You may find this hard to believe, but the “F-Word is part of the continuum of healing from grief and loss. Without the “F-Word” you will get stuck in your grief. [click to tweet] After all, without the “F-Word”, healing can’t take place.
The “F-Word” is a tough subject to talk about in the grief community. Even I, who am open with most things, struggle to find a place for the “F-Word”. Until today I have never mentioned the “F-Word” in any of my posts…. well, times are a changing! This post is all about the “F-Word”. #sorrynotsorry
Of course the “F-Word” I’m talking about is “forgiveness”.
Healing from grief and the “F-Word” happen along the same trajectory.
As one goes up or down so does the other. If we work on the process of forgiving, healing occurs and conversely, if we heal from grief, our ability to come from a place of forgiveness and compassion improves. Without forgiveness we can never be healed or feel whole again.
On the simplest level, when life gives us a ‘no’ when what we really wanted is a ‘yes’ a loss is created that must be healed. The undesirable ‘no’ that’s create must be examined and forgiven in order for us begin healing. The result is that the ability to forgive, ourselves and others, becomes an integral part of the grief process.
This concept of life giving us a ‘no’ is the work of Fred Luskin, you can view one of his videos HERE and much of the this post is a reflection of my understanding of his work as it applied to healing from grief.
When my oldest son passed away unexpectedly, I got a ‘no’ when I was attached to a very long list of ‘yesses’. Yes, I will die before my child. Yes, my son will fall in love. Yes, I will have beautiful grandbabies. Yes, I will see him turn 22 (he died at 21). Yes, I will always be able to (comfortably) say I am the mother of four boys. Yes, yes, yes to an entire life that I was attached to playing out… and I got one singular ‘no’ that erased every single ‘yes’ from that moment forward.
Looking back at the months after the universe gave me the ‘no’ that changed everything, I was consumed with blame and anger. Blaming myself and others who I thought could’ve changed the ‘no’. I became a caustic, ruthless, unpleasant person to be around.
Sadly, I become so stuck in my grief and devoid of any healing that, for the first time in my life, I fully understood how a person could take their own life.
This October it will be five years since Brandon died and I am still working on healing my grief. Forgiving myself and those who (I believe) were involved with Brandon’s death. But, it is in the work of forgiving that I have been able to move forward, make peace with my ‘no’ and acknowledge the growth opportunity that has come out of it.
Forgiveness is an inside job and we can’t begin to let go and forgive until we deeply and fully embrace all aspects of our hurt. When we can identify and work on everything about the ‘no’ that made us feel wronged, only then we can begin to forgive and heal.
Where to start your forgiveness practice
What forgiveness is NOT
Forgiveness does not mean forgetting about or condoning a transgression or act of cruelty by another. You don’t have to share your forgiveness practice with anyone, especially if it means connecting to a person who has hurt you. Forgiving does not mean pretending you were not hurt by an act.
Forgiveness is not about the event that caused the pain, it’s about how we choose to respond in every moment after that event. Forgiveness is a lifelong process and the reward of the work is in the healing you will receive. [click to tweet]
Fully embrace ALL the feelings of loss.
Once we have fully embraced all the feelings of loss, we must let them go so that we can redirect our energy towards healing. Continuing to ruminate over the grand-kids I will never have does nothing more than keep me stuck. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t still burn & sting.
There is no way in the early months of my loss that I could’ve worked on forgiveness. I spewed anger at everyone. After I was able to loosen my grip on feeling that anger was going to heal me, I became more compassionate towards myself and others and began to replace my anger with forgiveness. It might be that you’re ready or willing to forgive and begin to heal your grief. If you feel that you are still working through anger, resentment or other strong emotions, seek help to work through these first.
Accept the reality of your situation.
My son’s death is permanent that is my reality. My realty is also that the people I was angry with are not hurting because of my rage, they have moved on in whatever way they found to move on – It’s not my business.
As for forgiving myself I continue to work on that. I struggle, as every parent who’s lost a child does, with feeling like I didn’t do my job as a parent. I should’ve been able to protect him, even if he was 21 and in the Army.
Acknowledge the opportunity for growth
As hard as it is to accept, there is growth and empowerment because you received a ‘no’ instead of a ‘yes’. You are a survivor and you’ve been given an opportunity to explore a piece of yourself that, although you may never had asked for, can be used as a powerful vehicle of change in your life and potentially the lives of others.
The result of working through all the aspects of your loss and consciously working on forgiveness is the potential for a deepened since of spirituality, more meaningful relationships and an increase in your ability to be more resilient in the face of life’s disappointments. You will also be more compassionate towards witnesses other’s adversity and be more active in creating the change you want to see in the world.
The “F-Word” is something that makes us uniquely human. We are the only species that can manipulate the “F-Word”…We can tame it to become a powerful force of universal good…or allow it to be an uncontrolled lethal weapon of personal destruction.
Use your powers for good and make forgiveness a part of your healing from grief practice. Just as your grief is an ongoing process, forgiveness is practice, over and over again…
I won’t be forgiving anybody for the murder of my son. I’m ok with that. I’m sure others will not be. I’m ok with that too…