Sunday, October 6, 2019

GOOD GRIEF, Embrace Forgiveness

Good Grief: Strategies for Building Resilience and Supporting Transformation

The moment you truly forgive, you have reclaimed your power from the mind. Non-forgiveness is the very nature of the mind, just as the mind-made false self, the ego, cannot survive without strife and conflict. The mind cannot forgive. Only you can.
                                    — Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

     I looked in the mirror one day. I saw a sad, lonely. and broken woman looking back at me. Her head tilted downward, shoulders slumped in defeat, eyes swollen and red, hair a mass of tangles and clothing wrinkled and worn.

What happened to me, I thought? I used to be happy, neat, active and loving.

A voice inside me said, you deserve what you look like and how you feel because you could have done better.

I felt like I got slapped in the face with the realization that I was carrying around a heap of guilt and regrets, unable to forgive myself for many things. Why should I forgive myself? Surely, I should suffer — and suffer I did, until I learned to forgive myself and my husband.

     Yes, forgiveness was the hardest task for me in the process of healing my wounded spirit from the loss of my husband, Fred. Forgiveness was the step that took the longest.

At first, I was angry about much that related to my loss: that I was now alone, that I regretted things I should have said or done, that I may have missed something that could have changed or prolonged his life…and many more emotional issues. A constant bombardment of negative thoughts became roadblocks on my journey through the grieving process and healing.

I felt like a victim of a tragedy — and indeed I was a victim, the lone survivor of the loss of a loved one — the other half of me. However, I realized that I did not have to remain a victim. I could choose to become whole again through the act of forgiveness.
It’s very important to recognize that forgiveness is the voluntary act in which you willingly let go of a perceived wrong toward you that elicits feelings of anger, resentment, or other negative emotions. You feel righteous in your position of being wronged and you want to hold on tight to this feeling — waiting for the one who wronged you to “make it right.”

Well, this making it right could happen, but don’t hold your breath waiting. There are, however, complications with this thinking:
   the person who you feel has wronged you may not know how you feel;
   the person may not be available to apologize to you (death is an example);
   or the person may not care how you feel.

I am sure you can think of other scenarios. Whatever the reasons for the negative emotions, if they are left unresolved, you will suffer in a state of un-forgiveness.

Let me assure you, until I was able to move through the forgiveness process, I was suffering big-time.

Remaining in the state of un-forgiveness is unhealthy. It can create chronic anxiety, harming the mind/body/spirit:
   Your mind is operating at high speed, processing and reprocessing the negative emotions that steal your joy and block your path forward.
   Your body is following the mind’s lead dealing with the effects of all this negativity: increased tension in muscles, possible increased blood pressure, insomnia, overeating or under-eating, etc.
   Your spirit feels defeated, unworthy.
   Self-esteem plummets to depths you never experienced.

Not good feelings for sure, as I can attest to the constant anxiety and feeling of defeat.

However, I did not give up hope.

     Working through this process of forgiveness worked well for me regarding grief, loss, and anger. I did not think of forgiving anyone right away. I was wrapped up in the negative emotions and thoroughly immersed in my own suffering. I felt righteously justified in my beliefs and held onto them…feeling a sense of power. Over time, however, I became aware of how these negative emotions were eating away at me and taking up so much of my time.

     I realized that the first step in the forgiveness process, awareness, allowed me to acknowledge my negative thoughts and feelings that were feeding my suffering and keeping me a victim. Next, I came up with the list of questions I show below, and I started exploring the answers. This process allowed me to take back control and enhance the clarity of the real issues. Finally, I forgave myself and let it go.

Here are some questions I asked myself that may help you also:

Who am I unwilling to forgive?
What did they do that hurt me and made me develop these negative feelings?
Why am I letting this person have any control over me and cause my mind/body/spiritual distress?
How can I forgive the wrong I perceived?

Take your time. Find a quiet place to reflect on these questions. Write them down for reference. You will be surprised how you feel after doing this. It took some time before I could forgive my husband for dying and leaving me to continue on alone.

And so, the process began.

     Little by little, I started to deal with my feelings and need for forgiveness.

I started asking myself:

Who was I not willing to forgive? The answer my husband.

What did he do that hurt me? The answerhe died, left me behind to continue alone and created guilt and regrets.

Why did I let this control my mind/body/spirit? The answer I needed to keep the connection to him no matter how much it hurt me.
How can I forgive the wrong I perceived? The answer — I do not want to yet.

As I became aware of my responses to these questions, I decided to forgive him for leaving me. After all, he did not die on purpose to hurt me. Arriving at this place of forgiveness took much time. It was hard work to let go and move forward.

     Forgiveness of self, I found, was a much harder task to do than forgive someone else.

I still asked similar questions:

Who was I not willing to forgive? The answer — me.

Why did I let myself feel un-forgiveness? The answer — because I felt like I was somehow responsible for the loss.

Did I miss health clues that I could have done something about? The answer — I’m a nurse and should have noticed. I flagellated myself regularly for this.

Did I show how much I cared and loved him? The answer — I regretted not telling him I loved him or hugging him more. I regretted spending so much time working and so little time with him — and more.

Forgiving myself took much longer, but it did happen. I must admit that even after I forgave myself, I slipped back into moments of un-forgiveness. It happens. Just forgive yourself again. Don’t give up!

     Remember, we are born to be spiritual and compassionate human beings. Embrace your spirituality and heart’s compassion to forgive yourself for the perceived errors and feelings of negativity — one step at a time. Let go of the emotional negativity and dare to open your heart to receiving the blessings of peace and comfort. You did the best you could at that time, in that place, with that person.

     YOU and I still have our own journeys. We must move forward to live lives filled with joy and love. This takes time. Be kind to yourself. Fully embrace forgiveness toward the one you feel wronged you AND toward yourself — it is the right thing to do.

Love yourself enough to forgive yourself!


·       I forgive myself for what I think I have done wrong.
·       I love myself for the person I am yet to become.
·       I forgive my past and embrace every positive moment of the present.


With her permission, I am serializing here nurse Cheryl Barrett's valuable book on transcending grief. I had the pleasure of being her coach and editor through my Write Your Book with Me enterprise. 

Douglas Winslow Cooper, PhD

Perhaps the easiest way to obtain a copy of her book, published by Outskirts Press, is through this Amazon link: 

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