How to Forgive What You Can’t Forget

by | Apr 8, 2021 | Blog, Domestic Abuse Help, Escaping Domestic Abuse, Faith, Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse | 0 comments

How to Forgive What You Can’t Forget

want to know how to forgive? You have been hurt by your ex.  Yes, the pain of the unjust ways you were treated is real.  Maybe you have been told to just hurry up, get over it and move on by well meaning people in your life.  I’m here to tell you the truth.  Forgiveness is hard. 

However, forgiveness is not something you “do” when you feel better or “up to it”.  It is something you do for YOURSELF, because forgiveness is the start of healing.  And healing from domestic abuse means freedom so that you CAN move forward successfully with your life! Most importantly, forgiveness is a journey and  it is a learned skill.

I want to give you a guiding hand to forgiving the domestic violence you can not forget.  Because I want you to be able to break the chains that bind you to pain and suffering.  Because you matter.  If you have a clue about how to even start to forgive him- read on!  Even and especially if you think forgiving that jerk is the last thing you want to do!

What Forgiveness Means (and Does NOT Mean!)

As I wish to discuss it here, forgiveness means letting go of hurt feelings towards your abusive ex.  Forgiveness means freeing YOURSELF from stuck-in, deep pain.   The thing is, HE may never change.  He may never genuinely apologize.  Forgiving him is not a “get out of jail free card” for him.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean you deny or cover up his wrongdoing.  Please realize that forgiving  him does not mean you should not protect and defend your rights! 

Forgiveness doesn’t mean you forget what your abuser did.  What is does mean is he no longer has CONTROL of you.  He can not “push your buttons” and keep you miserable, angry, bitter or vengeful.  You don’t need to tell him you forgive him.  In fact, I wouldn’t bother, especially if you are practicing grey rocking.  A better idea is to tell God.  While you are telling God you forgive him, it is a very good idea to ask God for your own forgiveness.  Let go of any and all guilt you may have!  The abuse was never and in no way your fault.  Ask God to empower and strengthen you.

I don’t recommend any kind of band aid reconciliation with an abuser.  In no way should you forgive and jump back into a relationship with a wicked , hurtful man.  I am saying that forgiving your ex will be liberating for you.  You can only expect forgiveness for your own wrong doing and shortcomings to the extent to which you forgive others.

The practice of forgiving is a process, not a “one and done” deal! Unless you are a saint, you will never “feel” like forgiving that creep- but do it anyhow!  You will never feel “up to it”.

Start to practice forgiveness when you are hurt, angry and frustrated.  Why?  Because those emotions hurt YOU.  NOT your abuser.  And you can not being to heal those hurtful feelings until you forgive and begin to dissolve them.  Do not let him have any more control over you, work at forgiving him.  This does NOT mean in any way that what he did was OK.  It also does NOT mean that you bear any responsibility at all for the abuse, and you have no reason at all to feel any guilt.   Be sure that you forgive yourself for getting involved with him or staying as long as you did.  Absolutely forgive yourself for leaving.  Again, the abuse was never your fault or your doing.   Your forgiveness process is something you do to begin healing yourself.

Why is Forgiveness So Important

Healthy people let go of hurt feelings.  Anger, bitterness, guilt, vengeance- all those hurt emotions only hurt YOU.  When you learn to practice forgiveness, you will discover many benefits.  Below are just a few:

  • Better relationships in the future.  You have to let go of your past hurt and resentment to have a better future.  I don’t mean deny the facts.  But, drop the baggage of all those hurt feelings!
  • Improved mental health.  It is commonly said that depression is “anger turned inwards”.  Forgiving yourself and others often helps relieve symptoms of depression.
  • Less anxiety and stress.  Less hostile feelings towards your ex.   Just imagine feeling less stressed out and less anxiety!  When you hear from your ex, do you find yourself getting upset? Forgive!  Chances are, he will STILL be a jerk.  But you don’t have to allow him to upset you!  If you are calm, you can take good notes of his toxic behaviours.  This is what will HELP you and your kids.
  • Better blood pressure.  So rid yourself of those toxic negative feelings- it really IS good for your heart!
  • A stronger immune system.  With the covid crisis in full swing, we all need to keep our immune system strong.   If you find yourself getting sick often, it may be because you need to forgive.
  • Better self-esteem.  Because it is time to finally feel good about YOU!  I know how being in an abusive relationship can make you feel small.  So practicing forgiveness is a great first step to take in getting back your confidence!
  • More Empathy.  OK, this might make you cringe!  But empathy is a valuable skill.  Consider for a moment the fact that most abusers come from abusive backgrounds themselves.  Of course, as adults they are still accountable and responsible  for their actions.  For example, my ex said his father abused his second wife, and that as a teen he witnessed several physical assaults.  He claimed that as his father “got away with it” he would too.  I have empathy for the young man that witnessed abuse and learned it as a coping skill.  However, I do hold him fully accountable and will not let him “get away with it”.  That is why I involved the authorities.
  • Releasing your justifiable anger makes you a calmer, better Mom and a very good role model for your kids.  Your children will inevitably face struggle and hurt feelings in their lives too.  Nobody wants their children to suffer from abuse.  However, when they are older, you can tell them how you learned to forgive their father and how that process served you.  You can be a very powerful example of healthy recovery for your child.

How to Forgive and Forget

I am really happy you have read this far!  You are strong, and brave and resilient!  You are ready to stop suffering and find a path to forgiveness.  Congrats!

I understand how hurt and angry you are.   Undoubtedly, you may have to clench your teeth in disgust when you think “I forgive him” at the beginning.  Its totally ok and appropriate that you feel that way!  Again I am not saying you should reconcile your relationship, that you have any responsibility for the abuse, that you should or even CAN forget what happened. 

What happened to you was horrible.  His actions were BAD, and you have been violated. You are not responsible for it, he is.  As a result, you absolutely should stand up for you and your kids and report the abuse if you have not already.

Understand that the power in the forgiveness process is that you can move from being the victim of that man, to an empowered, strong winner!

Below are the steps to forgive the one who hurt you.   Always remember that forgiveness is a decision you make not an emotion you feel.  It also takes time.  You might have to grit your teeth and grumble to yourself “I choose to forgive him” for months until you don’t feel emotional about it.  That is also normal and expected since you have experienced abuse.

  1.  Begin by Recognizing, acknowledging and respecting your feelings.  Get out a pen and paper and write down everything you feel, everything you remember.  Next, write down the awful things he did to you.  Finally, note down how you felt at the time, how you felt after, and how you feel today.  Absolutely, take your time, scream and cry and yell.  You have to acknowledge and honor all your feelings.  Yes, even the ugly ones.   Because, you can not release what you do not acknowledge.
  2. Consider joining a peer support group or a private counsellor.  It is very important that you be able to talk about your experiences and feelings in a safe place.  Your feelings deserve validation.
  3. Finally, decide to let go of your right to hold him accountable forever.  It is right and fair to press charges, to prosecute and have your ex face the consequences of his actions.  Therefore, it is important to follow through on the legal process and then let it go!  You must learn to stop needing or wanting him to change.  Because expecting someone else to change is just an exercise in frustration. You know a tiger can’t change his stripes!  Absolutely, the only person you CAN change in this life is YOU!   So stop holding on to the anger and unfairness of what happened to you.  Naturally, your justified anger feels empowering-but it only consumes your soul.  Your feelings are not going to make your ex change!  Additionally, you must quit needing others to “see” you as a victim of what he DID to you!  It is critical you understand that abuse is what happened TO you, but it is NOT who you are!  Choose to stop feeding your wounds by reliving, regurgitating and reigniting your feelings of anger and resentment.

What’s Your Next Steps in Healing from Domestic Violence?

Learning and practicing the forgiveness process is a huge first step towards recovering from abuse.  It is important to understand, the power of forgivenesses is that it begins to change your negative/inhibitive thought patterns.   Because abuse is toxic, negative thinking became your “norm”.   Thinking and believing positive things, starts with how you feel about yourself.  So, your next steps might look like this:

  1. Start by developing a self care routine.  This means finding fun and affirming ways to care for your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.  Because if you do not look after and love yourself as you desire and DESERVE, nobody else will!
  2.  Next, learn to set boundaries.  Many people who have been abused have issues having and enforcing appropriate boundaries.  So, you must learn where your boundaries and limits are comfortable. Then learn to never accept your boundary being violated.  Because you are a lady and not a doormat!
  3.  Finally, but more importantly begin to re-build your self esteem.  Begin setting a small, realistic goal for yourself.  For example, something like “loose 5 lbs” or maybe “clean and organize my garage”.   Next, set a plan to achieve your mini goal.  Most importantly reward yourself heartily when you achieve your goal!  As your confidence grows, rinse and repeat!

To Sum it All Up!

If you have been a victim of abuse, you should never blame, shame or guilt yourself.  It is always important to hold an abuser accountable.  On the other hand, remember that forgiveness is a gift you give yourself- to benefit YOU.  Forgiving someone who you trusted that hurt you is a process, not a feeling.  Furthermore, it is important to understand it takes time to forgive.  Chances are your ex will NEVER change.  Remember, you never need to tell him he is forgiven- if he is a narcissist, it is usually best to keep forgiving him to yourself.

The power in forgiveness lies in letting go of negative thoughts that keep you trapped in the feelings created by abuse.  Forgiving someone who deeply hurt you is not easy.  The good news is, it is a simple process.  Most importantly, have patience with yourself. With time and patience you will be able to begin releasing your pain of domestic abuse through forgiveness. Is is through the gift of forgiveness is that you will be happier, healthier and more in confident. Always remember,… Click To Tweet


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