Achieving 'closure' - any tips?

Applecore

New Here
I have an opportunity right now.

I can email the emotionally abusive husband of my mother, who almost permanently exhibited his hatred of me when I was a child, variously shunning/ignoring me or finding a pretext to scream at me. I still have nightmares about it as a 45 year old man, even though the experiences were from the age of about 10 through to me emigrating at 25. My mother was his enabler. They were both in a cult. As bullying was my normal at home, it happened at school and then in the workplace. I have a fear of starting a family and three women have left me because I refused to have a baby: it's as if I care too much, something at the back of my head is on alert, expecting it to go wrong.

The abuser, with not many years to live, now seems to want to make peace, but I don't trust him and I don't know where to start. I have never directly expressed how I felt all those years ago. I haven't expressed my now considerable understanding of cult psychology. But I am wary, that whatever I say may be used against me - I could be accused by him of being narcissistic, that he had it worse, that I am projecting my own hatred, etc.

Closer is meant to be good. And I am sure there are better and worse ways to try to do it. All ideas welcome.
 

Sideways

Moderator
Closer is meant to be good.
I'm not sure that the people who believe this are necessarily talking about serious trauma, and I'm very certain that any kind of closure that relies on external things, can be a very mixed bag, and too often goes horribly.

What, for you, is the likely outcome if you confront this person, even in writing? How does that help you move forward?

If you write that email, and don't send it, isn't that not only safer (especially emotionally) but also likely to keep you in control of what happens?

Confronting abusers, even ones trying to make amends, is a massive opportunity for them to minimise our experience (at best), and flat out deny it and abuse us further (at worst). Why would you engage with that?
 

Sues

MyPTSD Pro
Hello and welcome to the forum. I think you expressed exactly what the possibilities of any conversation with an abuser might be. Closure is always a good thing, and there are probably some people out there that can change and be truly sorry for what they did to abuse others. Personally, I don't trust any abuser to be sorry, let alone change. I don't think there is any way to get closure from an abuser except to move on and work on healing.

That being said, it is up to you and how much mental anguish you want to put yourself through. I suggest you think about that when you make your decision. How would it affect you if the worst case scenario happened? It really comes down to, are you able to go through this and can you emotionally handle it no matter what happens?

I am so sorry that you are in this position. It is a terrible place to be. I am angry on your behalf that he put you in this position after 35 years of hell. I say 35 because you are still feeling the effects.
 

Mach123

MyPTSD Pro
I don’t know what to say about this. Maybe there are no good options. My wife forced me to allow my mother and her 2nd husband back into our lives. It was very similar to what you described. He died and my mother lived on and my children remember her fondly as grand ma. Is that wrong? She died before I remembered her role in things. I don’t hate her. Maybe if my wife hadn’t forced me through that I’d still be harbouring it inside, and so causing myself more suffering. Now they’re all dead . It was all long ago and I’m old now myself and my children are all adults. I was mad at my wife about all this for years but now I’m not. I’ve seen so many people pass away. We were at a memorial service this weekend. Life is short. They all told me they were sorry. That didn’t fix anything. But we put up a front and my kids did t have to suffer from it as much as they probably would have . That was my wife’s idea anyway.

Everything that happened happened.
 

Friday

Moderator
Closure isn’t lobbing a ball into someone else’s court to await their response, much less requiring a very specific response.

That’s the opposite of closure. That’s engagement.

Closure… is the end of something.

Feeling better about the end of something? Is Moving On.

Unless you’re waiting to find out if someone is Alive or Dead? And may be waiting the rest of your life, if they never find the body? Closure only takes 1 person. You. Being done with the relationship.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
Is there a way of flipping it?
If he wants to make amends, perhaps he can be the person to email to say sorry? I mean, he knows what he did, and if he is truly remorseful, he would be able to imagine what his behaviour did to a child he was meant to be helping bring up.

So if closure comes from interaction with him. Why not let him be the person to start the communication? Also, that way, you don't open your heart to him straight off. If what he writes is actually all about him, then you know that opening up to how it was for you is not likely to be heard.

But, wow. I think I would feel all sorts of things if there was this hint at speaking with an abuser. A total mixed bag.

Whatever happens, I hope it works for you.
 

Starfire

Confident
I have an opportunity right now.

I can email the emotionally abusive husband of my mother, who almost permanently exhibited his hatred of me when I was a child, variously shunning/ignoring me or finding a pretext to scream at me. I still have nightmares about it as a 45 year old man, even though the experiences were from the age of about 10 through to me emigrating at 25. My mother was his enabler. They were both in a cult. As bullying was my normal at home, it happened at school and then in the workplace. I have a fear of starting a family and three women have left me because I refused to have a baby: it's as if I care too much, something at the back of my head is on alert, expecting it to go wrong.

The abuser, with not many years to live, now seems to want to make peace, but I don't trust him and I don't know where to start. I have never directly expressed how I felt all those years ago. I haven't expressed my now considerable understanding of cult psychology. But I am wary, that whatever I say may be used against me - I could be accused by him of being narcissistic, that he had it worse, that I am projecting my own hatred, etc.

Closer is meant to be good. And I am sure there are better and worse ways to try to do it. All ideas welcome.
Think you answered your own question.....You don't trust him.

Perhaps for your own benefit, you may want to write your reply and not mail it. Do it for * your* own benefit.
Let me add a comment. I felt the same way about having kids. But your kids will have a gigantic safeguard. You. Perhaps, like me, you will be, what others call, overprotective parent. Nothing wrong with that. I now even have grandkids!
 

Rosebud

MyPTSD Pro
Confronting abusers, even ones trying to make amends, is a massive opportunity for them to minimise our experience (at best), and flat out deny it and abuse us further (at worst). Why would you engage with that?
I agree with this ^^, and what others have said. It is something to get an apology, I never have, but just as equally that's his job, not yours to do. He may want to make ammends, I think that would be clear if he did. If so, you can say thank you if you feel that, if or when he does. But as others have said, there isn't closure. I think that's why they say forgiveness- because then it's no longer on your mind. But he may or may not ask for it, and you may or may not accept it.

I was thinking about this a lot, because I have had ever ounce of me attacked at some point, sexually, physically but even more so emotionally, from my 'failures', to my appearance, to my voice, my friends, my intentions, my (lack of) intellect, my beliefs, my values, my work history, my education, how others see me (supposedly), my likes, my choices, my words, my heart, repeatedly. All that changes is the topic but the intent is the same. There's probably more but that's all I can think of atm. Needless to say, so they say it's not supposed to bother you, but it's hard when you're a sensitive person. Sounds like you were, therefore you still are. I am not sure I'd want to risk speaking, but if you do know it's now as an adult.

And all things considered, you may become a better parent than most if you ever choose, because you know what to never engage in, and never take for granted.

Best wishes to you. Sorry you went through what you did. 😔
 
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Applecore

New Here
Thank you every one of you. Each one of your replies is very valuable to me. Like nice strangers on a train, at the bar, or on a hike in nature.

Some of the things you guys have said alerted me to things that survivors of abuse like me sometimes have difficulty seeing on the radar in later life. That every purported apology can be an opportunity for abuse, such as diminishing their own responsibility or diminishing our own suffering.

I haven't given you any details of the current context, which might prompt you to make further comments when you have more visibility of the situation if I do. One detail is that in fact he did email me first, and so I am calling my possible reply an opportunity.

Although his email does include the word 'sorry' it also describes events of the past as 'misunderstanding'. But it starts with a complaint that according to my mother I am blaming him for a bad investment decision. So as some of you have pointed out - and I only realized this thanks to your comments - his reaching out is a lot about him positioning me as the offender. Again.

And yet, for years I have been wondering about the power of 'having a voice'. The great book 'The Examined Life' by Stephen Grosz has the line: "If you don't tell your story, your story tells you."

I know he means telling it to someone who will listen and care, and that is unlikely to be your abuser. But nevertheless there's something inside me that feels I ought to tell him how it is, straight up. When I was 12, I was unable to have a voice. Nobody listened, or they shouted me down. I am now 45 which is how old he was when I was 12 and emotionally abusing me. From this adult perspective I know how wrong he was, and nobody has ever told him so. Isn't it time I find my strength, through my voice? Wouldn't it be a kind of justice to stand up for that child at last?

This indeed would not be "closure". This would be me finally having the voice that was denied me all those years ago. It is tempting to go for it, one way or another. But words matter, and choosing them well is difficult.

I've had a fair amount of insomnia over the past few days, unusually had three beers on Tuesday and although I crave a binge today I am stopping myself. (Am very fortunate in that regard, given that I love booze but I am in control.) Have tried to focus on my work, the satisfaction of a job well done always helps.

But this is really, really confusing and stressful. Post-traumatic perhaps. My past of emotional scars and torment, depression, anger, debilitating rumination, suicidal ideation and crying could all be reduced to an email. Or not.

I am a relatively content person now, got a good income and my own roof over my head, friends and a life partner (although that's another story). Done so much work on myself by cutting down alcohol about five years ago, getting to the gym and out into nature which I love, making a success of my career, working at friendships. Maybe I shouldn't rock the boat, some might say.

It's an either/or: maybe engaging will drag me back into the vortex, or maybe it will be a final victory.

***Correction to the above, he says the word 'apologize' (not 'sorry') and it's about precisely one matter in particular, in connection with said investment decision which went very badly for me. I have had to hire lawyers which he is now offering to pay for.

But he is reducing this to money when his hatred exhibited to a child is what matters here. I don't think you can pay that to go away.

He also says he wants us to settle a series of misunderstandings which he would 'love' to get settled. He's asking me for a list of my grievances from the past. He says he would love us to have a happy and friendly relationship.

I admit to finding the idea very strange indeed for many reasons.

One reason is that he remains in the cult, as far as I'm aware. He ought to go back to them and explain how in a savage way he was extremely cruel to the child of his wife, while blinded by their dogma, that they've got it all wrong. I can't see him doing that in a hurry.
 
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Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
'Misunderstanding' is his way of utterly minimising his behaviour?
Him asking you to list these 'misunderstandings' from the past, sounds like him putting the onus on you to explain? (And for him to dismiss and minimise?)

How would you feel if you got to write an email that you feep gives you that voice you were denied as a child and he either responded in the best way (and what is the best way for you); or he gave a response that felt abusive or retraumatising (and what would that response be)? If you feel you could handle the feelings that will give you, and this is about you saying what you need to, regardless of his response: go for it.
If you feel his responses will impact you negatively: then maybe write it but don't send it?

Do you have to make a decision now?
 

Sideways

Moderator
He also says he wants us to settle a series of misunderstandings which he would 'love' to get settled.
So, this is all about him. What he needs right now for him to move forward.

You not only have zero responsibility to help him deal with his demons, you actually have a positive responsibility to look after yourself, which means putting your needs first. For me? That would absolutely mean not engaging with my abuser, and definitely not helping him to 'put it all behind him', or help him re-write his internal narrative so that it was all just a bunch of forgiveable misunderstandings.

What an arsehole.

Where in this conversation is the "tell me about how this has impacted you, what you are dealing with now, and how can I help you deal with that"?

Even if closure is a good thing? This ain't closure. This is re-writing the past, in his mind, for his benefit.
 
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