Dear Therapist:

There was someone close to my family who died last year. She was someone I was close with and trusted and did something that hurt me terribly. This is not the forum to go into details, but this was a tremendous avlah and I don’t think anyone would disagree. Since this happened shortly before she was niftar and I didn’t really have the full understanding of what she did until after she was already gone, there was no opportunity for confrontation, conciliation, or any type of closure. This has been eating me up inside and I really want to let it go but I just can’t. Do you have any suggestions as to how to move past this?  



I wonder if part of your angst is due to conflicting emotions. You clearly still feel hurt by what was done to you. You are wishing for some form of closure that appears to be out of reach. However, you may also be mourning a loss. I don’t know whether you have strong feelings about this person’s death or whether you feel numb, for example. I don’t know whether any feelings of loss due to her death are conflated with feelings of loss related to the betrayal. I don’t know if any unwanted emotions (hurt, anger, etc.) are masking other emotions (like sadness).

Since there are so many possibilities, there are also many emotions that may be affecting you—consciously or otherwise. It can be difficult enough to contend with one strong emotion related to one particular unambiguous issue; trying to deal with a multitude of emotions can be exhausting. Add to that the fact that one or more feelings may be unconscious, and the emotional rollercoaster can feel overwhelming.

I think that the first step is to explore the possibilities, and to acknowledge the various emotions that you are experiencing. Once you have a handle on what it is that you need to deal with, it is typically easier to resolve. Focusing on one particular emotion at a time can help you feel less overwhelmed. It also allows you to more fully experience that emotion (and thus deal with it) without the blurring effect of the others.

Perhaps you believe that you shouldn’t be angry with someone who is no longer alive. If so, does that prevent you from allowing yourself to truly feel angry (and therefore deal with it). Do you feel uncomfortable discussing with others the grievance that you feel toward a person who has died? The very people who would best understand may well be those with whom you feel least able to discuss your feelings.

Obviously, I cannot tell you that it is okay—or not okay—to discuss any specific issue with any particular person. You can, however, ask yourself whether they would really have a problem discussing it, or whether your sense of propriety is holding you back.

You feel robbed of the ability to confront this person, to reconcile with her, or to obtain some sort of closure. However, the aspects of confrontation, reconciliation, or closure that would be helpful to you are those that relate to your thoughts, feelings, and perspectives. Naturally, it would appear to be simpler to attain this closure through actual communication with the other person. This, however, can be a double-edged sword. Though confrontation might initially make you feel better, this has the potential to exacerbate any relationship issues—possibly leading to worse feelings in the long run. Reconciliation is always a nice concept, but the process can lead to anger and blame on both sides.

Regardless of whether you are able to actually speak about this with someone whom you believe might be helpful, you can work on understanding your own emotions and needs. Imagine a conversation with the person who hurt you. Imagine that the conversation proceeds in exactly the way that you would want. What does that look like? How does she respond? What is the outcome? How does this affect the ways that you feel about her, about yourself, and about your relationship? What do you want to accomplish, and why? Once you’ve answered these and other questions that pertain to your situation, you will be in a better position to recognize what it is that you want to accomplish—with or without her help.


-Yehuda Lieberman, LCSW

  psychotherapist in private practice

  Woodmere, NY

  adjunct professor at Touro College

  Graduate School of Social Work

  author of Self-Esteem: A Primer / 516-218-4200


The contents of this blog, including text, graphics, images, and other material are for informational purposes only.  Nothing contained in this blog is, or should be considered or used as, a substitute for professional medical or mental health advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Never disregard medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider or delay seeking it because of something you have read on the Internet, including on this blog.  We urge you to seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition.  In case of emergency, please call your doctor or 911 immediately.  The information contained on or provided through this blog is provided on an "as is" basis, without any warranty, express or implied. Any access to this blog is voluntary and at your own risk.