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9 Lessons on Loss, Forgiveness, and Healing

“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” ~Paul Boese

I’m trying to meditate but I find myself overcome by sadness; I’m still grieving after all this time.

I’ve gone through phases of forgiveness recently that have shown me how to acknowledge the painful relationship I had with my mother, the anger and resentment we shared, and the loss of each other that we both went through the older we grew. Maybe it’s not as bad as that, but it feels like it.

My reflections have brought me closer to the woman who I never took the time to understand because we were both so volatile and weighed down with our problems; I’d shuddered when my family would say “You’re just like Mum,” but now I smile because I see how true it is.

I yearn for a stable life, just like her; I live with chronic illness, mental and physical, just like her; I escape into creativity, just like her.

We differ too.

I’ve decided to do something about my anger. I’ve taken steps to open my heart. I’ve learned to forgive and be forgiven. One thing I’ve not done yet is grieve. I lost my Mum.

I lost her gradually through my life in that I didn’t ever feel like we were mother and daughter, more two people living together who spent every day treading carefully, trying to avoid eye contact and arguments.

And then four years ago she died. She’d been sick for a long time and I knew it was coming. I’d prepared myself from a very young age for that cold January afternoon, for when I’d hear the news that she was dead. I was at once free and cut loose.

I lost the person who, if I had only opened myself up, would have protected me to all ends, even if she didn’t understand what I was going through.

I miss my Mum. I wish more than ever right now that she were here so I could tell her how much I need her in my life to protect me. I need to tell her how sorry I am for not taking the first steps and I need to hear from her that she’s sorry too.

The message I was hoping to give you all from the lesson I’m now learning keeps changing so I’m going to give you it in all its forms…

Don’t believe people when they say, “It’s never too late.” This might sometimes be true but other times, it is not. Live now. Act now.

Let grief take the path of least resistance. You may be under pressure to pull it together or get over your pain by the time your therapy sessions are up, but give yourself some breathing space. There is no cure, only growth. Take your time.

Allow yourself to change. There’s no shame in developing a new attitude toward some bad feelings. Others may not understand why you may suddenly forgive after so much time spent being angry, but don’t worry. You are not static. You can change.

Acknowledge your feelings and what you need. Denying your emotional needs will not lead you to recovery. If you need someone to lean on, lean on me. I will support you.

Right thoughts, right words, right intent; this isn’t about brushing negativity aside or letting it take you over. Be honest about what troubles you. Speak truth. Be truth.

Don’t live in fear. Take your right hand and thrust the palm outwards in front of you. Put a halt to all that will terrify and stop you from living. No fear. Be free.

Love: so much better than hate. You have the capacity to love everyone, no matter what has happened, and even if the gesture isn’t given in return. Give openly. Receive gratefully.

Walk on compassionate ground. Think of compassion as something that’s always with you, like the earth beneath your feet, instead of a “good deed’ you have to achieve every day. Let the path guide you. Feel free to make your own.

Realize yourself. You deserve love and kindness too so give it to yourself. Let go of any guilt about being selfish. Enrich your heart. It beats for you.

Forgiving isn’t easy. I’ve spent most of my life being angry at my Mum for everything I felt she failed at, and now I’m pissed with myself for failing to put a stop to it. I have to start somewhere though and now that I have, I’m starting to heal.

If you’re trying to heal, learn to forgive. Forgive others without resentment and most importantly, forgive yourself. We all screw up but then we all breathe and cry and hurt, too. We’re all human.

Photo by h.koppdelaney

Avatar of Sam Russell

About Sam Russell

Sam Russell is a young writer from the southeastern corner of the UK. He’s a cynic by nature trying to prove that cynics can be happy and positive, too. Visit his blog at http://cackhanded.wordpress.com/.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • Thislittlelark

    Thank you for sharing your story… peace and blessings to you!
    ~this little lark

  • Carolmae

    I just found this blog and I am so grateful for it. Everything you post is so inspiring and uplifting. I had a similar relationship with my mother, who died a few months ago. She was very abusive to me, and has been the reason for my therapy sessions for the past 15 years. One difference is that there were several attempts on my part to reconcile. She was in too much denial to accept that she did anything wrong, and eventually I gave up trying and shut her out of my life to try and heal. I’ve been dealing with very confusing emotions since then, from anger to relief. I haven’t had any therapy since she died, because I feel guilty complaining about her now that she’s gone. I know I need to get back at it but it’s hard. Any advice for me? Again, thank you for your blog, It’s a beautiful thing you do here.

  • Anonymous

    Hey,

    I understand how difficult it is. You’re doing pretty good though; I end up leaving therapy as soon as anything painful comes up, something I’m trying to remedy now.

    I went into counselling when she died because I couldn’t cope with the fallout, family wise. It took me 10 weeks to speak about it. I had a lot of guilt because I felt responsible for her death in a karmic way. If you want advice, here it is.

    Don’t worry about the guilt. You have to work these feelings out or they’ll end up doing you more harm. Guilt is one of those feelings. Take the power away for things that tell you you shouldn’t be feeling or expressing yourself, and they fall apart.

    Take your time. You will grow and change. You will fell better.

    Kudos

  • Carolmae

    Thank you. :) Sometimes things that are so simple, are the hardest to realize.

  • Hollymcole

    This is a great article and resonates with me also. I went through something a couple years ago where I really tried tackle and deal with my feelings towards my mother. I too acted (and in many ways still do) just like her, despite my best efforts not to. I did some research on certain aspects of my own behavior and found that my mother and I probably shared some form of mental illness (to a small but still notable degree). Realizing this and putting a name to it greatly helped in my forgiveness of my mom. And myself. Looking into her past and really understanding and even asking her to talk about abuse she suffered as a child greatly helped me understand why she acted the way she did. I struggle to forgive her for not taking steps to heal herself, or confront her issues rather than live with them, but that’s something I’m still working on. My advice to anyone dealing with mom issues is, if you can’t just have a conversation with them (like I have been lucky enough to), trying meditating or journeying, try crossing the bridge to your mothers soul and ask. You will still receive information and insight that will allow greater understanding and compassion. Thanks for sharing your story, it hit home.

  • Greg Robson

    “Enrich your heart. It beats for you.”

    A simple phrase, but I reacted to it quite strongly on a deep level. Posts like this are why I stay subscribed.

  • skpleroma

    Recently my mother-in-law loss her husband to cancer. All through the process it was difficult to talk with him while he was going through all the treatments and at the end he was too ill to communicate. About a two months after his death, we were having breakfast and she told us every night before she goes to sleep she has a little conversation with him. Asking him for advice and telling him what her day was like. It is through our darkest moments we find ways to express our deepest desires. Death is not a end it is only a transition for both the living and those who have past on. The role of the living is to fulfill our dreams so those in the past can share in them. Tell you mother of your dreams  and ask her about her dream. This way you can share in what’s brings joy into both of your lives. Most of the time children don’t know there parents very well and even if they do have a great relationship, we all have opinions and judgments of them, this is natural, for in the end they are just people too. And as time goes on those attitudes will fade away and if you are lucky you will find yourself being the parent trying to communicate to your teenager son or daughter and you find this is not so easy. What matters is not that you like each other or are best friends but you respect each other for what ever you both are. All I want for my children is to follow there bliss (Joseph Campbell). In my mind, they were already successful the day they were conceived.

  • Robert

    Hi Sam,

    Thank you for sharing.
    From my own direct experience, writing and sharing helps with the healing.
    I trust this proves to be the same for you :)

    All the best with love,

    Rob

  • Moonchild

    Thank you so much for this message.   I too have a very difficult relationship with my mother…and the older I get the more angry I have become.  This was a perfect wake up call and one I truly needed to hear at this time.  Thanks Again!
    Peace and Love,
    Moonchild

  • Danceinmiami

    This couldn’t be more fitting at the moment. Thank you for sharing. It is very encouraging when faced with a difficult situation.
    :)

  • jr cline

    I miss my mom too.

  • Alice

    Yes we do receive things when we need them. THANK YOU !! I cried when I read this one this morning that exactly hits home about me and my controlling mother.  She died 10 years ago at 84, me holding her hand, after several years of dementia. So much dancing around, afraid of confrontation and to share feelings.  The need for stablility we both had, the chronic illness we both share (arthritis) and the escaping into creativity. Right on. Even the photo with the love incased in the balloon. The little kid trying to reach it. Needs to burst out and surround him. Boy did I feel like that a lot in my life, trying to reach for the love and not able to feel it.  This came at a time when I am starting to meditate, and release all those old feelings of guilt and lose.  Your article is extremely helpful in this process.  Sending you love and healing energy! 

  • http://twitter.com/AlannahRose Alannah Rose

    What an excellent article, and so truly heartfelt.  I really feel for you, going through this difficult but necessary process.  I have to agree when you say “others may not understand why you may suddenly forgive”.  In my experience, one of the most difficult things in making a change like forgiving someone is that others are not supportive and constantly question ”why”.  It gets very draining trying to constantly explain or defend the reasons on top of dealing with all of the emotion in the process of forgiving. 

    “Denying your emotional needs will not lead you to recovery. If you need someone to lean on, lean on me. I will support you.”

    I also wanted to echo this, and say I will support you (anyone) too.  I know first hand how it is to have no support during a difficult time and knowing there is someone out there to lean on can make all the difference.

  • Guest

    This sounds a lot like me, except that my mom is still alive. I don’t see anything we have in common though. And I will be sure to not raise my children the way she has. That’s the first thing I’ve always promised myself and I stick to my word… unlike her. Really, the only similarity that I see between the both of us is that we both have dark, medium length hair and loathe each other. I really don’t consider her a mother and when I start my own family, she will have nothing to do with it. She’s a control freak and thinks she’s always right and I hate that. She’s a bad apple and I’m tired of being around her negativity and then blaming me for negative vibes. It’s ridiculous. We never are on the same terms because we don’t understand each other. I’ve put too much thought into our mother-daughter relationship, because I really want an honest mother(don’t feel sorry for me, but I’m adopted… there will always be that wonder). I know, Lame, but it’s really annoying. Whatever… this too shall pass.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for this wonderful article. I think I need to put “Live Now. Act Now.” on post its everywhere in my house. It’s so crucial to remember that forgiveness can’t be put off, but must be selfless and from the heart. I can’t imagine what it must be like with your mom gone, and I wish you the best.
    One book that I might recommend if you’re interested in forgiveness from a spiritual healing perspective is “Forgiving the Unforgivable” by Master Charles Cannon (http://forgivingtheunforgivable.com). Master Charles was a victim of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. He survived, but one of his friends did not. Master Charles spoke of nothing but forgiveness for the terrorists the whole time, and that idea stuck with me. 

  • Tinarose29

    I am goin through the exact same thing to an extent that I feel like ‘divorcing’ my mother just so I can let go of the emotions that are going through me each day. I am so tired of fighting these fellings :(. I do try to be the bigger person and call or even sepnd time with her, but I always come back home feeling really drained and angry. I hate it but the funny thing is I don’t hate her,I actually feel sorry for her and I too wish she could just say sorry instead of saying ‘if I did something wrong then I’m sorry’ what does she mean ‘if’ aaarrrggghhh even writing this is annoying me. Sometimes I wish i could just go far away then I wouldn’t feel guilty of living 20min away from her but only visit when its her birthday. What kind of lesson is to be learnt from pain, especially pain from someone who decided to have a child, I really don’t understand her or this painful process. I want to end now, but how?

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for reading!

    Kudos

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for reading. I’m glad I’ve still got the knack to keep people interested ;)

    Kudos

  • Anonymous

    Hi Rob,

    I agree that opening up does help you to feel better, though you have to be at the right moment in your life. I wouldn’t have been able to share this six months ago.

    Thanks for reading; it’s been enlightening to share.

    Kudos

  • Anonymous

    Hi Moonchild,

    I understand about anger. Even though I’m taking steps to improve my perspective on this, I still have a lot of anger to work through and understand.

    Anger can be released so don’t feel that you’re stuck with it.

    Kudos

  • Anonymous

    You’re welcome. Thanks for reading!

    Kudos

  • Anonymous

    Do something to remember her. Anything. It helps.

    Kudos

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your comments Alannah. It’s nice when your thoughts are affirmed instead of challenged!

    Kudos

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your comments Alannah. It’s nice when your thoughts are affirmed instead of challenged!

    Kudos

  • Anonymous

    If there’s something I’ve come to understand, it’s that not every relationship is ideal but there are still things that can be taken from them.

    You’ve decided to raise your own children differently to the way you were raised in order to give them a better life. This is excellent, a real and mindful decision. You should be proud of yourself.

    Kudos

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the recommendation! I’m always open to learning how to see differently in situations when I’d usually fall into old habits, especially when it involves forgiveness.

    Kudos!

  • Anonymous

    There’s no quick fix to this. You just have to open yourself up to the possibility this can change and that you can change it.

    Show her kindness. Visit more. Take flowers. Even if she doesn’t respond, just do it. This is the lesson to be learnt from pain. You can get out of it.

    Kudos!

  • Anonymous

    Yes it can take a bit of time, but it’s worth it! Thanks for reading.

    Kudos!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for reading. I’m so pleased that it resonated with you, and that you to have found a similar peace.

    Kudos!

  • Ara Bedrossian

    The older I get, the more I realize the catchphrases like, “The grass is always greener..” and “The best things in life aren’t things,” are superficial only if you don’t have the wisdom to see how profound they are. I’m on a similar journey, Sam. Cheers to transcending circumstances.

  • Anonymous

    Hi! Thanks so much for reading and saying these things. Difficult relationships can so often tarnish other ones so it’s wonderful to see that there are people who understand what it means to build a nourishing connection with those around them.

    Kudos!

  • Anonymous

    I’m so pleased to know that what I’ve written is helping you. It takes to to move on but I think we’re both doing pretty well!

    Kudos!

  • jt

    Reading some of the coments made me cry.. I love how this article gives very practical advice, simple but yet very true.

    I have a strained relationship with my dad becos of his strong and sometimes violent objection to my relationship and it has caused me to move out. I used to visit my family more often but I end up going home feeling drained/stressed/upset, and the couple of days leading up to the visit always stresses me up and I dread what might happen and what my parents will say to me. I stopped for a while but then my mom will ask me back. We get close, they expect more and more of me, to move back etc and it explodes when I feel I cant move back yet and then we stop. The cycle keeps going on.

    My dad has a problem with his emotions and it stresses the people around him, he seems to have a lot of unresolved issues. I wish to save also my mom, sis and him from himself but yet I dont know how to go about it. Somedays like yesterday when I visited, he was fine and happy. But just a week ago, he didn’t speak a single word to me when I visited. I just dont know when he’s going to do or say something unpleasant. I tried to let go, look at the bigger picture, believe that really now is all I have and visit them because I do not wish to regret anything but somedays his responses just make me feel like he’s not my father, that’s he’s mean. I know he loves me but… :’(

  • Tinarose29

    Thank you for your response and I know you mean well, but I’m done trying to make my mother feel good, if she wants to reamin and die a miserable goat then that’s her choice not mine. If she feels she can’t open up and say what is really bothering her is her own business. Taking flowers to someone who won’t respond is like taking flowers to a zombie, I can’t be dealing with that. But thanks :D

  • Anonymous

    I understand how you’re feeling, I really do. I hated my Mum for a long time and part of me still resents her a lot. I went out of my way to do the minimal for her and then I stopped altogether. Even when she was having daily strokes up until the day she died, I despised her.

    It breaks my heart now. She was dying and I wasn’t there for her despite my feelings. Nobody deserves that.

    Do what you need to preserve yourself but I promise that a forgiving, compassionate heart is much better to live with than one filled with bitterness.

    Sam

  • Tinarose29

    I’m not bitter Sam, just done. I dont understand her and I’m done trying to understand her. I’m 35 years old so this has been going on for a loooooooonnnng time. I did not sign a contract with this woman when I awas born and I didn’t promise her things that I have not done, so I don’t get her, and I dont want to get her anymore. Death comes to us all and I might die before her, but before I die I want to be happy and if that means not having my mother in my life then so be it.

  • Yevondadee

    This really hit the spot for me, Thank you so much! <3
    Forgiveness has been very hard for me and has also helped to make me ill.
    I am working on this right now!
    <3

  • http://dailytrippn.com Angela T.

    I’m working on this process too…involving my Mom also…though different circumstances.  It’s so easy to let time fly and nothing seems to change or get better.  Just a cycle of pain and shoving feelings away because they don’t ever change.  I wish I could just ask someone for advice but I know it’s a journey and a process that will just take me making the decision to let go and some how forgive.  Thanks for the positive words.  Really good to read.  

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  • Urgurltiff13

    Me and my mother share the same relationship as you and your Mum.. We are currently not speaking, we have tried but always end up fighting about something. Ive kept distance from her for now, and I am tired of this hurt i carry from my mom. I just want to forgive and move on but she wants a apology. I dont know exactly what to do, but I have been healing from this pain by forgiving her and always being open hearted to what she has to say. bad or good. My mom has text me now and then a “i love and miss u” text, but ive been scared to fight with her so i ignore her. But now i realized life is to short to hold onto anger, i think ill email my mom this article to reach out to her from a healing perspective, thank you. god bless…

  • Kimmy

    My mother has done stuff that hurt me that I can’t even understand how she could have lived with herself while doing it. I feel that since she is still alive and here, I could talk to her about it and try to understand, and eventually forgive, but if she were dead, I know there would be no chance of my forgiving her. Since I think of it that way, I feel that I will never truly forgive her for the things she has done while she is alive because I don’t feel that it would be true since it wouldn’t if she were dead. Do you get what I am saying?

  • Brian mc

    I am in a spiritual path with what I believe is the beloved of my life ,however she is insistent on being brutally honest with everyone including my parents. But at what cost do you communicate to a loved one if it will hurt there feelings .