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Forgiveness is a Four Letter Word

Sunday, February 21, 2016
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Forgiveness is a four-letter word

Lately I’ve been grappling a lot with forgiveness. To forgive is defined as: to stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for an offense, flaw or mistake; to feel no malice toward; to harbor no grudge against;  or to bury the hatchet with. The act of forgiving is a powerful thing. It has the ability to liberate, to heal, and to give a sense of newfound freedom. But sometimes, in order to be able to forgive, you have to wade through a lot of muck, reopen old wounds, and ultimately examine yourself and your own shortcomings. Forgiveness is: HARD.

Being a widow comes with a whole lot of things to feel malice toward, harbor grudges against, and be angry and resentful about. It can be directed at a myriad of rational and irrational targets, such as ourselves, our spouses for leaving us, the people who don’t understand what it’s like to be in our shoes, those closest to us, those who grow apart from us, the doctors who couldn’t help, God for taking them away (and making them suffer), their illness, their accident, their sudden passing or basically the universe in general. We all have to accept and work through these feelings, or they will continue to revisit us. Coming to terms with hurt and finding peace means understanding and recognizing what I don’t like about myself. Forgiveness is: HATE.

In order to forgive, I had to face things I didn’t want to. Old ugly truths about my marriage, my spouse, my own family, and his family. I had to go to places in my head and heart that hurt. I had to open old wounds from before he died, and after. After not speaking to one of his family members for over 7 years after my husband’s death, I had to sit across the table from someone who hurt me so deeply, look him in the eyes, allow him to talk and ask for forgiveness, and agree to grant it to him. And, truly mean it. This process asked me to be able to extend kindness to someone despite the almost unsurmountable hurt he had caused me, but it liberated both of us from the pain we suffered from. Forgiveness is: LOVE.

After holding growing accustomed to “managing ” feelings without closure, going back and sorting through them meant I had to face them, and give more of myself than I ever thought I could, to someone who had hurt me so deeply I never felt I could move past it. It’s painful to dig through old wounds that were closed but never properly healed. But sometimes they have to be opened, aired out, given time to breathe, and then allowed to slowly close. Letting go of all the things I had allowed to become part of me, to be embedded into who I am now, was a difficult process. After seven years of carrying this around, the walls came tumbling down quickly. Once I chose to truly look at it, face it, and ultimately let it go, I felt lighter, and peaceful.  By “burying the hatchet” I let both him and myself off the hook, and all that space that was taken up with that hurt was open and ready for mending fences and looking forward to new memories going forward. Forgiveness is: HOPE.

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