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He’s Dead But the Abuse Continues

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From the U.S.: Hi. My mom is 79. Her husband, my father, died this past September (25th). He was 82. They were married for 57 years, and my father was extremely abusive to her — cheated on her for years and was physically and very emotionally abusive. Now that he is dead, she is beating herself up for not leaving him when she had the chance…why did she put up with all that abuse? She cries with anger — angry with him and mostly at herself for not doing something against him when she had the chance. I explained to her that she was afraid of him, and that is why she can’t beat herself up over it. Any advice? It’s like he’s dead, but his abuse continues. Thank You!

He’s Dead But the Abuse Continues

Answered by on -


Sadly, this is not an unusual reaction. Now that she is out from under the abuse, your mother can see her marriage for what it was much more clearly. At 79, she is also painfully aware that she doesn’t have a lot of time to make a different life for herself. Of course she’s angry.

What you can do is what you are doing. Reassure her that her she’s not alone in her feelings. Let her know that you understand why she is angry. But tell her what you told me: That by focusing on the past she is allowing her husband to prevent her from having a different present and future. It’s a waste of her time and her life.

She could have even 20 more years! It’s not impossible for her to find a happy life and love. Help her think about what she can do to meet new people and give her life meaning. It’s never too late.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

He’s Dead But the Abuse Continues

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). He’s Dead But the Abuse Continues. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 20, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.