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There are times mourners have a challenge that they face, namely, how do they mourn for someone who was not well liked. Here is an approach to the question of how to mourn for a difficult person.  The grief process is about reintegrating the new reality into our lives.  This is true regardless of the type of relationship, for we have to work through the emotions related to difficult person who died.

If grief is the result of love for a person who died, do we grieve for those people with whom we had a relationship but we’re not sure we loved?  What about the person we didn’t always like?  What about the person in our lives with whom we had a love-hate relationship–that person we cared for but always fought with?  What about the person we loved who was often abusive?  Do we still mourn their deaths?

Every person with whom we have a relationship has an influence on us.  Some affect our lives in a positive way while others can have a negative or destructive impact.  Many of these people we can be emotionally tied to in our relationships may not be loveable people.  Still they did and do have many times an enduring effect on our lives and who we are.  We find ourselves missing them despite our questionable relationship.  We also sometimes find ourselves feeling guilty and regretting that the relationship never changed for the better.

Grief provides us an opportunity to deal with the death of someone we love or in whom we have an emotional investment. That grief also allows us to take a personal inventory to determine how the death impacts us.  The resulting grief impact inventory can permit us to see the person’s life in the context of how they shaped who we are and what we can become. Grief slows us down to become reflective and to determine what this person’s life, influence and death mean for us.

Often the deaths of difficult, not very loveable people in our lives can cause us to go through regrets, guilt or a longing for the ideal relationship that we had always wished for with that person.  With his or her death, the hope for an opportunity to resolve our imperfect relationship has died also.

Another troubling feeling that many mourners dealing with the death of a difficult person in their lives can have is a sense of relief. Maybe for a long time the relationship with this difficult person who died made the mourner feel like she or he was trapped or under some overwhelming emotional burden. The mourner is shocked at the relief he or she feels after the death and immediately feels guilty.

In evaluating a troublesome relationship with its many troublesome emotions we have to determine whether forgiveness is called for: forgiving the one who died or forgiving ourselves for our perceived faults in the relationship.

It is only after taking time to mourn and to complete a grief impact inventory that we can determine how we will make sense of our relationship with the one who has died.   That grief impact inventory can also help us determine what we want our lives to be without that person physically present.  The ultimate goal of mourning for either someone significant in our lives that we loved or did not love is to accept the losses involved and adapt in a healthy manner to life without that person in our presence.

Adapted from (c) 2011, Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT in “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise” Available on http://grief-works.org/book.php. Also available on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and your local bookstore. Available now for Nook and Kindle.