How does one know if she has forgiven? You tend to feel sorrow over the circumstance instead of rage, you tend to feel sorry for the person rather than angry with her.
You tend to have nothing left to say about it at all.
~Clarissa Pinkola Estes
A couple days ago, I was having a conversation with friends about forgiveness. About when it was the right time, right place, right frame of mind to offer it and actually mean it. At what point, do we forgive someone? Of course each instance where forgiveness is wanted or needed is different, the level of wrong, the extent of the transgression against us, determine our frame of mine when contemplating it. I have always thought that somethings in life are completely unforgivable, still do actually. But I have started to wonder, if in not forgiving and moving on, is not for the person who hurt us, wronged us, but ultimately, for ourselves. That by holding onto that anger, hurt and sadness, are we sealing off a critical part of ourselves that really needs to be healed? In forgiving someone, are we giving them the power to hurt us again, or are we giving ourselves the power to move on?
As I have journeyed through life, I have been hurt and I have been wrong, just like you and everyone else in this world. I share this part of my journey only for perspective. 4 months ago, my mother committed suicide. Alone in a motel room, she decided that she no longer wanted to be a part of this life. At the time of her death, we were estranged. Had been for about a year. My life with her had been a struggle from the time I was a child until the day she died. Undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder, had robbed me of a mother I had so desperately wanted. What I got instead was a woman, who never admitted she was ill, that never saw the damage her illness created. She would build me up, only to tear me down. The lies and manipulations that plagued my childhood, I carry with me today. As a child I worshiped her, I believed everything she told me. I believed her when she made claims against others, against family members. I fought battles for her, I cried for her, I begged for her love. I sold my soul, my very being, to be the best daughter that I could be. Over and over again. It took me 32 years to understand that I would never be able to. I was in my twenties, when I realized that my entire life to that point, had circled around her. Her wants, her needs, her manipulations and lies. I had lost a huge chunk of my life, my self and my confidence. It is a hard reality to face when you realize that your mother is incapable of love. Her love, her attention came with a price and for years I had paid it. Until the time came, when I could no longer. I had shouldered the responsibility of her illness, her highs and her lows for too long. No one else but my sister saw it, no one understood. Outsiders thought we were the worst daughters in the world. She had told them that, and they believed. There came a breaking point and it was in that moment, when I realized, I could sacrifice myself no longer. I let go, and I walked away. I carried with me, the hurt, the anger, the feelings of failure and defeat. I had tried and I had failed. I could not be the daughter that saved her mother from an illness that had controlled her for her entire life. You cannot help those, that do not want it. I harbored resentment and anger for the entire year we were apart. I needed to heal. I had a strong hope, that in losing me, she would see that she needed to face this, that she would find the strength inside of her, begin to understand her worth and fight a battle that only she could fight. I had hoped and dreamed, that she would become the mother I had always wanted. Bipolar robbed her of that which was her. It took from her the very core of her being and replace it with something that is completely opposite of who and what she truly was capable of being. Because her bipolar went untreated for so long, she spent many years looking in the mirror and seeing a person she did not recognize or understand. Not only did bipolar rob her of her sanity, but it robbed her of the ability to see beyond the space it dictated her to look. She could no longer tell reality from fantasy, and she walked in a world no longer her own. And as time went on, she pulled it around her like a blanket. Never did she take responsibility for her own life, her own well being. In death, as in life, both my sister and I shouldered the blame.
Jeanette Walls said once “When people kill themselves, they think they're ending the pain, but all they're doing is passing it on to those they leave behind.” With my mother;s death came, anger and sadness, shock and emptiness. And for the past 4 months I have tried to put the pieces in some semblance of order. But what I have come to the conclusion, that there are some things in life that will never make sense. Some parts of life that the only thing you can do is make peace with. Forgiveness means letting go of the past, It means letting go of the hurt and the anger and moving on. When you forgive, you in no way change the past - what you can do is, change the future.
I want to get to that point when I think about her, with what she did and how life was with her. I want desperately to think of the happy times that there was, and to release the anger and the sadness. I know it has no place in the future. I think I finally get that in forgiving her, I can release the power of the memories that hurt, that fill me with anger and sadness. I am releasing it and saying, no more.
Not yet. Forgiveness, real honest forgiveness, doesn't happen over night. I find that with each day, with each thought of her, the anger has lessened a little, but the sadness, not so much. I will know when I am there, as you will. Forgiveness is not only anyone's schedule but your own. It is in your own time, on your own terms. But I am really starting to believe, that is something that eventually needs to happen. I will never forget, but there will come a point when I forgive. For her, for myself and for the future.
Coming to forgiveness is not for the one that hurt you, it does not invalidate your hurt, what it does, is say that you no longer will allow the actions of another to hurt you, that you release all the pain and the anguish, because it is time. Because holding on to it, never gives you the space is needed to heal.
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