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...

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

My Guest Blog Post

I am honored to be this weeks guest blogger on Kathleen Poolers website, Memoir Writer's Journey

My topic is Reading, Writing, and Taboo Subjects.

Specifically: How do we heal when talking about our trauma is forbidden? How do we find validating stories when the subject matter is taboo?

I hope you will visit Kathleen's blog!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Gaslighting



Gaslight

4. to cause (a person) to doubt his or her sanity through the use of psychological manipulation.
“Gaslight.” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, www.dictionary.com/browse/gaslight.

I remember the freedom I felt when a therapist told me I dissociate and again when I learned I had PTSD.  Identifying these problems opened the door to solutions. 

Similarly, after the first edition of Mother, I Don’t Forgive You came out in 2005, a reviewer opened his analysis with his definition of scapegoating. In a couple of short sentences, he clearly explained and labeled a concept I had spent years trying to describe.  What a relief!  

As a young adult, I used to refer to myself as a scapegoat, but I couldn't succinctly describe to others what the term meant. The reviewer not only defined the expression, but he also validated that scapegoating was a universally recognized behavior, and gave me the gift that I was not alone in my experience! These realizations helped me heal at a deeper level and aided me in writing my second book.

This past month, during the final proofread of Mother, It's Hard to Forgive You: Ridding Myself of the Family Scapegoat Mantle, the reader offered her dismay at the extent in which I was gaslighted.   

Holy cow! I thought. Once again, someone quickly and succinctly summed up my life experience with one word: gaslit!

As recently as last September, during an interview, I tried to describe how frightened and off-balance I felt when dealing with the crazy-making scenarios my family used against me.  As an example of how I experience these situations, I used a story about a 1950s movie I saw when I was a kid. 

The story synopsis: When a man had suspicious reasons to get rid of his wife, he arranged for a doctor to declare her insane.  When men in white uniforms arrive at their house to take her away, she is unable to convince them of her sound mental health and becomes hysterical. Then her husband chimes in, “See, she is crazy!”  and they drag her away in a straight jacket. 

When I was done with the movie synopsis, I didn't feel like I was clear or succinct about the psychological warfare my family imposed on me. 

After the proofreader gifted me with another term that so clearly described my experience, once again, I felt relief. I can now explain this part of my history simply: I was gaslighted!


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Mother, It's Hard to Forgive You: Ridding Myself of the Family Scapegoat Mantle

Announcing the release of Book 2 in the Mother, I Don’t Forgive You series. 

      Mother, It's Hard to Forgive You picks up where Mother, I Don't Forgive You leaves off.  After a childhood plagued with physical and emotional violence and a fourteen-year estrangement from her entire family, Nancy Richards discovers herself at a crossroads.  The mother she had both loved and feared as a child reached her by telephone to offer an apology for her abuse and to express a desire for reconciliation.
As she looks into the rearview mirror of her life and at the horrors inflicted by her mother, Nancy must decide whether to risk the safety of her present life or remain an orphan of circumstances. Is there really any reason to go back for more?
Richards takes the reader on an emotional and inspirational journey offering hope that healing from violence in families may be possible.

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.