Forgiving our Parents

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“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that crushed it.” -Mark Twain

[I don’t have a degree in psychology. Please remember that these articles are opinion.]

When my husband’s cousin was visiting us a few months ago she dropped a load on my heart without even knowing what she was saying.

We were discussing parents (as in parents OUR AGE) to see if there were any commonalities between American parenting and Italian parenting.

What we discovered was that her mother, now in her late 50’s early 60’s had some anxiety during menopause. She also remembers hearing her mother say that she wanted to run away.

Naturally, I nodded in agreement with both of her remarks, but what she said next was even more remarkable.

She said she had forgiven her parents a few years back.


Author, Nanice Ellis, of explains letting go of your unworthiness wound, On the surface, forgiving your parents (or anyone for that matter) may seem insignificant, but forgiving your mother or father is actually the best thing you can do for the quality of your life. Even low-grade parental blame and resentment perpetuate a cycle of emotional pain and suffering that can negatively affect your adult relationships, finances, and overall wellbeing, ultimately preventing the love, abundance and happiness you desire and deserve.”

While I never experienced feeling unworthy or unloved, nor was I ever at the hands or ears of abuse while I was growing up, I did, however, experience what it’s like to be forgiven. I am so ridiculously grateful.

I like to think of forgiveness as a gift you give yourself. And for some of us, that’s exactly what it is. But my oldest chick, the one in law school, the one with Asperger’s Syndrome, sees it a bit differently.

This is His Story

My son explains his childhood as “miserable with flashes of joy.”

The life he had at home with us (with my current husband) was bad. He said the way the parents (biological and step) in his life treated him was horrible. He felt unloved and mistreated, almost like a second-class child.

From 6thto 8thgrade he took medicine for depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. He was socially awkward in middle school with his peers. His teachers were his friends.

When he was 13 years old his father had him Baker Acted. Wikipedia defines Baker Act:

The Florida Mental Health Act of 1971 (Florida Statute 394.451-394.47891[1] (2009 rev.)), commonly known as the “Baker Act,” allows the involuntary institutionalization and examination of an individual.

The Baker Act allows for involuntary examination (what some call emergency or involuntary commitment). It can be initiated by judges, law enforcement officials, physicians, or mental health professionals. There must be evidence that the person:

  • possibly has a mental illness (as defined in the Baker Act).
  • is in danger of becoming a harm to self, harm to others, or is self neglectful (as defined in the Baker Act).

Examinations may last up to 72 hours after a person is deemed medically stable…”

By the time my son was 14 years old, he started to change. He decided that he would shut down his emotions so that he would never feel anything; pushing everything down to the center of the earth. From the outside it appeared that he was beginning to mature. He seemed less unhappy. But, on the inside, he said he felt numbness, anger, and sadness

As he is telling this to me now, I feel unworthy of his forgiveness.

I need to let you know that during all of this he was going to a variety of therapists and a psychiatrist. Of course, as a mother you see your son suffering, you try desperately to help him. Our relationship during this time was at the worst it ever was. It was very difficult to understand him, it was difficult to love him the way he needed and deserved to be loved.

He went off to undergraduate school, taking my heart with him, while he was indifferent, naturally. He made the transition without the blink of an eye. His feelings were buried so deeply that he wouldn’t feel hurt, anger, or pain.

He explained to me last night that it wasn’t until junior year of college that something sort of dented his armor. There was a mishap at the airport (we were returning from Ireland) that angered him. It wasn’t anything that anyone said or did, it was just a bad timing situation that happened to him. When we got home later that evening, I knocked on his bedroom door and said how sorry I was for the mishap. After he heard my apology he felt a twinge of empathy, as my tone was unusually soft and sad.


After that time, all of senior year we began communicating nearly every day while he would walk to class. Maybe it was all of ten minutes, but it was truly the beginning of our relationship. He remembers his armor melting a little bit more. There was a miscommunication at graduation which I apologized for immediately, and again, he felt the armor melt away a little more.

He took off the year between college and graduate school and worked. During that year I begged him to see a new therapist… either he would find one or I would, but he definitely needed to go to therapy. Being that he had a degree in psychology, he found the perfect clinical psychologist.

Author Nanice Ellis continues the article, First, you must realize that blame, anger, and various related emotions are defensive guards that protect you from future harm. Since true forgiveness requires you to release this defense, the very act of forgiveness creates emotional risk. Therefore, to forgive your parents, you must trust they won’t hurt you again, but, the hard truth is, you can never be certain – there is no way to control or predict another person’s behavior, and sometimes loving people do hurtful things.”

When he had his first meeting with the clinical psychologist, the first words out of his mouth were, “I am here because I want to get rid of this dead necrotic emotional tissue towards my childhood.”

That was the beginning of 15 months of once a week therapy. I went to nearly half of his sessions. It was “the most emotionally painful time in my life,” he recalls. There were days during his therapy that he would have preferred to have been shot, instead of the deep emotional pain he felt.

Sometimes we would leave the session without saying one word until we got home.

My Son Doesn’t Like the Word Forgiveness

He doesn’t like the word “forgiveness.” He prefers the definition like this: “Experiencing –  feeling – the pain that has been repressed for years, allowing the pain to come out of you – then accepting what happened to you – and moving on.” He goes on to say, “part of acceptance is moving on.”

Life is short. You forgive solely for yourself. But when you forgive, you both win. My son wants me to add that, “forgiveness is not merely a matter of will—a matter of saying ‘I forgive you’— It demands time, it demands effort, and it demands blood.” It will kill you in the making, but only then can you accept your past and move on.

It becomes part of your identity, but it’s not who you are.

If you like this little article, I would appreciate if you shared it with your friends.


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