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 totally get this. My bio-father sexually abused me and my sisters. I have no love for the man. He's been dead for 40 years. My sisters will sometimes post something about him on his birthday - I feel nothing!! I will never understand why they give him a thought at all.
    My father, the man I called dad was my adoptive father. He never hurt me and was always there for me.
    I did forgive my bio-father after he died. I went to his grave and screamed at him, I vomited out all the anger I had and I let it go. I was then able to move on.

    I have wondered this myself. I was hurt deeply by my bio-father and I have no feeling for him what so ever and yet my son has hurt me deeply too and yet I still love him. I do love him but I do not like him nor do I trust him. He is not someone I would seek out to have a relationship with.
    Why the difference? I don't' know that I will ever know or understand.

    What I do know is that when it comes to my son I take it one day or one incident at a time. There could come a day that he and I have no communication at all and if that were to happen, I would be okay with it.
  2. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    I am so sorry, Tanya. I know I have said it before.

    I know people who say they love and forgive parents who abused them. I dont get it. Do you dislike yourself so much that you think you deserved it?
  3. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    My view only. When we insert intention and deliberation, we get in trouble. Is it normal to do it? Yes. Do I do it. Yes. Does it help me in life? No.

    What I am saying is I am better served by dealing with results over which I have control, not intentions, over which I have none, cannot see or verify. Results. Yes.

    Now your son has a history of seeking to do, intending to do, meaning to do hurtful things that trespass boundaries.
    If it was any other person you would be outathere. He has a mean streak that has led him to prison. How could this be disputed?

    But your challenge is you love him with all of your heart.
    This repeats the horribleness and trauma of your childhood. You were stuck as a child. You were helpless. It is the most normal and necessary thing in the world for children to love their abusive parents. Why? This is all they have in the world. they prefer to take on the blame themselves, "I am a bad child...if I were a better child...this wouldn't be happening." Another reason is we as little human beings are at work constructing identities and personalities. We need objects on which to base our identities, or we would be little wolf children, wild, and never achieving human potential.
    This thing that is happening to you in relation to your son Smithmom is trauma-based, in my opinion. Your feelings tell you to do anything to escape from the trap that has you in its vice. But the trap is at the same time your mother love.

    The thing is, SWOT, is it is the most normal thing in the world for a child to identify with the aggressor, the abusing parent. In your life, in my own, we have tried to work this out through therapy. But children identify with the aggressor in order to survive childhood. It has nothing to do with self-esteem, in my opinion. I think the idea of forgiveness is something that certain religious faiths reinforce. I think the people that go this route may be influenced by that or by the 12 step tradition, at least in our culture.
  4. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    Copa yes. I loved my mother as a child and remember telling my first therapists that my mother was a great Mom but I had been a bad kid. This was in my early 20s. I was a mess in my 20s and early 30s. I believed this for a long time. I thought it was normal for my family to treat me like I was the black sheep. Slowly I learned the disease of my FOO and, although for a long time it lingered only in the back of my mind, I came to resent my brother who could do no wrong, my sister who treated me like my mother did, a horrible uncle who called me "the brat" and was narcicistic and of course my mother. But I still fought with thinking their treatment of me was my fault because I was "bad."

    I know better now and my mother, long deceased, is forgiven but not a part of my heart. I would never put her photo on my FB page on her birthday, for example. It would be a farce and I dont miss her. By the time she passed I hadnt seen her for years (her choice) and I did not grieve her passing.

    I also dont identify with her or really many of my FOO. I am very different in my opinion from all of them. Thank God! The trauma is over. I feel no more attachment to them other than certain memories, not good.

    It was a relief after my dad passed to finally decide to say goodbye to all of the deceased who had abused me and the two still alive somewhere doing whatever they do. This is morbid but I have already decided my obituary will be only two from my FOO and all of my delightful family of choice. No mother or, sister or brother mention because they are not a part of me. I divorce them all. And I will never have to talk to them again on this earth. My choice. In the end, the decision was my own.

    It still probably puzzles my sister who called the cops on me all the time. She honestly thinks she was a good sister lol. Too bad. So sad.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2018
  5. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    Thanks sweet lady.
    I always knew that it was not my fault and never felt that I deserved it or had done anything to provoke it. I had a good understanding that my bio-father was sick in the head. I was 13 when he died and was 16 when I let go of all it. Forgiving him was my way of letting go of all the hurt. My adoptive father showed me what a good, loving healthy relationship is between a daughter and father.
  6. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    Im glad for your happy ending Tanya. I was not as bad off as you, not sexially abused. I wish I had had an adoptive mother step in. I used to wish I was adopted!

    You are a strong loving lady that all of us look up to. Im so glad you have agood relationship with your sweet grands and their mother.
  7. Smithmom

    Smithmom Active Member

    I was a foster parent before I adopted my own. I had kids who thought their horrible patents were wonderful. In contrast, until I was 9 and he died I had a great Dad. Every day he'd tell me how, despite what Mom said, implied, etc I wasn't bad, wrong, ugly, useless, stupid, etc etc. He'd have an excuse like she was having a bad day and I had to understand. So I always knew I was Ok and it was her. And when he was gone I could say all those things to myself. I didn't grow up like some of you blaming myself or thinking she was wonderful. This is where the forgiveness comes in I guess. My father's message was to forgive her, let all the horrible things wash over me and move on. And I did. Until she outlived my lifelong expectation that it would end and I'd be free. At 50 (her age 83) or so I decided that that I deserved a life free from her nonsense.

    Copa, maybe what you're saying about trauma is that I lived with it till I was 50 or so. Then I cut it out and now its back. And I want to cut it out again.

    What you said about your relationship with your son Tanya is maybe where I need to be. He and I were always close. I made that happen. I visited him in prison every week for over a year for 2 hours each week when he was 19 and 20. I opened up to him as an adult. I wanted us to be close as adult mother and child. But that gave him the leverage to hurt me like no one else could.

    There was a website/ book called The Bipolar Child which had newsletters. One of those was about the provoking behaviors of a manic child. When there is no stimulant for the mania the child creates it by provoking someone else. That's how I always saw my son. In a facility with no chance to shoplift or use he created excitement He has so many other aspects of bipolar as well. That's why I never saw it as sociopathic behavior.

    The Christian doctrine of forgiveness is deeply engrained in me. Bottom line, if you want eternal life, if you want God to forgive you so you get into heaven, then you have to forgive others. You've asked what forgiveness is to me. Best I can say is that its removing that behavior from my heart as a negative. But if he keeps doing it, with full knowledge and capability, then I can't remove it. Or, each day I remove it and replace it with same.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2018
  8. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    I think I know what you mean. I think there is a way that you can do this. But while it may have a person's name on it, it really is not about them as a real person.

    My sister does things to me only to cause pain and hurt. And she does something unforgiveable: she leaves what I call the mark of zorro. She leaves a sign that she has carefully picked in order to demonstrate her power, her revenge. She inserts the knife to kill slowly. So that you not only feel the pain, you know it was her. You die slowly knowing you were targeted in the most vulnerable place, that she meant to hurt you, that you are her victim, and that you have no power.

    The examples are many. Taking a new down comforter and returning it red with menstrual blood. Having her mafia-like husband take all of my baby pictures (from a house she was not supposed to enter, destroying them--I was a preemie and in the newspapers--and leaving one--that was destroyed.) The latter is an agony to me. It feels like it was me, not the pictures that were destroyed. All the pictures with my father, my mother, my grandmother. This album was one of my only solaces as a child. From it I constructed a heroes journey. I used it to constitute my life. Because I had no real support.

    So. How do I forgive that? Such malice. Such intent to hurt. The desire to destroy and obliterate. I do not forgive the acts. But I need to purify myself from the sense of victimhood, the helplessness, the anger. What I need is not only an antidote. I need something that will propel me to heal. So what I have devised is a way to when the image comes to my mind, immediately I use the image to prompt me to remember what a beautiful baby and toddler I was. I use the image of her hurting me to feel empathy for how damaged and hurt she was and is. I feel sad for her that she feels compelled to do this. I free myself from the dyad that is basically a prison. I say a silent prayer that I am free.
    I do not agree. You are as separate from your son as I am from my sister. There is no contact. I used to envision my sister sticking voodoo needles into my face. That was how I experienced her in relation to me.

    How in the world am I supposed to heal as a person with this image in my head?

    I can still summon that picture (I did right now) but why would I?

    I think of her less and less, as my life is defined by health and love and discover and meaning. As long as you stay focused on the image of your son inflicting pain on you, you keep yourself in this prison. This may be the meaning of it. He is the one in the prison, not you. There may be a compulsion on your part to suffer by imprisoning yourself, as a way to protect him. You have control over stopping this.

    Why not think about images that you can use to transcend this? It is a way to recover yourself.

    I do not much think about the concept of forgiveness. (In my faith we think of it as an internal process, not in the main about another person.) But I think if you overcame the knee jerk domination of the idea that he has control over you and your feelings, and developed this into a restorative process, you would have release. I think this release is a way of forgiveness. But the one you are freeing really is yourself. You are freeing yourself from the emotional reactivity from the memory of mistreatment. You release the energy that is trapped there. It does not mean you resubmit to him. Never. But you could decide at some point that you are not destined to repeat the past. We as human beings can create our present, if we free ourselves from our past. That means being accountable to remember it, to be cleansed. In my faith it is central. One of the central words is: Atonement. It is very like forgiveness.
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  9. Smithmom

    Smithmom Active Member

    Copa, what if your sister sent you one of those destroyed pictures in the mail every say? Every day there was an envelope there. Even if you didn't open it you still know its there.

    Forgiving the past I understand. I don't know how to continue forgiving when its ongoing?
  10. Elsi

    Elsi Active Member

    I think my concept of forgiveness is closer to Copa’s. A release. Letting go of the past, not to forget that it happened but so that it does not continue to have power over my present or my future. It does not require that the other person has changed. The other person may be dead. The other person may be incapable of change. The act of release happens within me. I do it not to earn heaven - I’m not sure I believe in heaven - but to find peace now.

    Perhaps you mean something else by forgiveness. Perhaps your forgiveness requires that the other person apologize, atone and change before you can forgive them. Maybe you need a different word for the kind of release I mean when I say forgiveness.

    This is the only path I have found to peace. I can’t control what the other person does. I can’t change who they are. I can only control my side of the equation.

    I have found that it is not helpful for me to worry about whether harm is ‘intentional’ or not. We all have reasons for what we do, many of them outside our conscious awareness. Brain chemistry. Brain injury. Mind altering substances, prescribed or nor. Belief systems. information or assumptions that may be accurate or erroneous. Unconscious habit. Past trauma. Inborn personality. Who among us really fully understands our own response patterns, let alone anyone else’s?

    So I guess my forgiveness comes from looking at someone and thinking: this is what they are capable of right now. Their past history, personality, and brain chemistry are causing them to behave in this way. They may not even be aware of why. If the ways they are behaving are hurting me, I can choose to remove myself from the situation so I am no longer hurt. And the same time I can recognize that they are following a program that has very little to do with me, and forgive them for being who they are.
  11. Smithmom

    Smithmom Active Member

    I agree that apology and reasoning aren't necessary for forgiveness. I agree that I can forgive the past. Its the ongoing I'm having difficulty with. Elsi, could your forgive your ex while you were still with him? Maybe forgive yesterday's beating. But knowing that he's going to do it again today or tomorrow... Doesn't that change it?
  12. Elsi

    Elsi Active Member

    No. I had to remove myself from the situation, so he could no longer hurt me. And then I could forgive.

    You do not need to allow someone to keep hurting you. Even your adult child.
  13. Elsi

    Elsi Active Member

    In cases where someone is still capable of harm - I guess I would say the boundaries and forgiveness can happen simultaneously. But you do need the boundaries. Internal, external or both. In your sons case, an external boundary may mean blocking contact. An internal boundary may mean not letting him take up so much space in you head.
  14. Elsi

    Elsi Active Member

    Perhaps there are two ways to think about forgiveness.

    The kind of forgiveness that is given to another person because they have earned it and shown that they have truly changed. The forgiveness that mends the relationship.

    And the kind of forgiveness we offer to someone who cannot or will not change, on our way out the door. The forgiveness that restores our peace.
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  15. Triedntrue

    Triedntrue Well-Known Member

    I also have tried to face this dilemma. The more i give the more he wants but he is a dual diagnosis and i have trouble with that. He is 37 so i feel the need to claim my own life. I have 2 others who do not side with him but have lost respect for me because of the way i have let him use me. I had an incident today that took me back to realizing that he will never stop using me if i allow it. I will always love him, always worry but right know i am tired of forgiving him. I am trying to decide whether to cut off contact for awhile just for some peace and some time to get strong enough to hold my boundaries and for him to learn to accept that. Praying for us all.
  16. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    I would do anything to stop those envelopes from coming.
    I would change my address. I would write to the prison and put a block on his mail, so as to not receive mail from him. (It is frequent that prisoners harass their victims. There is a mechanism to stop this. It is not hard.)

    I feel guilt about putting up a strong boundary with my son. He chooses to not understand or take responsibility for what were his responsibilities, that he committed to. To him, it was I wanted more money; or I wouldn't support him enough organizing his money. It is always what more I could do. And never about him.

    The reason for this detour is I wonder if you would feel bad that you might hurt his feelings, to stop son's ability to send mail to you. You see. I would. And it would be wrong. Our sons, not us, are responsible for what they do and do not do and responsible to figure out that it is wrong and there are consequences.

    Right now I am sad because my son has not responded to either texts or a phone call. I guess he will not meet me on Saturday to try to work things out. I wonder, too, if he is trying to hurt me. I need to not go there and stay centered in myself. I have a much fuller life than he. In fact, he is a drain and a worry, and not choosing to be much of a joy right now. But other people are a joy. There is joy. I may not be able to control my feelings in my sleep but I sure can during the day if I do things for me, that I enjoy.

    By calling my son last week I opened back up the dynamic that he can have power over me, by resisting or withholding. But I choose whether or not I take the bait. I choose not to.
    I would hate to have this concept because we would never be free.
    In prison people cannot remove themselves from harassment. They are stuck dealing with it. Only a few people are strong enough to fight everybody, but some do this. Others have to find mental or behavioral ways to respond to conflict or to maltreatment. And they do.

    I recall a prisoner I liked very much who was in a group I gave. It was Anger Management. He said that when he got angry, felt belittled or hurt or even de-humanized by somebody, he reminded himself that if he had had the life that person had had, in every particular, he would see things like they did, and behave as they did. This way he could let it go. (I admired his process; I didn't necessarily agree with the reasoning; but it worked for him. He could find empathy but most of all he could let go the bad feelings of being angry, victimized, targeted, etc. that would propel him to act out (and either hurt himself or get in trouble.)
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2018
  17. Smithmom,
    Reconciliation is not a requirement of forgiveness! In this abusive situation, reconciliation is not advised. There is a real risk of ongoing harm to you and your sons. Your oldest son asked you to provide a name, so he can find her and do something unpleasant, possibly criminal, to her. This is scary! It’s also very evil to manipulate you to participate in his need to do something criminal. Attempting to alienate you from your middle son is also very evil. Forgive him to free yourself from anger and bitterness, but protect yourself and your other children by avoiding reconciliation.
  18. Please reread your post, Smithmom. This is not someone with whom you can reconcile and remain safe. (I'm very sorry.)
  19. Smithmom

    Smithmom Active Member

    Thank you all. I'm seeing myself more clearly now I think with your help.

    My reaction to him is perhaps an overreaction based on my personal history. I spent a lot of years giving myself permission to permanently cut off my mother. (Just FYI in her warped mind and venom whenever I have expressed unhappiness at her treatment of me she tells everyone that I'm angry. And that's the level of insight I think my son has sometimes. There's no grasp of sadness, frustration, hurt, much less considering personal responsibility, it's anger?). I agree with Tanya that I never say never. But the longer I am hurt the closer I get to never and to no love left. I don't want to get to that point with my son. I'm past that with my mother. It will be a lot shorter time with my son given that I've been there with my mother and my age/ stage of life. I'm not going to have this in what life I have left.

    I think my inability to forgive is now more clear to me. Its because its not in the past. Its ongoing in the present. As Copa said, his being in prison with the horrible life that is probably has a lot to do with it. As Elsi said, I can't assume that and it doesn't matter anyway.

    Bottom line is that in order to stop the ongoing pain, forgive for my own mental health and move on I need to put this in the past. Question remaining is do I have to literally cut him off with the prison. Is it enough for me that I just leave it as is? After all, I can't and wouldn't, stop communication between my oldest two. The oldest will still manipulate the second one. He will still be able to get to me that way. So cutting him off at prison level won't totally stop him. I guess my conclusion is that unless he tries to call or send me snail mail letters I won't cut him off at prison level.

    But in my heart it will be over. I will accept that he's not the loving, caring victim of dual diagnosis illness I've always thought of him as. There is a mean, vindictive streak I blamed on mental illness. Like my mother, maybe it is there because of mental illness. But both of them are bright enough to see it and control it. They choose not to control it. And they choose to use it on me. I finished being her victim. And I will not be his. He's not a child. I had to ruin my life because of him when he was a child. I don't now.

    I'm comfortable with this i truly thank you all for helping me come to this decision.
  20. Smithmom

    Smithmom Active Member

    Despairing Mom. You're right that I am re-thinking this since I wrote it out. But to clarify, his violence was never when sober. It was only when high. Does that matter? I don't know anymore. But he has never threatened violence against myself, anyone in my family or his birth mother. He never used in public. Any violence when high arose when confronted by an aggressive person while high. He's never had a criminal charge involving violence.

    There was never any domestic violence and he lived with a girlfriend for 4 years.

    That hospital incident resulted in the sociopath diagnosis by a psychiatrist over 70 who didn't believe in bipolar in children. She ran a hospital ward of the 1920s. I know I've said this in other posts but he was in 20+ residential placements between 12 and 18. Every one had a psychiatrist and multiple therapists. Throw in school evaluations, private evaluations, rehab evaluations, the sociopath only came from one psychiatrist and a couple of group home people who I can't even remember, probably social workers. Its a term we all fear. But I never, and don't believe it applies to my son. Prisons are full of sociopaths and I've known one or two. Mine isn't. Occasionally deliberately nasty and sociopath are very different
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2018