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'My Abusive Mother Is In Hospice — And I Feel Nothing'

Photo: Craig Adderley, Rido, Jacob Lund / Canva
man processing his ptsd

A 59-year-old man recently penned an emotionally charged post about the feelings he’s going through as his mother moves into hospice care. According to him, he feels “nothing.”

Posted into the r/AITAH forum on Reddit, he asked whether or not it’s wrong for him to feel that way, providing readers with much-needed context in order to provide an informed opinion.

The man said he felt nothing for his mother in hospice because she had abused him.

“From the age of 4-8, I was SA by my mother,” he wrote in his post. “I've learned that her control of me was very effective. I never told my dad.” He clarified that he loved his father very much and although he never told his dad what happened, his father was a good man.

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“Sometime after I was 8, I guess I started getting chubby,” he claimed. This was a result of the control that his mother had over him. No matter how much she tried to get him to lose weight, his would continue to go up. “I moved out 6 minutes after my 18th birthday.”

As a 22-year-old man, he claimed he “somehow” found a woman who loved him and stayed with him. “We got married, and I've always had anger issues (no physical, but yelled too much) and difficulty processing emotions,” he wrote, alluding to more symptoms of his trauma.

Reactions of intense and ongoing emotional upset as well as eating disorders are both symptoms of childhood traumatic stress or sexual abuse trauma, according to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Despite these lifelong struggles, there were many positive lights on the man’s road to recovery — he and his wife adopted a daughter, whom he loves very much and feels a lot of pride in.

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In April 2023, he added that he started feeling symptoms of PTSD.

“In April, I started having trouble concentrating, I was having restless sleep, suicidal ideation, and I couldn't stop reliving everything that she did,” he claimed. “I couldn't find a therapist, so I got in to see my PCP. As soon as she asked if I was OK, I had a nervous breakdown right there in her office.”

All of these are symptoms of PTSD, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

His breakdown landed him in the ER and the psych ward, visits that ultimately resulted in him getting a therapist who has helped him immensely. “Since May, I've lost 65 pounds changing habits without dieting and started (gently) working out,” he claimed.

“My wife was totally blindsided by this,” he continued. “We've struggled with intimacy issues due to my shame, guilt, and self-loathing.”

Not only that, but she had asked him if he had ever abused their daughter. He wrote, “I respect and appreciate the strength it took for her to protect our kid. PLEASE DO NOT judge her for asking. She needed to know, and I needed her to know. I told my wife no and told her to take our daughter to her therapist.”

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He continued to preach therapy as it has been helpful in all of their lives — they’re in couples therapy, his daughter’s in therapy, and he’s in his own individual therapy.

The American Psychiatric Association claims that about 75% of people who enter psychotherapy show some benefit from it. “So I'll be in therapy for the rest of my life, but it's so worth it,” he wrote.

But as his mother moved into hospice, he felt absolutely nothing.

“I thought I would feel good when she died, but honestly, I feel nothing,” he wrote toward the end. “I don't intend to visit. I won't be attending any memorial. Nobody in the family knows what happened, and I'm not interested in telling them.”

His feelings are his own, and he wonders whether or not he is in the right state of mind to reach those kinds of conclusions, but he has every right to react in the way that feels right to him.

Providing an update, he revealed that his mother had, in fact, passed away. But he left it at that, signifying that maybe he continued to feel nothing.

According to the Criminal Injuries Helpline in the UK, it's completely normal to feel nothing in this situation. "Victims of abuse commonly experience feelings of ‘flight or flight’ due to the threat and risk of being abused again," they wrote. "When this threat is suddenly removed, victims are often unable to process their emotions and may feel numb or detached from the death of an abuser."

It's important to note that there is no right or wrong way to feel in this scenario. Situations like these bring up deeply powerful emotions that can be difficult to process and may be handled differently depending on the person.

“Some things are beyond forgiveness,” the top comment on the man's post read. “I'd say it's normal to feel numb, you think it might be a relief or even a 'joyous' moment but in reality it's just the closure of a chapter of your life.” This is another way to look at it.

As this chapter of his life closes, hopefully he can move forward with healing and focusing on his life with his family.

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Isaac Serna-Diez is an Assistant Editor for YourTango who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice, and politics.