abusers and those who enabled their abuse all our lives. For the rest of the world, this is a no-brainer. Only we survivors of abuse give it such serious consideration and spend so much time agonizing over it. It's hard to overcome a lifetime of brainwashing and guilt, and reprogram ourselves, but we have to start putting our own welfare and safety first. It might help to give some thought as to exactly WHY we would even consider going to the funeral of someone who was no longer speaking to us. What would the difference be if we stayed home? What possible harm would we be doing by not going? Who would benefit if we went? What would we accomplish? Would it do any good to go, or would it open a Pandora’s Box and be a disaster we’ll regret for years? Let’s consider these five possibilities:
1. SHOULD YOU GO TO THE FUNERAL FOR THE DECEASED ABUSER?
Keep in mind that funerals are for the living, not the dead. It isn’t going to do the dead person the slightest bit good if you go, or do him any harm if you stay away. It won’t make any difference at all to him either way. When someone we LOVE passes on, it might bring US comfort to think of him looking down on us from heaven, but the Bible does not support this idea and never says anything of the kind. Christians believe what the Bible teaches about death- that once someone dies, they go on to another life, either glorying in the presence of God, or burning in hell, neither of which would leave them much time or inclination to continue watching us and stay tied to this world. They do not have the ability to see us or know what we’re doing.
Maybe if you had good memories of your parent, you would consider going to the funeral to grieve. However, if that were the case, you could also do this from a distance, at home. Mourning does not end with the funeral, anyway. It continues for a period of time, and most of your mourning will take place in private. That’s just the way it is, until you heal from your grief.
But in the case of an abuser, you don’t have good memories. All you have is bad memories. So why dredge them up? How are you going to feel sitting at the funeral, plastering a phony smile on your face, thanking people for coming, and trying to think of something nice to say about your abuser without feeling like a liar and a total hypocrite? Are you going to sit there, wanting to scream out the truth, but biting your tongue, lest people think you’re just as bitter and crazy as your abuser always said you were? If the deceased wasn’t an abuser or a sociopath, you wouldn’t have this problem. You could go to her funeral, grieve normally, thank people sincerely, and tell the truth about what a wonderful person she was and how much she will be missed. But with an abuser, let’s face it, she was not a good person, and she probably won’t be missed at all.
2. SHOULD YOU GO TO THE FUNERAL TO PRAY FOR THE SOUL OF THE DECEASED?
First of all, if you wanted to pray for someone’s soul, nowhere does it say you have to go to the funeral to do it. You could do it just as well from home. However, as Christians, we do not believe in intercessory prayer for dead people. We cannot pray people’s souls into heaven. You can only get yourself into heaven, by the choices you make while you’re alive. Nobody else can do it for you. By the time someone dies, they have already sealed their own fate. It’s too late to change anything. There is one way and one way only into heaven-accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior while you are on this earth. And you can’t just pretend or lie about it. You have to prove that you are a true follower of Christ, not just by what you say, but by the way you live your life, or Jesus will not acknowledge you as his own and God will not allow you into heaven (Matthew 7: 21-23; Matthew 23; Matthew 25: 41-46) . That automatically leaves out everyone who is evil, cruel, jealous, selfish, conniving, remorseless, dishonest or treacherous, and liars, abusers, and sociopaths.
The choice to accept Jesus into one’s heart and live as a child of God is an individual choice. No one else can make it for you. Abusers have their entire lifetimes to choose the right path. If they decide not to, then you can’t help them get into heaven by praying for them after they’re dead. God does not allow people like them into his holy presence. Only his children will spend eternity with him, not the children of the devil.
3. SHOULD YOU GO TO THE FUNERAL FOR OTHER PEOPLE?
When there is animosity between relatives, you will find that a funeral, like a wedding, is not the best place for a family reunion. At best, people will “bury the hatchet” under false pretenses without ever getting anything resolved, and the reconciliation will be short-lived. At worst, the narcissists involved will use the fact that emotions usually run high at such occasions as an excuse to get out of control and make a scene, figuring that their rudeness or hostility will be overlooked because they are “grieving” and “can’t help themselves”. Narcissists will stop at nothing to be the center of attention, even if it means commandeering and ruining somebody else’s funeral.
Unless you are on intimate and close terms with someone who will be mourning the loss of your estranged relative, and you feel that your presence is an absolute must, there isn’t much reason to go. Especially if the surviving relatives are the ones who judged you or betrayed you when you started setting limits on your abuser, or when your relationship ended. They didn’t support you when you needed support, and they are the last people you owe any support to now.
If you want to be a comfort to one of the survivors, there are other ways. By all means, call or visit them at home and offer your condolences. You can say you’re sorry for their loss, and explain that you did not feel it was wise to come to the funeral, given the family estrangement, because you did not want your presence to trigger an uproar that would leave bad memories behind and lessen the dignity and solemnity of the occasion. You do not want to be used by the family bullies and drama queens as an excuse to give Aunt Tillie anything less than a respectful send-off. If the bereaved have any class, they should understand this and be grateful that you thought of it before any of your abusers could make a mockery of their loved one’s funeral. If your overtures are well-received, you might also send a nice fruit basket or take over some home-cooked meals. It’s also nice to continue calling or visiting for a few weeks to let the survivors know you’re still thinking of them and praying for them.
However, if you are the child or sibling of the deceased, then YOU are the closest relative, or one of the closest. In the world of normal people, that means YOU are the bereaved, the one to whom others are supposed to pay their respects and offer their condolences and sympathy. You are not supposed to be comforting the assorted peripheral relatives. THEY are supposed to be comforting YOU. My birth-father and birth-sister loved and honored and mourned for my mother so much that I was told they apparently didn't even pay for her funeral dinner, but let a cousin's husband foot the bill for feeding their guests at the local diner. She wasn't even worth that much to them. It would have been hypocritical and ridiculous for ME, the one who had been closest to my mother for over forty-five years, to go to her funeral to pay my respects and offer my condolences to my sister, who hadn’t bothered seeing our mother more than once or twice a year for the last two decades, wasn’t there when our mother died, and don’t forget-got married TWICE without inviting her to either wedding. It would have been even more preposterous for me to offer sympathy to my birth-father, whose marriage to my mother had been fifty years of hell, and who was instrumental in breaking up our relationship and influencing her to disown me the year before she died.
THEN THE WORD OF THE LORD CAME TO ME: “YOU MUST NOT MARRY AND HAVE SONS OR DAUGHTERS IN THIS PLACE.” FOR THIS IS WHAT THE LORD SAYS ABOUT THE SONS AND DAUGHTERS BORN IN THIS LAND AND ABOUT THE WOMEN WHO ARE THEIR MOTHERS AND THE MEN WHO ARE THEIR FATHERS: “THEY WILL DIE OF DEADLY DISEASES. THEY WILL NOT BE MOURNED OR BURIED BUT WILL BE LIKE REFUSE LYING ON THE GROUND. THEY WILL PERISH BY SWORD AND FAMINE, AND THEIR DEAD BODIES WILL BECOME FOOD FOR THE BIRDS OF THE AIR AND THE BEASTS OF THE EARTH.” FOR THIS IS WHAT THE LORD SAYS: “DO NOT ENTER A HOUSE WHERE THERE IS A FUNERAL MEAL; DO NOT GO TO MOURN OR SHOW SYMPATHY, BECAUSE I HAVE WITHDRAWN MY BLESSING, MY LOVE AND MY PITY FROM THIS PEOPLE,” DECLARES THE LORD. “BOTH HIGH AND LOW WILL DIE IN THIS LAND. THEY WILL NOT BE BURIED OR MOURNED, AND NO ONE WILL CUT HIMSELF OR SHAVE HIS HEAD FOR THEM. NO ONE WILL OFFER FOOD TO COMFORT THOSE WHO MOURN FOR THE DEAD-NOT EVEN FOR A FATHER OR A MOTHER-NOR WILL ANYONE GIVE THEM A DRINK TO CONSOLE THEM”…Jeremiah 16:1-7 NIV.
4. SHOULD YOU GO TO THE FUNERAL FOR YOURSELF?
If you feel the need for closure but do not want to attract attention or be the victim of a scene at your abuser’s funeral, you could try calling the funeral parlor and asking for a private viewing of a few minutes before or after their normal hours of operation. Sometimes this can be worked out. If you are thinking of sending flowers, you might want to think twice. I have been to wakes where estranged relatives sent flowers and either they were the focus of gossip and tittering all evening, or another relative created a big scene over them and would not allow them to be displayed. A better alternative might be to visit the gravesite a week or two later and leave some flowers. Even better is to memorialize your estranged relative in the privacy of your own home and in your own way, perhaps with a candle (make sure to blow it out afterwards) or a bud vase with a single lovely bloom. You might also achieve some closure by writing a letter to your deceased relative and telling her exactly how you feel about her- even that you’re sorry you missed out on having a loving relationship because of her choices- the truth about anything that’s in your heart. Any private little ritual you feel comfortable with will help you to be more at peace.
5. SHOULD YOU GO TO THE FUNERAL FOR GOD?
Some people have a strange idea that it’s some kind of sin not to go to a family funeral. It’s interesting to research what exactly the Bible says about funerals. Throughout biblical history, we see people being laid to rest with honor and care, and being mourned by their families and those who loved them. It was customary to bury the dead, or to lay them to rest in sometimes ornate tombs. Great trouble was taken to prepare their bodies. It was often necessary to travel a distance with the body so that the deceased could be entombed with their family members. Elaborate rituals and periods of mourning were observed.
But these customs and tributes were not for everyone. They were reserved for good people, beloved and highly esteemed patriarchs and matriarchs, leaders, prophets, teachers, military heroes, and royalty. There was no such send-off for the evil and despicable, traitors, abusers, or sociopaths.
After Judas betrayed Jesus, he threw the thirty coins he had been paid into the temple and went away and hung himself. The chief priests didn’t bat an eye at Judas committing suicide, but there was no sense in letting the money go to waste. They didn’t want it for the temple treasury because it was blood money, so they used it to buy a potter’s field in which to bury foreigners (Matthew 27: 3-10).
Judas had done the Jews a big favor by betraying Jesus, someone who loved him dearly. You’d think they’d at least think he was worthy of a decent funeral and a proper burial. In fact, he should have been buried with honor for being loyal to them. But that’s not what happened. In Acts 1:18, it says that Judas bought the field, fell headlong, and his body burst open, spilling out all his intestines. Many scholars reconcile this apparent contradiction by explaining that Judas’ body was never removed, but was left hanging in the field after he committed suicide. Eventually it swelled up and fell, possibly from a broken branch or rope, at which point it burst open. There is no mention of Judas being given a hero’s send-off for taking the Jews’ side, nor any burial at all. And the apostles didn’t miss a beat. They promptly replaced him with Matthias and went about continuing the Lord’s business (Acts 1:18-26). Apparently neither side thought too highly of a traitor.
God made a point of not according the honor of a proper burial those who did evil. In fact, he made a clear distinction between those who should be buried and those who shouldn’t, and why. When Jeroboam’s son fell ill, his mother, Jeroboam’s wife, was given a prophecy by Ahijah concerning the evil that Jeroboam had done: BECAUSE OF THIS, I AM GOING TO BRING DISASTER ON THE HOUSE OF JEROBOAM. I WILL CUT OFF FROM JEROBOAM EVERY LAST MALE IN ISRAEL-SLAVE OR FREE. I WILL BURN UP THE HOUSE OF JEROBOAM AS ONE BURNS DUNG, UNTIL IT IS ALL GONE. DOGS WILL EAT THOSE BELONGING TO JEROBOAM WHO DIE IN THE CITY, AND THE BIRDS OF THE AIR WILL FEED ON THOSE WHO DIE IN THE COUNTRY. THE LORD HAS SPOKEN! AS FOR YOU, GO BACK HOME. WHEN YOU SET FOOT IN YOUR CITY, THE BOY WILL DIE. ALL ISRAEL WILL MOURN FOR HIM AND BURY HIM. HE IS THE ONLY ONE BELONGING TO JEROBOAM WHO WILL BE BURIED, BECAUSE HE IS THE ONLY ONE IN THE HOUSE OF JEROBOAM IN WHOM THE LORD, THE GOD OF ISRAEL, HAS FOUND ANYTHING GOOD….1 Kings 14: 10-13 NIV. The prophecy was fulfilled and all came to pass. According to God himself, all the evil members of Jeroboam’s household were to be treated like the dung they were. Only the boy was to be given the honor of a burial, because he was the only one who had any good in him.
Later, King Baasha also led an evil life and influenced Israel to sin. Again, the prophecy which was given and fulfilled was that Baasha and all his household would be destroyed, and DOGS WILL EAT THOSE BELONGING TO BAASHA WHO DIE IN THE CITY, AND THE BIRDS OF THE AIR WILL FEED ON THOSE WHO DIE IN THE COUNTRY….1 Kings 16: 4 NIV.
GOD ORDERS A FITTING END TO THE PROUD AND WICKED JEZEBEL
In 1 and 2 Kings, we read the story of Jezebel, the wicked, cruel, and treacherous queen, who killed the prophets of the Lord (1 Kings 18:4, 13), abused and threatened Elijah (1 Kings 19: 1-2), and had Naboth killed just to get his vineyard for her whiny husband, King Ahab (1 Kings 21).
God told Elijah his plans for punishing King Ahab: DOGS WILL EAT THOSE BELONGING TO AHAB IN THE CITY, AND THE BIRDS OF THE AIR WILL FEED ON THOSE WHO DIE IN THE COUNTRY…..1 Kings 21: 24 NIV. Note that once again, God specifically mentioned how the bodies of Ahab and all who belonged to him were to be disposed of- in the most dishonorable manner possible, left to be eaten by dogs and birds. When Ahab heard this, he tore his clothes, wore sackcloth and fasted, and because he humbled himself, God relented (1 Kings 21: 27-29).
But Jezebel was a different story. The Lord gave Elijah the same prophecy for her, telling him that dogs would devour her (1 Kings 21: 23). But Jezebel was too proud to repent. The commander of Ahab’s army was Jehu, and the Lord told Elisha to send a prophet to anoint him King of Israel. God gave the prophet these instructions to pass on to Jehu: YOU ARE TO DESTROY THE HOUSE OF AHAB YOUR MASTER, AND I WILL AVENGE THE BLOOD OF MY SERVANTS THE PROPHETS AND THE BLOOD OF ALL THE LORD’S SERVANTS SHED BY JEZEBEL. THE WHOLE HOUSE OF AHAB WILL PERISH. I WILL CUT OFF FROM AHAB EVERY LAST MALE IN ISRAEL- SLAVE OR FREE. I WILL MAKE THE HOUSE OF AHAB LIKE THE HOUSE OF JEROBOAM SON OF NEBAT AND LIKE THE HOUSE OF BAASHA SON OF AHIJAH. AS FOR JEZEBEL, DOGS WILL DEVOUR HER ON THE PLOT OF GROUND AT JEZREEL, AND NO ONE WILL BURY HER…..2 Kings 9: 7-10 NIV.
Note that God himself instructed that the evil Jezebel was not even to be buried, much less have anyone mourn over her. She was to be disposed of with all the contempt and dishonor she deserved- left laying outside to be eaten by the dogs. Although Jehu obeyed the Lord and killed Jezebel, leaving her body unburied didn’t sit right with him, because she was a king’s daughter. He thought it over and decided to bury her after all, but the Lord had other plans:
HE LOOKED UP AT A WINDOW AND CALLED OUT, “WHO IS ON MY SIDE? WHO?” TWO OR THREE EUNUCHS LOOKED DOWN AT HIM. “THROW HER DOWN!” JEHU SAID. SO THEY THREW HER DOWN, AND SOME OF HER BLOOD SPATTERED THE WALL AND THE HORSES AS THEY TRAMPLED HER UNDERFOOT. JEHU WENT IN AND ATE AND DRANK. “TAKE CARE OF THAT CURSED WOMAN,” HE SAID, “AND BURY HER, FOR SHE WAS A KING’S DAUGHTER.” BUT WHEN THEY WENT OUT TO BURY HER, THEY FOUND NOTHING EXCEPT HER SKULL, HER FEET AND HER HANDS. THEY WENT BACK AND TOLD JEHU, WHO SAID, “THIS IS THE WORD OF THE LORD THAT HE SPOKE THROUGH HIS SERVANT ELIJAH THE TISHBITE: ON THE PLOT OF GROUND AT JEZREEL DOGS WILL DEVOUR JEZEBEL’S FLESH. JEZEBEL’S BODY WILL BE LIKE REFUSE ON THE GROUND IN THE PLOT AT JEZREEL, SO THAT NO ONE WILL BE ABLE TO SAY, “THIS IS JEZEBEL”….2 Kings 9: 32-37 NIV.
Tossed out a window, trampled underfoot by horses, and left like garbage on the ground to be eaten by dogs, until there was nothing left but her head, hands, and feet. Even though she was a queen, this is the end that God himself determined to befit the wicked Jezebel.
ALL THE WICKED OF THE EARTH YOU DISCARD LIKE DROSS; THEREFORE I LOVE YOUR STATUTES….Psalm 119:119 NIV. Leaving the wicked unburied, scattering their bones in FRONT of the grave but not IN it, trampling them underfoot, and leaving them to be eaten by animals is a recurring theme in the Bible (Psalm 53:5; Psalm 58:9-11; Psalm 68:21-23; Psalm 141: 5-7; Jeremiah 15:3; Jeremiah 14:16). They are not to be mourned. God considers them garbage, and goes so far as to come right out and say that they should be treated like refuse and left lying in the street (Jeremiah 8:1-2; Jeremiah 25:33) . This is what God judges to be a fitting end for evildoers. They are to be scorned, not honored.
WHAT DID JESUS TEACH ABOUT FUNERALS?
ANOTHER DISCIPLE SAID TO HIM, “LORD, FIRST LET ME GO AND BURY MY FATHER.” BUT JESUS TOLD HIM, “FOLLOW ME, AND LET THE DEAD BURY THEIR OWN DEAD”….Matthew 8: 21-22 NIV.
HE SAID TO ANOTHER MAN, “FOLLOW ME.” BUT THE MAN REPLIED, “LORD, FIRST LET ME GO AND BURY MY FATHER.” JESUS SAID TO HIM, “LET THE DEAD BURY THEIR OWN DEAD, BUT YOU GO AND PROCLAIM THE KINGDOM OF GOD”…Luke 9: 59-60 NIV.
Jesus’ words seem pretty clear. Funerals were not a priority with him, not even a parent’s funeral. Many also add a deeper interpretation of these verses- that Jesus was saying the spiritually dead should be buried by their own kind- the rest of the family who were also spiritually dead. And that those who are spiritually alive and know God should leave the things of the world behind them and follow Jesus.
In any case, Jesus did not assign great emphasis to funerals. There is no mention of him attending a funeral, although the Bible does talk about him attending a wedding and other feasts. Jesus knew that the body was merely a house for the soul, and that once someone died, he was no longer there. His soul had gone on to its eternal destination, either heaven or hell. What was left was just an empty shell. Many Christians do not believe in visiting the graves of the dead, because they don’t believe that anyone is there. What is in the grave is a pile of bones, not a person. The good, righteous, believing person whom we love and want to remember is with God. And evil people are with Satan. But nobody is in the casket, and nobody is in the grave. They’re already gone, leaving their earthly container behind. Jesus was far more concerned with securing our place in heaven than how our earthly bodies would be disposed of.
OBITUARIES AND EULOGIES FOR ABUSERS
At the opposite end of the guilt spectrum from many of us is a woman who is one of my personal heroes. She wrote an HONEST obituary for her abusive mother and published it in her local paper. In it, she mentioned that her mother had made no contribution to society, rarely had a kind word or did a kind deed for anyone, and that she was speaking for the whole family in saying that few will miss her and few tears will be shed. She said that the family her mother had spent a lifetime tearing apart would have no service, prayers, or closure for her, and that she hoped her mother’s death would be the beginning of healing and learning to be a family again. She said all they would miss is what they never had, a good, kind mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.
As you can imagine, this obituary (CLICK HERE to read more) generated quite a buzz at the time. It was repeated and commented on all over the internet. Some comments were indeed critical of a daughter who would speak ill of her dead mother, or who would air the family’s dirty laundry in public. But the vast majority were extremely supportive. In fact some said they were inspired and would publish honest obituaries for their abusers, too, while still others pointed out that obituaries cost money to publish and they wouldn't waste a dime memorializing their abusers. I understood just how the writer felt, and I could relate everything she said. I knew that in a unique way, this obituary did represent closure for her, and it was the first step in moving on.
The daughter’s pain was quite evident in what she wrote. She was not being at all malicious. There was a certain sadness and wistfulness, but also a determination to tell the truth, and a hope for a better future for her whole family, now that their abuser was gone. I felt profoundly sad for her and her family, but I also admired her courage to start the healing process by standing up and telling the truth. There can be no healing without honestly facing the facts first, and then dealing with them.
I’m not sure why some people have a superstition about speaking ill of the dead, even if it’s the truth. Yes, they’re not there to defend themselves, and thank God we no longer have to listen to their lame excuses for causing pain for others. There really is no defense for abuse anyway. Deceased abusers had all their lives to choose to be nice and stop hurting the people who loved them, but they didn’t. They chose to continue being sadistic and making innocent people suffer. If THEY weren’t concerned with how they’d be remembered after they died, then why on earth should anyone else be? After all the damage they did to other people while they walked this earth, it seems a little silly to complain about us merely speaking the truth about them after they’re gone. After all, they’re dead, so they can’t be hurt no matter what we do. But the malice THEY inflicted was aimed at living, feeling, human beings, who were very hurt by the things they did.
Hitler is dead, but nobody seems to have a nice word to say about him. Serial killers, terrorists and child molesters don’t get sugary-sweet obituaries or eulogies. People would think you were insane if you made up nice things to say about them. The same goes for the narcissists, sociopaths, sadists, and bullies that we had the misfortune to be related to. Not everybody deserves some denial-ridden hypocrite making up a phony, flowery, sappy obituary or eulogy, filled with lies, fabrications, and false praise. I don’t even know how it would be possible to get up in front of a crowd and do an abuser’s eulogy with a straight face, filling a whole fifteen minutes with make-believe fantasies, or to make up two paragraphs of mindless, imaginary drivel to publish in an obituary. Everybody knows it’s baloney anyway.
Obituaries are not supposed to be works of fiction. And neither are eulogies. They’re supposed to reflect the way the deceased lived his or her life. I hope survivors everywhere will take a page out of the book of the daughter who wrote this honest account of her mother’s life. Maybe this will be the beginning of a new trend- speaking the TRUTH, even of the dead. It’s not OUR fault if the truth is ugly. Our abusers would have been enraged if we went around telling lies about them while they were alive and made them look bad, but we didn’t have to because the truth made them look bad enough. So how come it’s okay to tell lies about them now that they're dead, as long as the lies make them look good? Why should WE be dishonest? Why should we let them control us even from the grave, and turn us into liars, when all our lives we’ve valued honesty and truth?
So listen up, abusers. If this is important to you, then maybe YOU should give some thought as to how you’re going to be remembered, while there’s still time to make amends and change your ways. It’s not somebody else’s problem to wrack their brains trying to think of something nice to say about you when all you’ve done is spend your whole sorry life causing pain for others. It’s not your family’s job to protect you from the consequences of your own behavior even after you’re dead. The legacy you leave is ultimately YOUR responsibility.
IS IT A SIN TO FEEL RELIEF OR JOY WHEN A BAD PERSON DIES?
Not to keep bringing up Hitler, but who didn’t celebrate when he died? Maybe other sociopaths, but everybody else seemed pretty glad to see him go. The wicked are not to be mourned and remembered fondly. Because of their own evil behavior, there pretty much won’t be any fond memories of them, anyway. Instead, the Bible says that the righteous should rejoice at their deaths. Feeling relief when an evil person is gone and can no longer harm us, and joy at being free from abuse and oppression, is normal and natural, not sinful.
WHEN THE RIGHTEOUS PROSPER, THE CITY REJOICES; WHEN THE WICKED PERISH, THERE ARE SHOUTS OF JOY… Proverbs 11:10 NIV.
WHEN THE WICKED RISE TO POWER, PEOPLE GO INTO HIDING; BUT WHEN THE WICKED PERISH, THE RIGHTEOUS THRIVE….Proverbs 28:28 NIV.
LORD, YOU ESTABLISH PEACE FOR US; ALL THAT WE HAVE ACCOMPLISHED YOU HAVE DONE FOR US. O LORD, OUR GOD, OTHER LORDS BESIDES YOU HAVE RULED OVER US, BUT YOUR NAME ALONE DO WE HONOR. THEY ARE NOW DEAD, THEY LIVE NO MORE; THOSE DEPARTED SPIRITS DO NOT RISE. YOU PUNISHED THEM AND BROUGHT THEM TO RUIN; YOU WIPED OUT ALL MEMORY OF THEM….Isaiah 26: 12-14 NIV.
HOW DOES THE BIBLE SAY THE WICKED SHOULD BE REMEMBERED?
JOSEPH NAMED HIS FIRSTBORN MANASSEH AND SAID, “IT IS BECAUSE GOD HAS MADE ME FORGET ALL MY TROUBLE AND ALL MY FATHER’S HOUSEHOLD”…Genesis 41:51 NIV.
The wicked are not to be honored: LIKE SNOW IN SUMMER OR RAIN IN HARVEST, HONOR IS NOT FITTING FOR A FOOL….Proverbs 26:1.
Their passing is to be marked with scorn, contempt, and shame:
MAY MY ACCUSERS PERISH IN SHAME; MAY THOSE WHO WANT TO HARM ME BE COVERED WITH SCORN AND DISGRACE....Psalm 71:13 NIV.
THE LAMP OF THE WICKED IS SNUFFED OUT; THE FLAME OF HIS FIRE STOPS BURNING. THE LIGHT IN HIS TENT BECOMES DARK; THE LAMP BESIDE HIM GOES OUT. THE VIGOR OF HIS STEP IS WEAKENED; HIS OWN SCHEMES THROW HIM DOWN…….HIS ROOTS DRY UP BELOW AND HIS BRANCHES WITHER ABOVE. THE MEMORY OF HIM PERISHES FROM THE EARTH; HE HAS NO NAME IN THE LAND. HE IS DRIVEN FROM LIGHT INTO DARKNESS AND IS BANISHED FROM THE WORLD. HE HAS NO OFFSPRING OR DESCENDANTS AMONG HIS PEOPLE, NO SURVIVOR WHERE HE ONCE LIVED. MEN OF THE WEST ARE APPALLED AT HIS FATE; MEN OF THE EAST ARE SEIZED WITH HORROR. SURELY SUCH IS THE DWELLING OF AN EVIL MAN; SUCH IS THE PLACE OF ONE WHO KNOWS NOT GOD…..Job 18:5-7, 16-21 NIV.
ALL THE KINGS OF THE NATIONS LIE IN STATE, EACH IN HIS OWN TOMB. BUT YOU ARE CAST OUT OF YOUR TOMB LIKE A REJECTED BRANCH; YOU ARE COVERED WITH THE SLAIN, WITH THOSE PIERCED BY THE SWORD, THOSE WHO DESCEND TO THE STONES OF THE PIT. LIKE A CORPSE TRAMPLED UNDERFOOT, YOU WILL NOT JOIN THEM IN BURIAL, FOR YOU HAVE DESTROYED YOUR LAND AND KILLED YOUR PEOPLE…..Isaiah 14: 18-20 NIV.
The Bible tells us that the righteous are to be given the honor of being remembered, but not the wicked. In fact, their names will rot. THE MEMORY OF THE RIGHTEOUS WILL BE A BLESSING, BUT THE NAME OF THE WICKED WILL ROT….Proverbs 10:7 NIV. Scripture says that the names of the evil are to be blotted out as if they never existed, never to be mentioned again:
YOU HAVE REBUKED THE NATIONS AND DESTROYED THE WICKED; YOU HAVE BLOTTED OUT THEIR NAME FOR EVER AND EVER. ENDLESS RUIN HAS OVERTAKEN THE ENEMY, YOU HAVE UPROOTED THEIR CITIES; EVEN THE MEMORY OF THEM HAS PERISHED….Psalm 9:5-6 NIV.
MAY THEY BE BLOTTED OUT OF THE BOOK OF LIFE AND NOT LISTED WITH THE RIGHTEOUS….Psalm 69:28 NIV.
WHEN THE LORD GOD GIVES YOU REST FROM ALL THE ENEMIES AROUND YOU IN THE LAND HE IS GIVING YOU TO POSSESS AS AN INHERITANCE, YOU SHALL BLOT OUT THE MEMORY OF AMALEK FROM UNDER HEAVEN. DO NOT FORGET!.... ...Deuteronomy 25: 19 NIV.
In fact, we are not to remember evil people at all after they die. They are to be forgotten forever. They will vanish like smoke, and there will be no memory of them on the earth:
BUT THE WICKED WILL PERISH: THE LORD’S ENEMIES WILL BE LIKE THE BEAUTY OF THE FIELDS, THEY WILL VANISH- VANISH LIKE SMOKE….Psalm 37:20NIV.
THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL, TO CUT OFF THE MEMORY OF THEM FROM THE EARTH….Psalm 34:A6 NIV.
O GOD, WHOM I PRAISE, DO NOT REMAIN SILENT, FOR WICKED AND DECEITFUL MEN HAVE OPENED THEIR MOUTHS AGAINST ME; THEY HAVE SPOKEN AGAINST ME WITH LYING TONGUES. WITH WORDS OF HATRED THEY SURROUND ME; THEY ATTACK ME WITHOUT CAUSE. IN RETURN FOR MY FRIENDSHIP THEY ACCUSE ME, BUT I AM A MAN OF PRAYER. THEY REPAY ME EVIL FOR GOOD, AND HATRED FOR MY FRIENDSHIP……MAY THEIR SINS ALWAYS REMAIN BEFORE THE LORD, THAT HE MAY CUT OFF THE MEMORY OF THEM FROM THE EARTH…..Psalm 109: 1-5, 15 NIV.
ANYONE WHO IS AMONG THE LIVING HAS HOPE-EVEN A LIVE DOG IS BETTER OFF THAN A DEAD LION! FOR THE LIVING KNOW THAT THEY WILL DIE, BUT THE DEAD KNOW NOTHING; THEY HAVE NO FURTHER REWARD, AND EVEN THE MEMORY OF THEM IS FORGOTTEN. THEIR LOVE, THEIR HATE AND THEIR JEALOUSY HAVE LONG SINCE VANISHED; NEVER AGAIN WILL THEY HAVE A PART IN ANYTHING THAT HAPPENS UNDER THE SUN…..Ecclesiastes 9: 4-6 NIV.
Sisters and Brothers, I’ve been down this road, and I know how difficult it is to deal with an abuser or estranged relative’s death. It causes a huge amount of anxiety and stress. I urge you to pray for the Lord’s counsel in making your decision. I pray that, whatever you decide to do, you will make protecting yourself and continuing in your recovery your highest priority. If you decide to go, go for yourself, not other people. If your decision is to stay home, not relive memories of abuse, tell the truth, or memorialize your abuser honestly, then know it’s alright to do this. These things are not sinful, they are Biblical. I pray that this article will help you find peace and know that God loves you. It’s okay with him if you simply move on and never look back.
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The Lord specifically called Sister Renee to minister to Adult Children, not their parents, estranged siblings or friends, abusive or abused spouses, or victims of other types of abuse, although what we write here can often be meaningful for those folks as well. Because of this, our ministry and website have a narrow focus which we will not be changing. We simply can't cover everything. In addition, it is not our purpose to help you re-establish contact with someone who felt it was necessary to cut you off for the sake of their own well-being. We do not keep a list of resources for estranged parents or any other type of abuse and suggest if you are sincerely interested in making amends with an estranged relative, you do an internet search for a website or group that will be more relevant to you. If you cannot find a group or site that you can relate to, we suggest you start your own, and bless other people in your position as well as find support for your personal issues.
For Adult Children and others as well, please understand that we cannot give you personal advice concerning your particular family relationships. We are not therapists or lawyers, we usually do not have enough information to form an opinion, and time does not permit us to give enough thought to each person's individual situation to do it justice. If you need personal advice, we urge you to contact the appropriate professional, depending on the problem you have- your minister, therapist, attorney, police department, local domestic violence hotline, etc. In reading this site, you acknowledge that nothing you might read here qualifies as or substitutes for professional advice. Please note we cannot recommend or refer you to a counselor and we do not have a list of therapists or recovery groups in your area. The only Counselor we recommend is the Holy Ghost, and we encourage you to read the Bible and learn for yourself what the Lord says about the issues we write about.
Our articles are strictly our personal opinions and testimonies and are not intended to give or offer any advice. All who access this site do so with the understanding that we are NOT professional counselors and we strongly recommend that you discuss your individual situation with your pastor or therapist and pray for the Lord's guidance before acting on anything we write on this site. Unfortunately, the abuse we discuss is all too common, inflicted on countless victims by countless perpetrators. All names and identifying details in our articles have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty. Any resemblance to a real person or persons whom you might know is strictly coincidental.