Every parent-child relationship has at least a little hurt that’s developed over the years, and many of us hold resentment and anger towards our parents for past wrongs. Some have unfortunately had to deal with a parent’s addiction, neglect, or abuse. When the time comes when your parent needs more day to day help and assistance with managing their affairs, these emotions can prevent you from stepping in to help. How can you manage this situation when your emotions make it difficult to meet your parent’s needs? If you are willing to forgive but are unsure how, take hope: healing the rift is possible.
First, stay focused on the present. The past is over and nothing can be done to change it now; you have nothing but pain to gain if you hang onto it. Remember that by clinging to your resentment, you are only making yourself feel bad. There are even studies that show that people who are able to forgive lead longer and healthier lives.
Recognize that the wrong you were done has helped make you who you are today, and may have caused you to develop some of your strengths. For example, struggling with an abusive parent may have resulted in you becoming stronger and better able to stand up for yourself and protect your boundaries. It may also mean that you are kinder and more able to keep yourself from lashing out in ways that are harmful to others.
Consider looking at your history with your parent from a different angle. Were they doing the best they could do at the time? Were they struggling with circumstances beyond their control? Put yourself in your parent’s shoes, and while you shouldn’t excuse bad behavior, you may find yourself more able to understand how it could happen.
Finally, seek out stories about those who have forgiven people who hurt them. Hearing the experiences of others can help inspire you or give you a guide for how you yourself might forgive. There are many story collections out there on this topic – your local library is sure to have at least a few. You can also look for movies that address the theme of forgiveness.
Remember, forgiving someone doesn’t mean that the wrong they did is now OK. But try to separate the person from their behavior. We all make mistakes and behave badly at times, but that doesn’t mean that at our core we don’t deserve love and a second chance.