If you have been following me, you know that forgiveness is one of my favorite topics. It is also the one topic I’ve struggled with most in my life. For most of my adult life, or at least until I entered into recovery, I heard these words more than I cared to: “Randy, you just need to forgive, forget, and move on!” In my opinion, these are the three words survivors struggle with the most.
The people who were in my life making this statement had no idea of the emotional pain I was dealing with. How could they? They had not been through what I had been through. Those same people in my life who would blurt out that statement were sick and tired of hearing my whining. Sick and tired of me blaming everything that went wrong in my life on my abuse. They were all just doing and saying what they felt I needed to see and hear. Little did they know it only enraged me.
What I know today is that for me, forgiveness is the key to true freedom and happiness. Forgiveness is also a process with several layers to navigate through. The process of forgiveness will be different for each person, as will the amount of time it will take to achieve it.
Forgiveness is not just a one-time action; the level of harm done to an individual will play into the individual’s forgiveness process.
I had two people in my life who were difficult to forgive, my perpetrators: my mother and my stepfather. It was by working through the twelve-steps of recovery and with the guidance of my therapist that I was finally able to forgive both of them. My stepfather was actually the easiest to forgive as he had not been in my life for thirty-plus years, and in fact, I had no idea if he was even alive.
Remember that forgiveness is for you, not the perpetrator. Personal contact is not required.
My mother, on the other hand, was very difficult, as she was still alive and a part of my life. Eventually, I came to fully forgive my mother. However, she has not been allowed in my life since 2009. I did attempt to reconcile with her to no avail. You see, she still wanted to blame me for my abuse, wanted me to own up to my part in it. I did make my amends to my mother for the way I disrespected her as a teenager, but that was not enough for her. It was only through much work with my therapist and pastoral counsel that the decision to cut ties with my mother was made.
On October 1, 2016, my brother contacted my wife informing her that “his” mother, not our mother, had been in a minor car accident and was paralyzed from the neck down. I became very confused because I did not know how to feel. I had no emotion or grief. After talking with my therapist and pastor, I came to understand that what I was feeling was not only OK, but it was also normal. I have had no contact with my mother for seven years; therefore there was no emotional bond.
On Tuesday night, December 6, 2016, I was at my men’s sexual abuse group that I have been a part of for nine years. My wife never interrupts me when I am at these meetings, so when she texted me to call her ASAP, I knew it was important. We had received a phone call from a cousin I had not talked to in over 20 years. I had not heard anything about my mother’s condition since the original contact from my brother, so I could only assume that she was getting better. When I called my wife at home, she informed me that my mother had passed away earlier in the day. I am grateful I was with my men’s group and the therapist that facilitated it, as I was able to process my feelings.
Again, I was confused about my feelings. One minute I could feel the tears welling up and the next there were no feelings. My adult self had already processed and come to accept the fact that mother was never going to make amends to me or change. On the other hand, my inner child was sad and upset. My inner child was still hoping that my mother would sit down and talk with me, tell me she loved me, and was sorry for the abuse she both allowed and inflicted upon me. Now, that will never happen, and my inner child will have a bit more healing to do.
I am saddened by my mother’s death, although she has been dead emotionally to me for several years now, which is making her passing a bit easier. I was asked this by one of the men in my sexual abuse process group: “Randy, did you say everything you needed to say to your mother before she died? Was there any unfinished business you had with her?” I can say with absolute certainty, there was no unfinished business and I said everything I needed to say.
I realize that everyone’s journey and story is different. Therefore, we all process our grief differently and in our own time. I am grateful that I made my amends and forgave my mother before she died. I can honestly say that my side of the street is clean, and for that reason, I can close this chapter of my life with no regrets.
By Randy Boyd
Randy Boyd is a licensed California Alcohol and Drug Counselor, the founder of the Courageous Healers Foundation, and an associate of “It Happens to Boys.” He speaks at conferences, schools, and treatment facilities, about the effects of abuse on men, and how men can heal from those effects. Randy is the author of the new groundbreaking book addressing the sexual abuse of boys entitled “Healing the Man Within,” a book for male survivors written by a male survivor
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