“If only he had said he was sorry,” Sarah explained, swiping away a telltale tear,” maybe, just maybe, I could have forgiven him. Now it’s too late. He’s dead and buried.” Nodding, I quietly listened as her story of betrayal unfolded. She could have shared the said details during the support group session that had just ended, but like so many bereaved people who deal with forgiveness, Sarah decided to seek me out to talk one-to-one. It’s not unusual for someone in a support group to approach the facilitator for a private conversation when the situation involves painful feelings. Yet I’ve learned from life and people like Sarah that mourning connects kindred spirits when hurts from the past need mending.
Working Your Way Through
The burden of forgiving someone who has died makes it hard to believe forgiveness is possible. Yet the very act of wondering how to forgive can be a step toward easing the hurt. Guided by the spark of hope, let’s look at ways to work through the pain.
Let Yourself Face the Hurt
Are you someone who tries to hide your feelings? Sarah is. “I shouldn’t be angry with my brother,” she said. “I really don’t care that he stole what our parents left me. It doesn’t matter.” When justified anger is denied, as in Sarah’s case, it tends to touch other areas of your life. The best advice is: Don’t hide from your feelings. Anger is a normal response when someone has offended you. It’s what you do with the anger that counts. When the one who hurt you died, a sense of relief might have come over you. Maybe you didn’t react at all-not even a tear. You tell yourself you don’t care. Does that mean you are heartless? Not at all! When you care too much and suffer humiliation of rejection, you tend to dismiss those who inflict pain on you. Bitter emotions that are difficult to handle often get walled up inside and remain beyond your grasp. The most effective way of handling your anger, indignation, sadness or any other reaction is to acknowledge your state of mind. Remember you have a right to your feelings. That doesn’t mean you have to defend them to anyone else or act on them. When you accept how you feel, you respect yourself.
Consider What’s Behind the Hurt
Just because the person who hurt you is gone doesn’t mean the hurt is gone. Often a split within a relationship is based on many issues, not only one callous act. If you aren’t ready to discuss a broken relationship, try writing about what you remember. In the process of putting pen to paper, emotions often flow more easily, releasing hidden thoughts. In writing, you may discover how you really feel. If you have an artistic side, try to draw or paint a scene from the past that involves the deceased. The shapes, sizes, colors and placement of objects you choose hint at emotions you may not be aware of. Sleep can hold answers, too. Not all dreams connect the mind and spirit, but a dream of the person who died may hint at the soul work you need to do. It helps to record the dream’s details before rising. Remember that dreams aren’t exactly what they seem. They use symbols to tell a message, you get to interpret the meaning. When you’re ready to share your struggle with forgiveness with someone else, find a person who is sensitive and nonjudgmental enough to reflect your thoughts back to you. A skilled listener can help you discover the answers that lie within you. If your desire to forgive involves a history of violence or abuse, seek help from a professional counselor or clergy person trained in pastoral care. The right professional can help you express painful feelings in a healthy way, and bolster your self-esteem. “The very act of wondering how to forgive can be a step toward easing the hurt.”
Find Companions on the Road to Forgiveness
Do you feel more comfortable with others who can relate to what you’re going through? Then find a support group that focuses on grieving. Your area probably has a hospice that offers a bereavement group at no charge. Such programs share a wealth of information on grieving and coping. There will be time to talk about loss with others who are mourning. These meetings are a great place to learn you aren’t alone in your sorrow or struggle with forgiving. It takes soul-work for many of us to forgive. So if you’re a person of faith and are searching for answers, check out a God-centered bereavement program offered at a place of worship. It can change the way you look at forgiving. And focusing on your relationship with God can change your life for the better.
Examine What Would Help You Forgive
‘I really thought my brother would see the light one day and feel remorse.” Sarah said. “He stole my inheritance and stomped on the dying wishes of our parents. He never even tried to make amends.” Like Sarah, you may long to hear a sincere “I’m sorry” from the offender, in the hope that words would heal your aching heart. You might have pictured a meeting in the future when the offender would have expressed sorrow, and you would have responded with compassion and mercy to end the strife. When death denies that wish, you feel cheated, right? You might try the old “forgive and forget” approach. Yet, serious offenses aren’t easily forgotten. Does that mean forgiveness is impossible? Not when you realize that the longer you hold on to anger the greater your risk of physical and emotional problems. By letting the deceased person rest in peach, you can find peace for yourself.
Let Go Resentment
Forgiving also means giving up the idea of revenge or “getting even.” Sarah didn’t want to resent her brother, but she did. “I never thought I held a grudge,” she said, “but he made me so angry I didn’t go to his wake or funeral. It was my way of getting back at him.” What Sarah may have missed is the fact that wakes and funeralss are meant to console those who are left behind. Sarah may have passed up an opportunity to let go of her resentment by not attending her brother’s. Without closure, Sarah had to look at the unforgiving piece of her wounded heart. In doing so, she learned that she needed help with the hurt. She had to let herself mourn the brother she had lost/
Find a Way to Forgive
“When a counselor asked me to name one good thing that my brother had done for me,” Sarah said, “I couldn’t. It took a week of wracking my brains before anything came to mind.” When Sarah realized that anger blinded her to the larger picture, she took a step toward forgiveness. Death removes the chance to speak directly to your offender, but other means are available. You can write a letter to the deceased about why you want to forgive him or her. Be genuine. Let compassion guide you. But don’t stop there. Honor your action by finding a special place to keep the letter. Another way to forgive the deceased is to call upon your imagination. Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. I you are Christian, imagine telling your story of betrayal to Jesus-the greatest peacemakers. While you’re at it, share your desire to replace the hurt with goodwill toward the offender. Don’t be surprised if the image in your mind’s eye shifts to a scene of reconciliation with the deceased. Your might plan a ritual to help you forgive the one who hurt you. Consider when to hold it, whom to invite, the setting , how long it will be, and what activity will help ease your pain. After the event, celebrate the fact that you found a way to forgive. For many, turning to God is the answer. “I stopped going to church,” Sarah admitted. “I was grudge against my brother any longer. From now on, God can do the judging for me.” Whether you pray about your situation, attend worship services, or simply open yourself to the will of the Almighty, expect to gain a forgiving heart.
Sarah did find a way to forgive, and so can you. Remember it’s a process, and like any process the steps take time. The good news is that forgiving is a healthy thing to do. It not only improves physical and mental health, it helps you form better relationships. When all is said and done, forgiving is something you do for your own sake.
If you or a family member have any further questions or concerns with respect to cremation, cremation services, cremation costs or a direct cremation please feel free to contact Cremation Options toll free 24 hours daily at 1-877-989-9090.