Forgiving yourself is a very tough thing to do. As we go through life, I believe that there are many times when we say and do things that we would like to take back, or try to do again. I think about events in my history, and some things I would happily repeat, but others I would like to forget but that won’t happen. I know we have talked about forgiveness before, but it’s time to revisit the issue, because it comes up so often as people try to manage in the present.
As I work with people, sometimes it’s hard to find a specific detail that the person is struggling with. They will talk about an event, what happened, why they can’t move on from the event, but they struggle with defining the pieces. For instance, when our country was rocked by terrorism for the first time, and we watched the twin towers collapse on television, it changed many Americans, forever. For some, they struggled with survivor’s guilt. They lost friends and colleagues that day, but struggled with why they were spared. If they were there, could they have saved someone? Could they have gotten out alive?
I have worked with parents, who lost a child. They struggled with not getting to the child in time or not being with the child when the child passed away. They play events over and over, trying to make sense of the event, but in the end, just feel significant guilt about the loss. I have also worked with people who lost a parent. They struggled with “allowing” their family member to live alone when the family member could have been living with them and if they had been there, maybe the family member would still be alive.
I do not attend church every Sunday, but I do believe in a higher power. Whatever you call that power, I believe that there are things we can control, and other things we have to leave to that power. Sometimes, there is a reason for events, but I also believe that sometimes there just isn’t a reason. Almost like the Serenity Prayer, there is wisdom in being able to know the difference, and being able to forgive yourself for any perceived bad choices. That can go a long way to helping the healing process.
I have worked with women, struggling after losing a pregnancy, and this seems to be a significant issue for them. The loss of a child is never easy, but the loss of a pregnancy brings up so many emotions and questions. Was it something I did? Did I not take care of myself well enough? What’s wrong with me? All these questions and struggles lead to so much pain, but many times, even the doctors don’t know what happened.
Whatever your history holds, whatever choices that you have made, they are a part of you, for better or worse. If there are lessons to be learned from the events, respect the lessons. If there was joy, enjoy it. If there was pain, feel it, and get support if you need it. If you hurt someone, make amends. It’s all part of being human, but forgive yourself when it’s needed. It’s all part of being happy for life.