Help with Forgiveness

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    Hi – I’m in the process of listening to the audiobook Spirit Junkie by Gabrielle Bernstein, which tries to help maneuver through A Course In Miracles in modern ways, essentially directing the reader to rely on his or her inner guide and seek out love over fear in every relationship.

    Not sure how many of you are familiar with the book, but the concept is at least recognizable.

    Anyway, I’ve recently been through an amicable divorce. My ex-husband and I remain friends and even work together. I’ll say that the kindness we afford each other can be a bit mentally contorting, but our focus on the needs of our small daughter has kept us true.

    The difficulty, I’ve found, comes mostly from my mother. She and I have had a contentious relationship for as long as I can remember and I’m having great difficulty forgiving her. I know I should, I know it’s something I’m called to do, but it’s very difficult at a time when I’m seeking so fervently to protect myself.

    My parents watch my daughter during the week while my ex and I are at work. On the weekends when he has her, they visit him, providing lunch. They do the same for me. It’s been difficult feeling like my sweet little girl has a whole family without me, that he and my parents go along on the weekends like nothing has changed even though I’m not there. My ex is very good with this arrangement, as are they. The pain it causes me is not their concern. I feel like everyone wants things to go back to the way they were except me, meaning that I’m the only one who has a problem and wants a change.

    I voiced my discomfort with my parents spending so much time with my ex, as we’re he and I are trying to move forward. I then engaged in a shouting match with my mother, who used the word “blame” when saying she blamed me for her not being more comforting in the process (saying I’m too touchy for her to bring anything up, even in the form of providing compassion), said that the divorce was “about her” (I can barely believe that’s a direct quote, but it is – she said that at some point it has to “stop being about my feelings and start being about hers”) and said that she and my dad are “doers, not talkers”, and that asking for someone to talk to is wrong on my part, as it’s something they’ve never been.

    I want not to see lack. I want not to choose fear. I want to feel the honest love in this. I find it hard to stop protecting myself, especially when I’m at such a painful place right now. I’ve tried listening for an inner guide but my first instinct is to believe in the validity of my hurt feelings since it seems nobody else is.

    So I don’t know what to do. And I’d like any help and kindness you can provide.




    I’m sorry for your painful feelings, and can understand why it is a tricky balance to grow compassionate toward others while protecting our own tender hearts. Sometimes we get wrapped up in what we wish we had and overlook what we actually do. Said differently, it makes sense that you’d want something different, but its also not what you have. What a conundrum! A few things came to heart as I read your words.

    Perhaps some or most of the pressure arises from your jealousy and envy. Consider that when we are thirsty, if someone else has a nice, tall, cool glass of water, we look on with longing for what they have. When that longing festers, we may even become resentful and angry… why do they get that glass, what did they do to deserve it? This moves us in a faulty direction, such as trying to take their water, or make them feel guilty for drinking it. However, the solution is always to recognize our own thirst, keep our attention on that, then find and drink our own water.

    For instance, you’ve been through a lot of changes, and your delicate heart is stable to a point, but still healing. Perhaps as you see your daughter going out, your family (ex, parents, daughter) sharing joy, you feel left out, left behind, “what about me?” That’s normal, usual, and is the thirst. Instead of trying to stop them from gathering, sharing joy, consider approaching your thirst directly by engaging in your own joys, your own loving moments. Self nurture, listen to soft music, take a bath, meditate, walk in nature… reconnect to your own body, your own ability to comfort and nurture your light back to strength, your own heart back to peacefulness.

    Then, perhaps what will arise in your view is an appreciative joy for your daughter to have such beautiful parents and grandparents. How loved she is! Consider that she gets to have love and laughter with her dad and mom, and how wonderful that must be! For her, there is almost certainly no competition, no comparisons, just the hugs and toys and laughter. And, deep within us is the yearning for our kids to have exactly that! So, why all the fuss? Said differently, in the absence of thirst, when others connect and have fun, we celebrate with joy for our friends and family finding peace and grace.

    In your relationship with your mom, consider that perhaps you’re still stuck in a child-like mode. As a child, it is important for parents to give up their needs for the needs of their kids. When their kids are adults, it is less necessary, and the kids have to grow up and see them as people and parents. Said differently, your mom’s feelings are important, and it sounds like you’ve been selfish. With all the change and grief and difficult emotions its normal, and understandable. Consider that she perhaps wants to spend as much time as possible with her family, including you, your daughter and your ex. So, she says “I want to see them, so i see them. What is your problem?” “But mommy, I am jealous, uncomfortable, and suffering.” It would be lovely if she just took you in her arms and sung you to warmth. If wishes were fishes, beggars would drown! Instead, perhaps she gets bristled and defensive, such as “what about my feelings?” After all, she is a woman and not just your mother, and so has her own dance to dance.

    That being said, remember that it isn’t that you should just go thirsty. Said differently, its not as though your side is invalid, unimportant, or meaningless. Your suffering is important, dear sister, its just that if you can manage to settle it on your side, by tending your own needs directly, then you won’t rely on other people changing to make you happy. You’ll just be happy, independent of their lunches, your daughter having experiences you aren’t a part of, or your mom tending her own garden in her own way.

    Finally, it can really boost that sense of happiness to spend time wishing for the happiness of others for their sake. For instance, spending time wishing your daughter to have joy and connection and beauty all around her, just because you wish her to have that, to see that, and feel safe, content, and happy. This can be strengthened and well rooted through a metta practice. Consider searching YouTube for “guided metta meditation” if interested. Metta is the feeling of loving friendship and well wishing, and goes a long way to recharge and refuel our steadfast desire for the wellbeing of others. Not only does this make the experiences of others more spacious (such as seeing and respecting your mom’s desires and your own simultaneously) but it also helps our heart becomes strong and equanimitous, which sets us free. Said differently, often times we falsely withhold forgiveness because we feel the other needs to earn it first. Forgiveness is not something that can be earned, only given. Said differently, we forgive and let go of other people’s trespassing for our own freedom, not for them, not because they deserve it… but because we do. We deserve to be free of resentment, which is what forgiveness settles for us.

    With warmth,


    I appreciate that your little girl has such a strong family support all around her. She is very lucky to have responsible and caring parents who can split amicably. (My parents had a tumultuous marriage, but a seamless divorce that I am very grateful for, and they became friends after the divorce. As an adult, I greatly admire and respect their ability to do that.)

    I do agree with Matt that you seem to be in child mode with your parents though. It sounds like you need to establish firmer boundaries, for YOUR sake. It is really great that your parents watch your child while you work, but I think otherwise, you should take a couple large steps back from them. They are too involved in your life and you expect them to make decisions based on your feelings.

    Also, how about you spend those weekends when your daughter is at your ex’s house going out of town, doing something you’ve always wanted, and completely removing yourself from your family surroundings? Exploit those weekends alone!

    Thomas Collins Jr

    Not sure how much help this will be or not. I carried a lot of regrets, hate and resentment towards my oldest Son and Ex Wife due to I blamed them for a Mental Breakdown I had over twenty years ago. I spent a lot of money on rehabs for my son that seemed to do no good, emptying my retirement account. My wife relapsed and left me while using drugs to deal with a son not finished with high school and my other drug addicted son. I hated her for what I perceived was her in decisions, my son for his weakness finally I tried to commit suicide myself 2x only to be saved by family and a co worker/friend. I crawled into myself for over twenty years living an emotional empty life on Psychotropic drugs that left me without any feelings, none. I buried my sister and mother during these years and shed not one tear. Bottom line is I realized I had to get off the prescription drugs, though diagnosed as Bipolar 2 with Anxiety disorder, I had to come back into the real world again. It took me 6 months to get off the drugs get my spiritual life in order before I could do the following. I wrote up a list of people who I have blamed or hurt over the years then one by one I wrote letters of Forgiveness to each one of them for actual or perceived wrongs I had done them. It was hard to do, to admit I had hurt others when I felt I was the victim all the long. In the end, it was so well and lovingly received it scared me at first! All but two people answered me asking for forgiveness for things they thought they did to me. Now today at 61, 38 years worth of crap I call it has been lifted off my shoulders, I am in great communications with my Ex, my Sons guys I served with in the Army and other family and friends that I never had a true human relationship with. Sometimes I feel we have to shed the armour we wear, to let down our guard and just reach out in love and understanding to say I am sorry, forgive me for what I did or said. My real fear was how do I forget after I forgive? Well, it slowly melts a way, it slowly leaves your thoughts. I find I don’t sit around and think about all the negativity but live each day as my last, one in which I only remember the good the joy others have brought into my life. I still take a pill for Anxiety attacks, but only 3 pills in the last two months rather than 90 in 30 days like before. Life is good, life is what we make it. Hold onto the good things, embrace them and let the rest stay behind. I don’t look back now unless the view is good!

    Cozetta Lagemann

    Hello Sarah,

    I’m sorry to hear that you’re having such a hard time with your mom. It can be pretty painful when you don’t have loving support from your parents. No matter your age, it’s nice to know that they still have your back, love you unconditionally and don’t make your life and your decisions about them.

    I’ve had quite a few issues with forgiveness myself, with a variety of people. It can feel safer to hang on to that anger-you feel protected from future hurts from that person. While this may work for a while, it just ends up hurting you. I think it’s really great that you’re seeking to forgive.

    I’ve had the most success freeing myself from anger and hurt feelings by really spending time proactively working on it.

    Here are my best tips:

    *Meditating, getting quiet and freeing my mind
    *Writing things out-journals can be so therapeutic
    *Talking things out with those I trust
    *Taking care of yourself with the basics-healthy foods, daily movement, lots of water etc.

    I’ve found that these things can be really great, but they don’t always create the change I’m looking for. They can help lighten the load though, for sure.

    This next tip has been really helpful to me. It’s something I’ve been practicing for only a short time, but it’s helped me have some amazing results with forgiveness. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it or not, but it’s worth researching and learning about. It’s called the Emotional Freedom Technique, or Tapping. Nick Ortner has written a great book about it-I just finished it, actually. Check out his website and see if it can help you. http://www.thetappingsolution.com

    I also wrote a blog about forgiveness a while ago. It may help.


    Good luck to you Sarah. I hope this forum helps you create the peace your heart is craving. 🙂


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