Were You Expecting to arrive at Heal and Forgive? If so you were re-directed to my new blog.

The Heal and Forgive blog was born out of the publication of my first book, “Heal and Forgive.” I am happy that the blog has been helpful to a robust readership.

After my publisher recently went out of business the book was re-released under the title, “Mother, I Don’t Forgive You,” which is more in keeping with the premise of the book. I decided to re-title my blog along with the book.

I hope you will continue to peruse the posts and join in on the various discussions including our right as survivors to decide our own healing journey, with or without forgiveness.

The back story on the title change can be found on the post directly below:

Featured Post

Mother, I Don’t Forgive You – Why the Book and Blog Were Re-Titled

In 1992, after nearly a decade of trying desperately to forgive my mother, my life was spinning out of control.   Not only had I failed at f...

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

You Don't Have to Forgive - Experts are Beginning to Agree

For decades, well-intentioned psychologists insisted that forgiveness was necessary in order to heal. Slowly over time, the field of psychology is beginning to realize that forgiveness may not always be the best choice for everyone.

When I began my healing journey the prevailing psychological, religious, and societal advice was that forgiveness was the only path to healing.  For many people like me, the pressure of premature forgiveness deeply damaged the healing process.

When I gave voice to my abuse and and my pleas were met with, "The problem with you Nancy is your not forgiving," it felt like another form of abuse.  I felt blamed and dismissed for talking about my mistreatment, rather than receiving the help that I needed.
Forced forgiveness is not only hurtful, the demand places an unrealistic burden on those who are unable to forgive by "magic." One of the dangers of encouraging premature forgiveness is that it usually doesn't last; thereby impeding genuine healing and forgiveness. Another danger is using premature forgiveness as a method of avoiding the truth, and feelings, or emotions that are too painful to "examine."

As an abuse survivor, I for one, wouldn't trade the lessons I've learned by creating the space necessary to heal. Lessons about trusting others to validate my pain, anger, and sadness; trusting myself to safe-guard my own well-being; to respond appropriately to betrayal and injustice; to remain present with my feelings; to set boundaries; practice self-care, and take responsibility for my life. All these "gifts" and more would have been lost with "false," premature, or instantaneous forgiveness, as well as undercut tangible, realistic, long-term solutions for real human suffering.
It wasn't until the late 1980's that a few notable experts began setting aside the notion that forgiving  was necessary:

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mother, I Don’t Forgive You – Why the Book and Blog Were Re-Titled

In 1992, after nearly a decade of trying desperately to forgive my mother, my life was spinning out of control.  Not only had I failed at forgiveness, I had also failed to even begin to heal from my severely abusive childhood.

 I heard from friends, relatives, therapists, and Christians, that I needed to forgive in order to heal; however, no one could adequately answer my questions:

·       “Why am I required to forgive, but my mother is not required to stop behaving abusively? 

·       How can I forgive someone who stole my innocence with physical and emotional violence?

·       How can I forgive somebody who has never asked to be forgiven; someone who has never even acknowledged any wrongdoing; somebody who continues to inflict the same pain?

·       Doesn’t the Bible say, ‘If your brother sins, rebuke him; and IF he repents, forgive him’ (Luke 17:3).

·       Isn’t there a point where self-preservation comes first?”

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Importance of Justice

When a crime is committed most people seek justice.  We want the crime against us acknowledged.  We hunger to have restored that which was lost. We need to feel safe again.

It is hard to move forward without justice.

A number of years ago, I heard Marianne Williamson interview Immaculee Ilibagiza on XM radio. Immaculle Ilibagiza is the author of Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust. Ms. Ilibagiza gave a fascinating interview, humbly describing the details of her survival and provided a courageous model for overcoming injustice. 

Her words, “To me, I think justice is part of forgiving” were very validating.

She noted that although she had forgiven the man who murdered her entire family, that didn’t mean that she thought he should be freed from jail. On the contrary, she thought that he should be held responsible for his actions and prevented from harming others.

In an excerpt from Mother, I Don't Forgive You:

"Often I have witnessed humanities disbelief when a relative forgives a loved ones' murder.  'How can you forgive murder?' is our collective outcry.

I have come to understand that forgiveness is not necessarily predicated on the degree of the offense but rather on the justice we receive.  In other words – did the murderer go to trial? Did the community acknowledge the offense?

I have found that in general – those who forgive crimes of violence – have seen some sort of justice. Not revenge. Simply justice. 

For victims of childhood violence, receiving justice is often not the case. Rarely do child abusers see the inside of a courtroom and rarer still do they admit their offenses.

How do we forgive something that in the eyes of our community did not happen?"

Another element that justice provides is a balance of power. Long into adulthood, I continued to stand before my mother still a damaged child. As long as I viewed her as more powerful than I was, how could I even consider forgiveness?

I longed for my mother to acknowledge my abuse, to apologize, and to change her abusive behavior. Isn’t that another way of asking her to relinquish her power?
Because my mother was unwilling to do these things, I found it necessary to empower myself, and safeguard my own well-being. This involved seeking justice in a community of support to help me protect myself, receive acknowledgment from other individuals, express my anger appropriately, mourn my losses , and to heal.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Betrayal and Trust

Trust is such a basic relationship necessity that if we can't trust a parent to love and protect us - whom can we trust? When we have been betrayed in our most basic human relationship - and that trust is never restored - how can we learn to trust ourselves to respond appropriately to betrayal?

I actually betrayed myself when I accepted betrayal as a part of my relationship with my mother.

I began safeguarding myself when I realized that I didn't have to accept betrayal - especially from my own mother.

I learned to trust myself in baby steps. I needed to feel the pain of my misplaced trust in order to protect myself and to seek out those whom I could trust. I learned that when I listen close enough, pain is a useful resource for protecting oneself.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Sometimes Not Forgiving is Necessary in Order to Heal

For decades, I heard from friends, relatives, therapists, and Christians, that I needed to forgive my abusers in order to heal. This advice – and the attempts I made to forgive without learning to heal or protect myself – damaged me deeply and left me open to further injury.

Pressuring victims of violence to forgive too soon places an additional burden on the individual that can slow down or damage recovery.  Victims need the support of others for protection, validation, and to bear witness to their pain.  Often, in cases of abuse, healing and self-preservation must come first!
When I finally mustered the courage to buck societal expectations; not to forgive; and to put my own healing and well-being first, I achieved a level of healing that I never thought was possible. My period of NOT forgiving created the space necessary to achieve the greatest emotional growth of my life.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

When Reconciliation is Worthwhile

My brother Rob and I have been largely estranged for 22 years - speaking briefly only twice until recently. Family violence wreaks havoc on families.  We all do what we have to to survive.  Sometimes survival means hurting one another.

At the end of 2013 Rob's wife became terminally ill. We spoke on the phone a few times from then until her death a couple of weeks ago.

During a conversation I had with my brother last week, I said, "When we were little kids, we were so close.    We mourned dad's death together, we commiserated about Ed's brutal violence towards us, we shared inside jokes, secrets, and a special bond.  We understood each other like no other.  I want you to know, that no matter what has happened between us, where ever I have been in the last 22 years, the little girl in me has always loved the  little boy in you."

"It never goes away Nance," was his reply and we softly said good-bye.


Exclusion still exists in my family.  The details are not important; however, what is noteworthy is that some form of estrangement, exclusion, ostracism, or rejection continues to make the rounds. 

The sad part of the exclusion is that it is such a big part of the fabric of our family that it is accepted as a given - even while silently watching a family member in pain.(see: When Healthy Looks Crazy).

The excluded individual must learn to navigate the pain of rejection on their own.  That is where self-care must come in.  I must keep good boundaries so I don't put myself in situations where I will be/feel excluded.  Unfortunately, watching history repeat itself in the younger family generation is painful. My family seems to believe that the victim of exclusion "should not let it bother them" and continue to put themselves in harms way. Unfortunately, humans are not wired to sustain rejection.

Studies show that experiencing a rejection activates the same part of the brain as when we experience physical pain.   The same research also demonstrates that rejection mimics physical pain so much so that taking Tylenol eases the pain associated with rejection.  Psychologists believe this is true because human evolution has wired our brains to link our survival to our dependance on our inclusion in the tribe.

According to Psychology TodayRejection does not respond to reason. Participants were put through an experiment in which they were rejected by strangers. The experiment was rigged—the "strangers" were confederates of the researchers. Surprisingly, though, even being told that the "strangers" who had "rejected" them did not actually reject them did little to ease the emotional pain participants felt. Even being told that the strangers belonged to a group they despised such as the KKK did little to soothe people's hurt feelings. Guy Winch, Ph.D. "10 Surprising Facts About Rejection." The Squeaky Wheel. PsychologyToday.com.

You can see the whole article here:  10 Surprising Facts About Rejection

Bottom line, our well-being always comes back to boundaries.  As adults the individual alone is responsible for their own well-being.