#Askingforafriend: Forgiveness and grief
By Kristan Farley
Office of Student Care
Every day, something happens that we do not want to happen, and every day, something doesn’t happen that we really want to happen. That means every day we have a grievance — some kind of loss we have to mourn, or an unpleasant interaction or unmet expectation we need to forgive.
Mourning and forgiving often follow the same process. Kubler-Ross wrote the infamous stages of grief: denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance. Anxiety can be a part of grief. It can look like a fear of pain, further loss or disappointment. Our desire to avoid pain causes us to minimize our grief and, in turn, inhibits our knowledge of ourselves and can prevent healing.
Step one in the healing process is to acknowledge daily that we have grievances. Processing those disappointments or losses are the way to health and wholeness. I read a great book entitled “Don’t Forgive Too Soon” by Dennis Linn, and the title helps us see it can take time, so don’t feel rushed.
Once you acknowledge those grievances, it’s time to move on to forgiveness, a time for you to release the resentment and be free. Forgiveness does not mean what happened is OK — that would be denial or minimizing. What happened is probably not OK, but for my own inner healing, I make a choice to release the offender.
Remember that unforgiveness is not hurting them, it is hurting you. Holding a grudge until the offender apologizes (also the bargaining stage) gives the person who hurt us more power. We are saying we choose to stay stuck until they choose to do the right thing, and ultimately, I don’t want my power to be in my offender’s hands, so I will choose to forgive for me, even without an apology.
I might choose not to reconcile without ownership or apology, which is a good idea, but I still can forgive. I can be angry, because healthy anger tells us something is wrong and someone probably did something wrong, so it is OK to be angry at the injustice, negligence or harm caused. We just want that anger to be at the right person, for the right amount of time, and we do not want to do harm in our anger. We want to acknowledge it, validate it and find a way to release it in a healthy way.
Finally, depression is the stage where one realizes no one is coming for me. I know that sounds horrible. But that is really the stage of freedom. When I accept that no one is coming to get me, I also realize that I can climb out of this despair by myself and choose to learn from this incident. It may teach me about myself and others and lead me to set healthy boundaries in the future.
This is part one of forgiveness and grief. Tune in next week as we take it one step further.
“Forgive For Good” by Dr. Fred Luskin
“Don’t Forgive Too Soon” by Dennis Linn