Episode 16: Finding freedom in forgiveness
You are listening to the Life Reconstructed podcast with me, Teresa Amaral Beshwate, grief expert, best-selling author and widow. I’m so glad you’re here because in this and every episode, I shine a light on the widowed way forward.
Hello and welcome to episode 16. In this episode I explain what forgiveness really is, how to know when to forgive and a simple 3 step process for forgiveness.
Those who have lost a spouse can easily end up feeling angry and resentful: about the nature of the loss, the behavior of family or friends, the absence of those who said they would be there, the unhelpful comments, the close friends who suddenly disappear, and so much more.
I used to think that forgiveness was a long, slow and difficult process.
It’s easy to confuse forgiveness with condoning someone’s behavior or accepting an apology—which can be tough pills to swallow.
But in truth, it is neither of those things.
Forgiveness is simply deciding to stop feeling angry and resentful. That’s it.
The only action that forgiveness requires is our own personal decision to stop feeling angry and resentful (and then to take a few surprisingly simple steps, which I’ll share in a moment.) No other actions are necessary, meaning that forgiveness does NOT require:
• Having a conversation with the other person
• Telling them that you’ve forgiven them
• Accepting an apology from someone
• Allowing someone back into your life
• Condoning behavior
Those actions are all optional when it comes to forgiveness—optional, not mandatory.
Forgiveness is truly an inside job. The only person who needs to know that you’ve forgiven someone is you. Forgiveness is just another name for freedom: freedom from anger and resentment.
American author Jonathan Lockwood Huie is quoted as saying, “Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.”
When is the right time to forgive? Only you can decide when you want to stop feeling anger and resentment. Sometimes we just want to feel those feelings, and that’s okay. Other times, we realize that anger and resentment are heavy and feel terrible.
Anger and resentment are also an inside job. Meaning that the other person doesn’t experience your anger and resentment—only you do.
Your anger and resentment don’t punish the other person. They punish only you.
As the old saying goes, withholding forgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to get sick.
A powerful question to ask yourself is whether you like how anger and resentment feel or if you are ready to shed those feelings. You always have the choice, and if you want to, you can make that choice today.
First, let’s understand why we feel anger and resentment.
The person’s words or actions happened, or maybe it was their silence or inactions.
Then we have a thought about their words, actions, or inactions. That thought creates how we feel. We feel anger and resentment because of what we’re thinking about the person and their actions.
To us, our thoughts seem absolutely true, but they’re not serving us because they create anger and resentment.
While the person’s words or actions are outside of your control, your thoughts about them are completely within your control. This means that the person actually has no power over you. Your power is in your thinking.
Here is how to forgive in 3 steps:
1. Consider the person’s words, actions or inactions, and write down all the thoughts you have about them. Notice that these thoughts create anger and resentment.
2. Next, ask your brain to consider what other thoughts might also be true. Now, your brain won’t want to do this work because it is already committed to the current thoughts and is certain that they’re true. Simply ask your brain to imagine possibilities. There are no right or wrong answers. Just make a list. Here are some possibilities to consider:
Hurt people sometimes hurt people.
They did the best they could given what they knew at the time.
Just because they don’t love me the way I would like, doesn’t mean that they don’t love me with all they have.
It was always supposed to happen this way.
It was painful, and yet it shaped me into who I am today.
3. Review your list of new thoughts. Try each thought on like you would an outfit. Notice how each makes you feel. Pick the thoughts that feel true and that create a feeling that you want to feel, that feel better than anger and resentment.
Now, brains are creatures of habit. Your brain will likely still offer you those well-practiced thoughts of the past, and you’ll then feel anger and resentment creep back into your life. That’s to be expected. This is your chance to redirect your brain toward the new thoughts that you created and tested in step 3.
With practice, these new thoughts will become your default thinking.
Welcome to the freedom of forgiveness.
And don’t forget about you. In what ways have you not yet forgiven yourself?
Use the same 3-step process to forgive yourself, too.
If this podcast has been helpful, please subscribe, rate and review it. This way it can reach other widowed people and help them, too. There is much more to come, so stay tuned. And in the meantime, know that I believe in you and I’m here for you. Take care.
If you’ve found this podcast helpful, I invite you to join Life Reconstructed, my coaching program exclusively for widowed people. It will help you step forward toward a life you will love again. Simply go to thesuddenwidowcoach.com and click work with me.