Forgiveness Is A Choice

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Dear Dr. Darcy,

How [do] I deal with an emotionally stubborn mother who is unable to forgive and wants nothing to do with my new life? She has made it clear I have wronged her in every way and bought shame to our family and destroyed my son’s life.

How do I learn to accept this? How do I forgive her for not being sympathetic towards the [fact that I was raped and the subsequent trauma and side effects that I sustained]? In her words, 'it happened that's not my problem, it's yours.

Everyone says give it time, it’s a great healer but I know in my gut that she will never accept my life choices. Just like any child who grows into adulthood we seek some sort of praise from our parents… Forgiving my mother and moving along is the hardest. How do I forgive someone so bitter? I feel like an aids virus to my family it's highly upsetting.

ANSWER

Before you try to forgive your mother, you need to forgive yourself. You were the victim of a horrible crime. You were drugged, bound and raped for dozens of hours. Anyone who lived through such an ordeal would have sustained significant trauma which, understandably, impacted your ability to parent your son. I’m sorry your mother isn’t able to empathize with this very obvious cause and effect. She sounds like she’s emotionally constipated. Stop focusing on her and focus on yourself.

You need to do a fierce and honest inventory of the ways in which you fell short as a parent. Leave absolutely nothing out. Make a list. Include anything that could have even remotely been your responsibility. Then give explanations for every item on that list. Defend yourself. Don’t deny your responsibility – provide a context for why those shortcomings occurred. Then re-write the original list and describe how you wish you had been as a parent. Use your imagination and your years of maturity and therapy to help you create an ideal parenting story. Finally, forgive yourself. Forgive yourself because you didn’t have the years of maturity then that you have now. And you didn’t have the years of therapy under your belt that you have now. When you know better, you do better – and you only knew what you knew back then. Forgiveness is a choice. Decide to forgive yourself once and for all.

Writer’s Stats: Female, Straight.