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Bad parents at the end of life

Recently I had a long conversation across my dining room table with an old friend. My friend fulfilled his promise to his dying mother that he would take care of his dad until the end. His father passed away two years ago He said to me, “I could not really begin to heal until my father died, because he kept ripping off the scab.” My friend’s father was selfish, manipulative, immature, and demanded an instant response to his wants. He was a crazy maker of the first degree. The abuse was moment to moment and went on for years and years. My friend did not experience peace until his father left the planet.

Someone else I know is one of five siblings who grew up in unspeakable evil at the hands of a mentally ill mother. That mother is now sick and elderly. The state has stepped in and asked the children to help with her needs. None of them will get near her. They have had enough. Their mother will die alone in her home with a caregiver helping intermittently.

Despite horrendous abuse some, like my friend, are able to bite the bullet and be a caregiver to an elderly, abusive parent. Others simply do not have the adaptive energy or coping skills for another round of the viper’s nest. Once they grew up they escaped the nightmare and can’t force themselves to go back. This is not intentional cruelty on the part of the adult child. It is self-preservation.

Years ago I read, “Old age and sickness is not known to mellow miserable, unhappy people.” “Normies” who grew up in warm, loving, safe environments and now carry magical, starlit memories of childhood are shocked and appalled that a child would be relieved that a parent is now dead or will turn their backs on one who is elderly and alone. They did not grow up in hell; a hell that happened when we were young, vulnerable, and dependent. Grief can be mixed with guilt over not being able to do or feel how a “good” child would act in a similar situation. Counseling can help unravel the tangled emotions. Here is a Web site of grief counselors in the Dayton area:

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