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...

Thursday, May 14, 2020

The Unintentional By-Product of my Healing

A reader recently asked me a question about a comment I made in my post: Mother, I Don't Forgive You - Why the Book and Blog were Re-Titled


 I decided to write a post to answer their question, which was:

“Can you say more about this part? "Ironically, the unintentional by-product of this healing was – eventually – forgiveness."

It took me a long time to shun the constant pressure I received from people who said I needed to forgive. 

After years of continued pain and abuse, I decided not to forgive and to put my own well-being first.  Contrary to what many survivors are told, we are supposed take responsibility for ourselves first and foremost.

After I resolved to put my own healing first, I began a spurt of emotional growth I had never dreamed possible and I basked in the safety of my present life!   To me, the choice not to forgive was the greatest choice I had ever made!  My intention was to never forgive. Even the thought of forgiveness was repulsive to me. I didn't want to go back to feeling bad and I never wanted to get hurt again. 

Much to my shock and dismay, after about 10 years of healing and no contact with my family, I began to have a small pang of forgiveness towards one of my family members.  This emotion left me confused.  I did not act on my feelings in any way. Yet, as time went on, I felt more and more forgiving.  Gradually, I realized that the more I healed and loved myself, my feelings of forgiveness grew organically and unintentionally.  Forgiveness was not my goal; in fact, I  avoided forgiveness like the plague, and yet, although I didn't seek to forgive, I couldn't change or deny how I was beginning to feel. That is where the irony comes in.  I believe premature forgiveness makes healing impossible.  I wouldn’t have been able to seek validation for my abuse, get angry, mourn, etc. if I had forgiven before hand.  However, after 10 years and a great deal of healing, forgiving became an unintentional by-product.  

I still don’t believe forgiveness is necessary to better ones life.  But healing is necessary!

I would never tell anyone else they had to forgive.  I think forced forgiveness hurts us and impedes genuine healing.  Some people never forgive. For others, like me, sometimes it takes a long time. Nobody is the same.  Everyone is entitled to their own healing journey – with or without forgiveness. 

As a side note, although I began to feel forgiving, I didn't feel safe enough to see my family.  An important part of my healing process was learning boundaries and protecting myself. I was clear I didn't want a relationship with someone who had abused me and never offered the three "R's": Repentance (a show of sincere regret or remorse) Restitution (to the best of their ability return what was taken such as my sense of safety, lack of justice, etc) and Renewal ( a change in behavior - to live a new life that does not include abusing, blaming, scapegoating, me or anyone else).  

Many would say the three “R’s” are what is necessary for forgiveness.  I guess it depends on your definition of forgiveness.   

From Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary:

1 a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital for <forgive an insult> b : to grant relief from payment of <forgive a debt> 2 : to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : PARDON <forgive one’s enemies> 

If your definition is 1a) "give up resentment of," then I did forgive.
If your definition is 1b) "to grant relief from," then I didn't.

If your definition is 2)a) "cease to feel resentment of," then I did.
If your definition is 2b) "PARDON," then I didn't.  I can't pardon that which is not recognized by the abuser.

 Yet, no matter what, nobody should put themselves harm’s way.  
I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer a simple summary of the healing process that gave me the “greatest emotional growth of my life” and kept me out of harms way.

Validation is key. We need to validate our experience with friends, support groups, a competent therapist, or a combination of all three. For me, each time someone validated my experience, I became stronger and clearer about what happened to me and the effect that it had on my life.

Laura Davis, author of Allies in Healing: When the Person You Love Was Sexually Abused as a Child, sums up the importance of anger this way:
Anger is the backbone of healing. Most survivors have been angry for years. Either they’ve turned it in on themselves or lashed out at others and become abusive themselves. As a survivor heals, she learns to direct her anger clearly and squarely at the abuser and the people who failed to protect her. The survivor needs to find safe, empowering ways to express her anger and let it out.

Expressing anger was a difficult lesson for me. But, once others validated the horrors of my experiences, I was free to discharge my anger.

Long into adulthood, I “powered” through every situation just to survive. I never learned how to process my own pain. Undoing a lifelong mechanism is a very difficult undertaking. In order to grieve—I needed to “unlearn” the way I learned to ignore my agony. Then I needed to re-learn a healthy method of expressing my sadness. It was very important for me to learn to cry for myself and to share those tears with others. Each time I thought I had finished mourning, another wave of heartbreaking losses emerged. However, as I peeled away each layer of pain, I grew increasingly stronger.


An important and often overlooked aspect to healing is that of protecting ourselves. In order to heal we must be free from the anxiety of re-injury. Depending on the type and severity of the offense, this could range anywhere from re-evaluating a relationship, to deciding not to see someone, or even criminal prosecution. In order to let go of the hurt, we must have assurances that the offender will harm neither ourselves nor anyone else.

An important part of protecting ourselves is learning to exercise clear, respectful boundaries. But, boundaries were one of the last self-care tools I learned. For me, estrangement was the ultimate boundary, which gave me the time to heal and learn the nuances of boundaries and self-care.

I hope that answers the question! 

Wishing everyone great healing!