I received an email from my mom the other day informing me that the husband of my adopted sister Cathy had died suddenly. Images of the last time I saw Cathy, over ten years ago at a family party, filled my memory. I strained to recall what little I knew of her – oh yeah, mom said she married. I actually knew very little about her except for the occasional unsolicited updates from my parents. Reading the email, I felt nothing inside.
Cathy and her brother entered our lives when I was six; my entire world turned upside down. My parents were ill-prepared for the brokenness of children who were horribly abused by their birth parents and left emotionally, psychologically, and mentally traumatized. Sadly, our family collapsed under the weight of it all – my siblings and I scattered and hid best we could to escape the pain of our shattered life. They did the best they could, my parents; they just didn’t have the tools in their toolbox.
I’ve spent most of my life working through the rejection, abuse, and anger endured as a consequence of my broken family. So when I read the news of Cathy’s pain, I sadly felt absolutely nothing.
In feeling that nothing, though, I realized I also didn’t feel anger or resentment or that “whatever” feeling I get when I really don’t want to deal with something. The nothing wasn’t a hardened nothing but a soft, gentle space. I realized that I had let all the pain go, the deep wounds finally healed. I began to see Cathy as a person, a person who just lost the love of her life, a person who lost one of the few people who treated her with genuine love. I saw her as someone who has struggled her entire life to find a place in this world, who finally found it only to lose it again. As I opened my heart further, I began to feel Cathy’s sadness and overwhelming grief. Out of that sadness and grief, I could reach out and send my condolences.
I don’t know if I will ever see Cathy again – she is now living down south near her kids. I do know that if I do, I can embrace her with genuine affection. I have complete, deeply, and lovingly forgiven and let go.
So if you are struggling with forgiveness – I get it. I wish I had a quick, easy remedy to help, but unfortunately I don’t. It’s no easy thing to let go of a deep, long-lasting wound. The world wants us to forget, to get over it, but we never forget - ever. Instead, I can now reflect on those events and see how they have shaped me into who I am today. There is where I meet God. Gradually, ever so slowly, I have handed over my pain and have been set free.