Can you forgive him forever?

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Smithmom, Nov 6, 2018.

  1. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    I can only speak for myself. Forgiveness is for me not the other person. My son has trampled and broken my heart more times than I can remember. He has done and said the most hurtful, vile things to me. I chose to forgive him for all of it. I did this for myself. It allowed me to let go of the hurt and anger as I do not want to carry that around in my heart or in my mind.
    Forgiving does not mean forgetting. Forgiving does not mean wiping the slate clean.
    My son has recently been released from prison and for the time being is doing "well". He tells me he's sober and attending AA meetings and has a job. He's also living in a half way house and being sober and holding a job are conditions of his parole. If he violates his parole he will be sent back to prison to finish out his complete sentence. Of course I hope he's sincere but I've traveled this road before more than a few times and the destination is never a good one. No, I will never forget all the crap and chaos he's brought into my life but again, I forgive him so I can move on and not hold onto the anger and hurt.
    There have been times over the years where in talking with my son I will make mention of something he had done in the past, not to be mean, but more of a matter of fact. My son would become enraged and say "why do you always have to throw my past in my face" to which I would reply, "Son, I have forgiven you but I will never forget the hurt and chaos you have caused"
    I truly believe that until my son really comes to accept and understand the hurt and chaos he has caused and deeply have regret for it, he will always have the mindset of it being thrown in his face. Sure, he's told me many times over the years how sorry he is but here's the thing, when you are truly sorry for something you have done, you don't do it again or at least you really try not to do it again.
    Forgiveness for me is freeing. It allows me to move on. Not forgetting allows me to stay on my guard.
     
  2. RN0441

    RN0441 100% better than I was but not at 100% yet

    I so agree with everything you said above Tanya.

    Smith you said you are religious. In the Bible it says we are to forgive but we do NOT have to forget. I told my son this.

    I agree that forgiveness is for US.

    I do not think you have to stay so active in your son's life. It doesn't mean you don't love him. Giving everything up for our children - addicts or not - is not our purpose here on earth.

    You deserve to have your own joy and happiness and LIFE! I personally would not dwell on all of this but try to move forward and find things you enjoy and ways you want to improve yourself and live YOUR life with meaning and purpose.

    If you do not have a therapist, you may want to start talking to someone to sort out your feelings and establish emotional boundaries for yourself.

    Your happiness matters too!
     
  3. Beta

    Beta Active Member

    I've read through many of the posts and once again, so much insight. Thank you all.
     
  4. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    No, of course not. Regardless of whether it's our own child, another family member or someone else, if someone is too toxic for us then we need to cut them out of our lives. This does not make us a terrible person. Our lives matter too!! We need to protect ourselves from people who are not good for us.
    I will always love my son just as you will always love yours. Our love for them does not go away and we are not obligated to make everything in their world okay for them as they are grown men.
    My husband and I, in our wills have left everything to our grandchildren. The children my son has abandoned. Yes, in our wills we have disowned our son. I cannot in good conscience leave him everything we have worked so hard for all of the years only to have him squander it away. He has never provided for his kids so this is our way of helping our grands.
    Nothing is written in stone. Time will tell. My son and your son could change which I pray they both do. As I stated in my previous post, until they truly accept and show true regret for their life choices and actions that have caused hurt, then nothing will change for them.
     
  5. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    That's great, Nomad, that she is making effort most of all, and that there are improvements. What do you think has shifted in her?
     
  6. Smithmom

    Smithmom Active Member

    Thank you all. I am thinking and digesting.
     
  7. Smithmom

    Smithmom Active Member

    Just a couple of thoughts while I am digesting for those who don't know the situation.

    My oldest is in prison on a 10 yr sentence. Probably another 5- 6 yrs left. I don't know or keep track. The only communication is by email. Every week or two. That's over as he has disowned me.

    My middle one lives in my town. I see him every few months. Talk once a wk on avg for 10 to 20 minutes. Our relationship is strained by his ADHD impulsive actions and words. He calls when he does something foolish. He overreacts at every point. Sometimes I can calm him down. Sometimes everything I say he interprets as wrong, critical, etc. This is not just his relationship with me. It is his world. Once a call goes negative its over. I will hang up rather than let him carry on at me. This is verbal hyperactivity. If he calls just to tell me he loves me and apologize for the last call its 5 minutes or less.

    My youngest lives with me and is an autistic work in progress. Improves all the time. He will never live independently. He chooses to live with me vs a group home.

    I am very happy with my life. My physical health I'm not happy with. My youngest is a joy who makes me smile all the time. The oldest two don't ruin my life at all. I encouraged and nurtured independence all their lives and still do. If the older two were close the constant drama would ruin my life.

    Forgiveness has always been in my heart. It was never something I had to do. It just was. This is different because he's doing it intentionally.

    I hear the suggestion that this doesn't affect my daily life so I should just put it aside. Ignore it. I've not found that to be healthy for me. For me its healthier to face my problems, deal with them and then move on.
     
  8. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    I for one do not think this. What I meant to say is that there is a way that we can see many, many challenges as internal to us....I do not mean in a reactive way. I mean, more as "grist for the mill" (a phrase I hate.) All we have, all of us, is our inner lives, our choices, to deal with here. We do not control in life what comes at us.

    But if you think about it, that's everything. What son is throwing your way is a means to define yourself. It would not be to me in the main a problem to be solved, although my default would be to feel and perceive it to be. What I would hope to come to is this is a challenge to become a better person and be part of a better world because that is what I define my life to be, now that I am closer to the end that the beginning.
    We have choices about how we define our problem. And how we define our problems is everything. Your problem right now could be defined as maltreatment by your son, or it could be defined as a relationship problem, or as a parenting problem, or as a communication problem, or it could be described as a challenge to your identity and a call for you to redefine yourself; a call to yourself to respond differently. Your call.

    When problems with others are with those who are peripheral to us, it is a different thing that a problem with an adult child. This calls to a part of us that is beyond a problem out there, in the universe. It is something that calls to our tissues, our blood, our heart, our very selves.

    I am not telling you how to be or to choose. I am writing to myself, because this is what I am coming to. Have a class now. Will check back later today.

    Be well.
     
  9. Smithmom

    Smithmom Active Member

    I'm struggling with not defining a boundary here. I set one by saying that I will not give him this info in his current frame of mind. He responded by setting a boundary saying our relationship is over. Is it? Of course not. But what he means is that he will have no further communication with me ever. Does he mean that? Of course not, at least I don't think so. 3+ mo now I've done nothing. Can I just go on until the day he writes and apologizes? I don't think so. I don't think I can let him go on hurting me this way, intentionally every day. I don't want this pain in my life. I don't deserve it. Why should I put up with this? I want an end to it. That end is telling him that I accept his boundary. That our relationship is over. That I will never accept his apology for this because it is intentional. It is not like the thousands of times I've forgiven and moved on. I will not be his punching bag. He's angry at the world ok. But that does not give him the right to hurt me in every way he can. He may be able to spin some story on his vulnerable brother. But that doesn't give him the right to try to hurt me by destroying my relationship with my other son. Will I stick to this if he apologizes and asks to go back to our relationship now. Probably. 5 years from now? Who knows but I don't think so.

    I started this post because I wanted to know if anyone had gone past the point of forgiveness. The answer is no. Better people than I perhaps. But we've all walked different paths. I'm over 60 and my mother still verbally abuses me and treats my children and i like dirt. Yes, she suffers from anxiety disorder. But I ended that because I endured it from birth. I said no more. I never deserved it and my children certainly didn't. This is just too much like that. Years of letting someone treat me like crap because of a familial relationship. I just can't do it again. I honestly have no love left for my mother. Yes, it took some therapy to realize that I didn't owe my mother myself as a punching bag because she gave birth to me. And so I don't feel that I owe him a mother as vessel to focus his anger on.

    Thank you all. I have taken aboard all of your thoughts and advice. I have digested it all and this is what my heart says is the right thing for me. I am not wonder woman. I am not you.
     
  10. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Nobody here is wonder woman.
    You are the one hurting you every day.
    I was estranged from my mother many years, my father until his death, and my sister for many years. But the issue for me was never forgiveness. The issue was danger. And to a secondary extent that I lacked good boundaries and a strong voice. A stronger woman could have defended herself.
    You have made your decision but why does a boundary require acting it out? What about quietly in yourself making a boundary and never contacting him again. Why do you have to tell him? That to me sounds self-destructive, not healing. Not to mention hurtful to him. I have done this with my son. I regret it. To me the boundary as I understand it now is in one's head, first.

    Your son is in prison. He cannot come to hurt you. You can block his calls.

    You are inviting him in.

    If you tell him of the boundary, what will stop him from continuing to try to poison the minds of others. I have set these kinds of boundaries with my son. Number one, I could not hold the line. Number two, it did not stop the pain. Number three I am his mother.

    But I feel bad because I think what I have posted you have experienced as hurtful. My motivation is that you do not hurt more. But you did not receive it that way, I fear.

    The hardest part of this being a mother in these circumstances, for me, is the fact that it triggers old pain, in fact I am visited with the very traumas I have spent my life running from. I think this is true for many of us.

    I did not mean to cause you pain or to make you feel bad about your choices. But I have to say I think you will not find the peace that you seek. It is not so simple with a child.

    I say, decide to not talk to him. Decide to not see him. Decide to take a break for 6 mos., 12 mos. But leave it be. Keep it to yourself. Give yourself outs. That is what I feel.

    You have said that you fear that your son wants to retaliate against this woman, his bio mom. And he seems to be doing the very thing to you. You do not deserve this. Nor does she. But the pain that he is triggering in you, only you can address. Not anything you do vis a vis him. That is what I believe. I know the pain you are feeling, I believe, because I feel it too.

    My mother decided she wanted nothing to do with me. My sister decided the same thing. My father despised me until he died. He called me to others all kinds of horrible things. The worst things you could call a young woman. I know how deep these wounds go.

    I have no family except for my son. You do. But still, I doubt if this step will ease your pain. I am sorry.
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2018
  11. Smithmom

    Smithmom Active Member

    I hear you. I haven't done anything. I appreciate the feedback.

    I see now how this feels exactly like my mother. It didn't stop hurting until I cut myself off from all if them. She can spread venom disguised as sugar like no one I've ever met. But honestly I wasn't the one hurting me, it was her. And I'm not the one hurting me when he cuts me off. He's doing that. Since I freed myself from my mother's daily venom I am so much at peace. Yes my son cut me off and I could leave it there. But that's not an end to me. That's his anger. That's extortion. Its not an end. I want it to end.

    I don't know. I just want the pain to end. I don't want to live this way till he gets out. I don't want to be looking at him 5 years from now wondering how to forgive him. I was at peace with him there. No using. Now he's taken that away.
     
  12. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    I edited the post some more just now. If you want to check it again.
     
  13. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    You feel tortured by him. I know the feeling. You have been traumatized. This is trauma. It stays in the body, until it is released. That is what I think now. I am doing therapies for it. Just now I was reading about yoga for trauma. It is a new day for people like us. This is not about your son. He is just the most proximate trigger.
     
  14. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    We all have to do what we can live with. One thing I do know for myself is to never say never. A few years back I completely cut my son off thinking that's it, I will never speak to him again. His verbal abuse was more than I could handle. I did not communicate with him for well over a year. He reached out to my husband and I eased back into communicating with him.
    While we do have a line of communication open, it's weak at best. I am very detached from my son and I do that for my own well being. I also know with certainty that I would not hesitate to cut off all communication with him again if he ever treats me the way he did before.
    I completely support you with whatever you choose to do for yourself.

    None of us are. What we are? We are Warrior Parents who have lived in the trenches of battle and chaos. We are better than Wonder Woman. We are survivors. We are stronger than we give ourselves credit for. I mean really, not many people could deal with all that we have.

    Live your life the very best you can! Do not allow your son, your mother or anyone else to abuse you or steal joy from your life.

    I hope you go out today and do something really special for yourself.
     
  15. Elsi

    Elsi Active Member

    Smithmom, just catching up on your conversation with Copa and Tonya here. I just want to say - none of us are wonder woman, none of us think we are stronger or better than you, none of us will judge you for whatever choices you make. It seems to me you are being very hard on yourself right now.

    And I don't think our positions, or our final actions, are as far from yours as you seem to think.

    The question that I have for you is: what does "forgiveness" mean to you? What does it feel like? What does it look like? What does a failure to forgive feel and look like?

    Because to me it still looks like we are talking about more than one thing here. Forgiveness. And continuing an active relationship. To me, they are separate things.

    To me, forgiveness is letting go of pain, letting go of anger, letting go of bitterness. Perhaps coming to some understanding of the other person that allows us to feel empathy with them even though they have hurt us - an understanding of how they are affected by mental illness and/or drugs, for example. This is the forgiveness that we do for OURSELVES, so we can find peace with ourselves and with our relationship with another person. So it no longer eats us alive.

    Deciding what kind of active relationship to have with someone, or whether there will be any ongoing relationship at all, is something entirely different. You can forgive someone and never see them again. You can forgive someone and still decide that you cannot trust them and do not want to open yourself up to further pain in the future. You can look at them with empathy and understanding, and realize that they are incapable of being a person you are able to be around.

    I suppose, in some sense, I have forgiven my ex husband. He was extremely abusive. He hit me. He threw me into a wall. He pushed me down the stairs. He choked me on multiple occasions. He held a knife to my throat and once held a gun to my head. And then of course there was verbal and emotional abuse, the threats and bullying. He was also extremely broken. He was abused by his father. He was mentally ill. He tried to rise above his demons many times and failed every time. Ten years later, I almost never think of him. Sometimes a scene in a movie or an article in the news or someone raising their voice will trigger PTSD. But mostly, he never crosses my mind. I no longer feel anger or bitterness towards him, at least on my account. I don't wish him ill. I have moved on, and I can look at him with pity, as a broken man. But even though I have let go of anger, I will NEVER be in the same room with him again. I will never trust him. And I suppose the part I haven't forgiven, and never fully will, is the impact he has had on the kids. That is still a core of bitterness inside me, but I don't let it overtake my life. I can't. I have to make my peace with the past, in all its ugliness, or I will never find peace and happiness in the present or the future.

    I think what you are asking about is something else though. You are asking about actions you will take in the real world, in the interactions you have with your son. If he comes to you with an apology, do you have to say to him "I accept your apology and I forgive you?" Do you somehow owe that to him? Can you hear those words from him and reply, "no, I cannot accept your apology?" Can you cut him off and tell him you never want to hear from him again? Can you decide to go no contact, permanently, and never respond to any messages from him again? If you take these steps, does it make you a bad person?

    My ex has never apologized, to me or the kids. I don't want his apology. No apology could ever be adequate for what he's done. And I don't want any contact with him. If somehow we ended up face to face and he threw an apology at me, I'm not sure what I would do. Perhaps just turn and walk away. Perhaps say, "I'm glad you can acknowledge the harm you've done, but I don't want your apology. Go and be better in your next phase of life, but I don't want to hear from you again." Perhaps that means I really haven't forgiven him at all. Again, I guess it depends on your definition of forgiveness.

    With your son, I can hear the hurt in your words. You are hurt by his rejection, and you want to reject him back, permanently, so you can let go and stop hurting. You want closure in this relationship, because he keeps hurting you, over and over again. That is completely sane and understandable.

    I also hear your desire to not be manipulated again. your sense that any apology from him will not be sincere, and will only come when he wants to get something out of you again. That it will not indicate real change. And I don't think we ever have to accept these kinds of apologies. They are not real apologies. You would be completely correct to say, "An apology without a change of heart isn't an apology. I believe you are only saying these words because you want something from me. And therefore I cannot accept your apology." And you can say those words whether or not you have forgiven him in your heart. You can decide on whether you want a continued relationship regardless of your ability to forgive also. Wanting to avoid future pain and manipulation, drawing boundaries that prevent us from getting hurt, are entirely rational and healthy reactions.

    But ask yourself - if he did undergo a complete change of heart and develop new understanding and empathy, and you were fully convinced that the change was real and permanent and not a manipulation tactic, could you accept him back into your life? Could you offer forgiveness to him then? Or is there too much history there to move on? I do not judge you either way. Only you know the full extent of the history and the full extent of what you have already given. Sometimes we come to an end in what we have left to give. Even with our children.

    But perhaps you don't need to make that decision permanent right now. Perhaps one way to think of it is that your son, as he is right now, is someone you do not want in your life, and you cannot accept an apology from him. The relationship you have with him is over, from your standpoint. Get your closure and move on.

    And if, at some point, you come to the conclusion that something has shifted within him and he has made a transformation into a new, better person? You can make your decision then what kind of relationship that you want to have with that new person. It will be an entirely new relationship, with someone you never expected to meet. And I think you can't expect it, or the expectation will drive you crazy. But perhaps you can let yourself be open to it if it happens. (I think of my relationship with post-prison N in this way, I suppose.)

    But no matter what you decide, you are not a bad person, or a weak person. All of us here are entirely human and working through our own solutions to the pain our children inflict on us. We will support you in whatever you decide makes the most sense for YOU to give you the peace and closure that you need. And deserve.
     
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  16. toughlovin

    toughlovin Well-Known Member

    I see love and forgiveness as two separate things. I will always love my son no matter what.... and so far I have forgiven him for the things he has done to me, but that may not always be true.... but I will say I have not forgotten them. That would be foolish because the truth is that as much as I love my son I dont know that I can ever really trust him, even if he is ever really clean and sober I doubt I can really trust him. I think he would like to me (and probably steal from me) if it was to serve his purposes. This is why I have accepted that my daughter does not want a relationship with him, because she has good reason to protect herself from this kind of thing.... and I continue with my eyes wide open. And I doubt I would ever let him live with me again. So yes I love him, but I think I see him realistically and that means wearing some armour and protecting myself emotionally and I see nothing wrong with that. For me at this point, that does not mean cutting off a relationship with him, but I can see situations where it could mean that and I dont see anything wrong with that if that is what that requires.

    In another very different situation with my dad I was very angry about some things he did to my mother during their divorce (I was an adult when they got divorced). I barely had a relationship with him for 10 years because of this.... and eventually I did decide to rebuild a relationship with him. So I did rebuild a realtionship but still there was a piece that I never forgave him for.... and that definitely affected how close we could be. And it just was..... there was no way to resolve the issue it just was. In a sense I had to let it go but it affected how I thought of him as a man and as a person. Yet he was still my dad and I still loved him.

    TL
     
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  17. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    You can both love and forgive a child and not trust the person. We can feel ten things about the same person. And it is okay to not trust somebody but for them to earn trust back later.

    Nothing is set in stone unless we want it to be, which is also okay.
     
  18. Smithmom

    Smithmom Active Member

    Read and digesting.

    I guess part of this is that he's 28 and sober a few years now. He's not a kid anymore. This is the real him. Making an adult decision every day to hurt me. Probably figuring out what to say to his bro to make him hurt me too.

    The chunk of why I ultimately can't have a relationship with my mother (age 94) is because she continues to inflict pain every moment she can. And its not just illness talking. Its intentional. I first cut off our contact in my mid 20s. At the time I was in contact with my aunt, her sister. She couldn't spread venom there because my aunt had lived with it every day of her life. But to do holidays I had to pretend. So very, very minimal contact. Enough to not make my aunt suffer as a go-between. When my kids came along I thought they deserved a grandmother so opened contact. And she would have hounded me anyway cause she wanted grandkids, in a wallet anyway. That never worked because she never liked kids. Cut her off when she refused to acknowledge my oldest because of his behaviors.

    From my son its daily pain now too. Its not the past or the future. Its today's pain. Letting it be doesn't stop the pain.

    What changed with my mother? Therapy that said I didn't owe her just because she is my mother. That its OK to not call her to listen to the moaning cause she has a sniffle. Now I really don't care. I saw her once, about 8 years ago and felt no emotion. I don't love her. I don't like her. Sad. Feel guilty saying it. But its true.

    What will cause a change with my son? I stop caring? I get to the point that I don't love him?
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2018
  19. Smithmom

    Smithmom Active Member

    Copa, i did re-read. But I never took offense. I wasn't hurt by it. We feel what we feel. And we're all different.

    This post has been very therapeutic for me. Its making me look at my feelings from all angles which is what I need to do to decide on a course of action, or inaction.

    Thank you all!
     
  20. Smithmom

    Smithmom Active Member

    I always insisted my son is not a sociopath. Despite some professional opinions to the contrary. He did more than a few deliberately thought out nasty things in treatment settings. Eg in a hospital he was angry or upset or... Who knows because he would never give a reason... with his roommate. While the kid slept mine got up and peed in a cup and poured the pee in the kid's ear.

    His usual relief from boredom at home and in group homes was to create drama by triggering the weakest kid. He'd know what would trigger the kid to a tantrum and do it. Then sit and laugh at the kids tantrum and staff attempts to calm the kid. Entertainment for him. And he wouldn't even be subtle or deny it. Cause it wasn't something they could punish him for. He'd plan it so it was something he couldn't get punished for.

    Same thing he's doing with my middle one now.

    Yes, this is the kid I love with all my heart.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2018