"Forgive and forget". We are told this from a young age when something unpleasant happens, or a schoolyard game gets out of hand.
In essence we are told to forgive the other person, forget about the incident and get on with our lives. We have it drummed into us as little children, and maybe even find ourselves saying the same thing to any kids in our lives now. It’s part of our culture.
But we don't talk about how hard it is to forgive.
Forgiving ourselves can be the hardest of all. In life there are many circumstances when we must forgive ourselves in order to move past feeling bad.
Forgiving ourselves is one of the hardest tasks we face. Our inner voice is good at critiquing and blaming, and not so good at speaking kindly to ourselves.
Forgiveness then is a form of self-love.
Forgiveness is love
Self-love is what we are told to do when we are struggling with grief, overwhelm or illness. “Be kind to yourself” is a phrase we hear frequently.
Part of being kind to yourself is forgiving yourself.
Some years ago, I decided I wanted a special custom piece of jewellery as a memory piece to celebrate my three boys. I had a special piece to remember our stillborn son, but wanted a single symbolic piece that I could wear for all of them. I had a pretty clear idea of the type of piece I was after, as well as the relevant birthstones, so approached a local jeweller to craft it for me.
After a huge investment of many hours of time, I was convinced to go with a bracelet containing all the birthstones of my boys, as well as the birthstones of my husband and myself. Creating the piece took months and cost way more money than I had initially budgeted, yet I was excited and couldn’t wait for it to be finished.
And I don’t wear it.
Yep. Worn once, and then not again. Not. Worn.
And I felt really bad about it. Bad about the waste of money, bad about the fact that the piece does not reflect what my heart knew I wanted, bad about the use of precious stones that could have been used in a more gorgeous and true way.
Forgiveness is needed
Moving past feeling bad required forgiveness.
I have had to forgive myself for spending a large sum of money on something I don’t wear, despite the fact that I had been looking forward to it, and anticipating the joy I would experience when I wore it.
I have to forgive the bracelet for not living up to expectations (yes, really!).
Forgiveness in life
I think this is rather common; we look forward to an event / activity / holiday or special item so much and for a long time. But then when we get it / do it / have it, the promised excitement and our anticipated joy is dashed as the event / activity / holiday or special item is not as great as we had hoped. Often we chalk it up to experience, or simply shrug and try and forget about it.
But implicitly there is some required forgiveness – as only when we have forgiven ourselves and the thing that failed to live up to expectations, can we truly let it go and be free of the guilt or unpleasant feelings.
Forgiveness after loss
After the loss of a child, whether through miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal complications, there are is a LOT of forgiveness that must occur.
We have to forgive ourselves for not knowing, forgive our bodies for letting us down, forgive the experts for not being able to save our precious child, forgive others for the sometimes thoughtless things they say.
That said, the act of forgiveness helped me (and continues to help me) move out of the cloud of grief.
Forgiveness can feel like work
Forgiveness can feel like work. I have to work hard at forgiving myself. It requires constant reinforcement – constant forgiveness to quieten the voice in my head that tells me I did the wrong thing, or didn’t do something well enough.
What do you need to forgive yourself for?
It might be something small (like not listening attentively when someone was talking to you), or significant (like my jewellery purchase), something big (like a social transgression) or something life-changing (like forgiving your body for not keeping your baby alive).
Whatever it may be, moving past feeling bad starts with forgiving yourself.
It's okay to forgive.
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