When my husband took his own life, he took part of mine with him. I was angry at him for a long time. In one moment he completely transformed the way I saw the world. I could no longer think clearly, believe in a benevolent Universe, or trust in my ability to understand people. He shattered my life into jagged splinters and I had no say in the matter.
I struggled for a long time to forgive him. He hurt me more than I’ve ever been hurt before inflicting a wound that is still tender and painful. Intellectually I know that his suffering and illness contorted his view of the world, and he probably didn’t even think about what would happen to me, but in my heart I felt betrayed and abused.
How do you forgive an abuser?
Forgiveness does not mean that we condone what the person did, tolerate their behaviour or approve of injustice. Forgiveness does not minimise anyone’s pain. Forgiveness is simply deciding to see things differently, to change your perspective. Forgiveness is turning the darkness into light.
When we forgive evil we do not excuse it, we do not tolerate it, we do not smother it. We look the evil full in the face, call it what it is, let its horror shock and stun and enrage us, and only then do we forgive it.
~ Lewis B Smedes
The only way to forgive is to transition from identifying with the body to identifying with the part of ourselves that is more than our body — our spirit, our soul, our consciousness. In this realm, lovelessness cannot touch me. I am no longer part of the drama or the story of that painful event. That event is not the reality of my deepest self, and it is not even the reality of the deepest self of that person who hurt me.
I am here. I live. I will not give [my abuser] one more day.
It happened, nothing will change that, but I am 100% responsible for whether or not I continue in that story.
In a way, forgiving is only for the brave. It is for those people who are willing to confront their pain, accept themselves as permanently changed, and make difficult choices. Forgivers, on the other hand, are not content to be stuck in a quagmire. They reject the possibility that the rest of their lives will be determined by the unjust and injurious acts of another person.
~ Gordon Dalbey
What story do you play over and over in your head, each time feeling the pain as keenly as the day it happened? Are you stuck in someone else’s nightmare?
Not to forgive is to be imprisoned by the past, by old grievances that do not permit life to proceed with new business. Not to forgive is to yield oneself to another’s control…to be locked into a sequence of act and response, of outrage and revenge, tit for tat, escalating always.
The present is endlessly overwhelmed and devoured by the past. Forgiveness frees the forgiver. It extracts the forgiver from someone else’s nightmare.
~ Carol Luebering
It’s time to forgive. Forgive others and forgive yourself. You are not saying what they/you did was right or acceptable, you are saying that you are letting the past go and closing the door on the power that situation holds over you.
Forgiveness helps you remember who you were before this happened and who you will be when you’ve healed. Forgiveness is the present, it is not giving your future over to the past. Forgiveness is simply deciding today is a new beginning free of the grievances of old wounds.
I forgive him, and I forgive myself.
Is it harder to forgive others, or to forgive yourself? What is your most difficult experience with forgiveness?
This post is was originally published in 2011 and has been revived as part of #1000Speak for Compassion movement for 20th March, 2015. Please add your own compassion post to the link below, and read and share others.
62 thoughts on “Letting Go of the Past • #1000speak”
Oh you were FRIST. Your comment got stuck in the spam folder and I just found it x
Oh GOOD! *grins*
Oh, Katie, my heart stopped at your first sentence. My heart and mind. I couldn’t even read on straight away.
I can only imagine what you went through, cannot really know it.
Everything else you’ve written though – yes, I know it, feel it. Forgiveness is hard, sometimes and we do it for our own freedom. I agree too that we need to go beyond the body to forgive.
There’s so much in here, but perhaps this sentence stands out most for me? “That event is not the reality of my deepest self, and it is not even the reality of the deepest self of that person who hurt me.”
Thank you Yvonne. It’s almost five years since it happened so I’m doing fine. Thank you for your comment, your love and your support
A very inspiring post, Katie. Sometimes it is so hard to forgive especially in this sense. I’ll be linking my post up in the morning!
Cheers Rena — thanks for all the sharing love ♥
I can’t even imagine your pain. But I just read through some of the comments on your letters to people considering suicide. Powerful stuff. So much sadness.
I had to close the comments on that post because it was getting too much. Now I just get the odd email — but I’m happy to listen to people when they are reaching out for help.
I have a really tough time with forgiveness, particularly forgiving those who wronged me as a child. It’s been an ongoing process for me. When my own daughter was born 10 years ago many feelings stirred up inside me and I was angry – I confronted my family members who were abusive to me, either personally or passively. It was a painful process but by acknowledging to myself I was treated badly, I was able to move on. I still have feelings about it, but they no longer control me. I am able to have relationships with these people because I know that their treatment of me came from a dark place inside of them and it doesn’t diminish their love for me. I’m glad you also know this about your husband. I can’t imagine the pain that causes you or the simultaneous feelings of grief and rage you felt, but I am so glad you have been able to work through it and not just move on, but write to inspire and encourage others!
Thank you Jen. I like how you can see love beneath all the bad behaviour. People who act like that must carry so much pain.
Good for you for finding how to forgive and move on. x
I find forgiving them and forgiving yourself go hand in hand. That is truly the only time I find peace. I have to honestly look at what I did wrong in the situation, how I could have handled it better and forgive myself and then forgive them. That is when I can truly move on. Very powerful post!
I totally agree. We are none of us, perfect. Self-forgiveness is the cornerstone that we sometimes miss.
Oh, Katie. My heart stopped. I had no idea. You are a brave and beautiful person. I knew that already, but this only deepens that feeling for me.
I’m with Erin on the forgiveness issue – I think forgiveness of others and self go hand-in-hand. I don’t know that we can truly forgive anyone else until we are able to forgive ourselves for whatever role we may have played in a situation or for the things we do to ourselves that make us believe we are somehow not worthy of peace and forgiveness. I think only when we come to terms with ourselves and find a place of peace and forgiveness can we truly find a way to forgive others.
Me too, Lisa. Exactly what you both said. So much falls into place when we examine our own lives first. x
Katie – This is such an inspiring post and I am glad I came over her and read this one. Forgiveness is truly about the present and how can tomorrow get rid of the past.
Thank you for visiting. Living in the moment without dwelling on the past — yes, that’s the secret.
Oh Katie, this is so raw. Thank you for sharing this and for letting me hold space for your heart. I heard you today, and am still listening.
Thank you Galit. What a lovely comment, which I can feel directly in my heart ♥
I didn’t know your story and like, Yvonne, my heart stopped a bit after reading the first few lines. I cannot imagine the depth of your pain and am in awe at the way you have turned this into such a beautiful conclusion!
Thank you for your kind thoughts Roshni x
I have struggled with this for a long long time. It’s embarrassing how long. But I know that at least on some level it has to happen, or I won’t be able to move on, really move on. Thanks.
It’s not easy, Anita, but you’ll get there in your own time. Sending you love and light x
My heartaches, I am sorry that you ever had to deal with that, I can’t even begin to imagine
I have found that in my life, forgiveness is my way of healing. As a survivor of Rape, I can say that it was most difficult to forgive my abuser, but in doing so, I found that I let go of so much pain and anger. It has seemed to cleanse my soul.
Thank you for this beautiful post
And I can’t even begin to imagine what you’ve been through … and in awe of your willingness to forgive. “Soul cleansing” is the perfect description.
Katie, what an amazing journey this post describes. I am so sorry for your loss and I am inspired by the process that brought you through the tragedy. Forgiveness is for YOU as well as for the one inflicting the hurt. You found that out and grew stronger from the experience. Namaste.
Thank you for your lovely comment. Namaste ♥
The most difficult person to forgive is my Dad, but even then, spiralling out from his abuse, I can see reasons and circumstances and antecedents…it’s all a big, dominoed mess, and the thing which makes me MOST angry is how it’s impacting Niece and Neff, because it’s left my sister so damaged.
And so the cycle proliferates.
I’m glad you were able to find it in you to forgive your husband. I’m told that forgiveness unhooks us from that anger, and allows us to continue our lives without bitterness.
At the moment I feel very resentful and angry because I think Husby’s depression is returning. I hope it won’t be the end of him. I hope he gets past it.
I love the idea of being ‘unhooked’ from our anger — it’s an apt metaphor.
I’m sorry for the damage your family has been through and for the new pain in your own life. I understand some of the terrors of living with a depressed man. I hope you and he get some help x
It truly is terror. I can’t cope with it again. I hope I don’t have to. Today is better. Thanks Katie 🙂 xo
And I was just thinking how important it is for each of us to have a voice, even when things are hard to say. Thank you for sharing your story.
And thank you for taking the time to express your support. It means a great deal x
Well, a few years back in the year of my graduation all of my college friends betrayed me in ways I can never fathom… They just left me, alone friendless for no fault of my own…It has been 7 years now and I still find it hard to forgive them..But that’s not to say that I didn’t try..I did and I took a few steps forward but they didn’t reciprocate…So I stopped..I’m still angry with them and maybe I will never be able to forgive them for what they did but I will also not spend another moment of my life wishing for it to have been any different..Makes sense?
#1000Speak: When They Bullied The New Girl….
It seems to me that forgiveness isn’t dependent on the other person changing — it’s just a conscious decision to not dwell on negative events from the past. So maybe you have forgiven them after all?
Such a powerful post. I am so very sorry that you had to experience such loss in such a horrific way. Sending you endless strength.
Thank you Kelly, I appreciate your support ♥
One of my favourite quotes that I’ve had in my collection for some time is “Forgiveness is letting go of the thought that the past could have been different.” Lately I have taken to adding “and focusing on the hope for a future that will.” I have never lost anyone to suicide, but I have dealt with my mother’s contemplation of it. The moment she articulated the thought process that goes on in the mind of someone who is suicidal, was one of the worst moments of my life because I realised she was one of those people. She said, “a suicidal person feels very strongly that their loved ones would be much better off without them in their lives.” It’s not a selfish act at all, but a very selfless one despite the hurt it inevitably causes. I am glad that you have since forgiven your husband and have found some sense of peace.
Thank you for sharing your experience Brandy. Your comment got stuck in the spam folder for some reason and I’ve just rescued it. x
I found your blog on twitter #1000Speak. This is a wonderful post, Katie. Thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom. It’s sometimes hard to forgive, but I agree with you that it has to be done, for the benefit of the person who has been abused.
These lines are taken from my novel. I think they illustrate the real need for forgiveness:
“Forgive him. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.”
“How dare you quote the Lord’s Prayer to me? How dare you ask me to forgive him? You don’t know how he has behaved!”
“I know you do not deserve to suffer the burden of hate.”
I also believe hate is a heavy burden which can only be lightened by forgiving.
You’ve nailed it exactly Luccia. Thank you.
I am so sorry for your loss. You are right – forgiveness is not agreeing with what a person did, or even accepting it. To me, forgiveness is given to make the other person feel better and to allow ourselves to heal. If we hold on to bitterness, it is counterproductive. I struggle with forgiving people that have wronged me, but somehow have been able to forgive people close to me that have screwed me over (long story). Sometimes it’s all we can do to to move on and move forward. I hope you are alright.
I don’t know if I agree that “forgiveness is given to make the other person feel better,” unless of course they are sorry and want to make amends. But sometimes our abusers aren’t sorry at all — then we forgive them anyway, for the good of our own souls and the collective energy of the Universe.
Forgiveness is hard. I often think that the people that do the most hurting are the ones that are hurting most. Forgiveness may be a hard thing, but these awful things keep happening because of cycles. Maybe if more forgiveness happened the cycles might end.
I totally agree with your insight. Yes.
This #1000 speak journey has been such an eye opening and heart wrenching look into the lives, minds and hearts of those involved.
lIke many others, I stopped short at the first sentence as my heart took a pause.
For the last 4 yrs I have beaten myself up over some very stupid decisions I have made in my life that have affected so many. This year I started a journey of forgiveness, mainly for myself. I own what I did, but I will not be held hostage by my own doubt.
In doing this, I have to forgive others as well. Having a little trouble with this part lol
Beautiful post, thank you so much for sharing it
It is certainly a journey and it sounds as though you’ve made the first step. Forgiveness isn’t easy, and if we can’t always get there right away. Sometimes I think just our intention to forgive is good enough.
Forgiving is indeed difficult & needed for Healing process. Much love & Hugs for your sincerity and courage. Tc
Thank you so much Ruchi. I appreciate it more than you know x
Katie, thanks for sharing this deeply personal experience with us. You went through the ultimate forgiveness test…and emerged so much stronger. I think….it’s hard to forgive , whether yourself or others.
Thank you so much for your lovely comment. Forgiveness IS difficult, but worth it, don’t you think?
You are such a strong woman and a beautiful person. I came here for the #1000Speak page and I stopped after reading the first few lines. I went and read a little more about you on this blog.
Forgiveness does not come easy. Specially when there is so much pain associated with something. But you have travelled that path. You have forgave and done so kindly with all your heart. I am so glad we get to meet such wonderful people like you because of the #1000Speak initiative.
It’s so lovely to meet new friends through the #1000speak movement. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and for your kind compliments x
I have a friend who still suffers from the effects of her husband’s suicide. It’s not easy to talk about, since I haven’t known her too long, and I don’t want to say the wrong thing. You post gives me a way to approach it, when it comes up. Forgiveness is a creative act, it’s just hard to get there sometimes. To see that people are only as conscious as they are. Thank you!
I don’t know if there is much you can say that is wrong — just mentioning it is so comforting, especially when you feel as though everyone else has forgotten. Thank you for being a good friend x
I have a hard time with forgiving. I know its benefits, but I struggle with it in certain situations. A friend once cheered me up by saying that sometimes setting the intention for forgiveness is enough. You put the wheels in motion.
I agree with your friend — wanting to forgive is definitely at least half of the battle. Thank you for sharing your insight x
Strange and timely, this is where I am in my journey as a Suicide Widow. I used my fury to drive me forward for the first two years. Anger is an energy right?
But in the last few months I’ve worked through it. I know that his illness killed him and no part of it was related to how he felt about me or the children. In the depths of that despair he felt nothing, he was nothing. I’ve spoken at length to a friend with severe and sometimes life threatening mental illness and I actually now understand it.
So the result of letting go of the anger, was forgiveness. The result of that for me is peace, acceptance and the return of the love I felt for him and in a strange way having him back in my life as part of my story. BUT not part of my future. My future belongs to me!!
As ever thank you 🙂
Your comment is glorious and makes my heart smile. Thank you so much for sharing you story x
forgiveness is difficult, it’s hard to forgive but after the process we do feel so relaxed… 🙂 it’s a boon to be able to easily forgive..
Powerful piece. I am posting on the MySideof50 Facebook page this week.
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