#fbf Can forgiveness change the past?

Once upon a time, I got lost in a relationship.

I fell into the arms of an abuser and almost died.

And then, I got my life back when he was arrested.

I didn’t know who I was, where I was or even how I’d got to that place in which I was living with such deep, dank desperation and sadness.

I’d done things and behaved in ways I did not think were possible for me.

And yet, there I stood amidst the devastation of my life having to acknowledge the truth; I had become that woman who lost her moral compass and fallen into the abyss of abuse.

After his arrest, I looked around me and realized, I was lost. I had seventy-two cents in my pocket, a few clothes and my trustworthy Golden Retriever who had walked beside me for much of that journey. I had to find my way back to living without fear, to living with joy in my heart, and it had to begin with me.

I remember the morning after his arrest when I began writing in my journal for the first time in years. Since I was a child, I have always kept a journal. On the pages of my journal I could write without censorship. I could face myself and find where I stood in my life, regardless of the weather blowing outside.

While with him, I did not write. Writing is about truth for me and I knew my life had become a lie. His lies had become my truth and I was too broken to face it. So I did not write.

Writing it out to face the truth

That first breathless morning after his arrest, I wrote and wrote through my tears.  The words poured out as I tried to exorcise the ghost of his existence and my revulsion of who I had become. I wrote of my horror at what I’d done. My disbelief that I could have believed him, have been so gullible, so stupid, so naïve.

And I wrote about ‘never’. “I’ll never forgive myself.” “I’ll never forget what he did.” “I’ll never be able to get over this.” The ‘nevers’ went on and on to the point I thought they’d never end.

My journal did not disappoint me. I had to face the truth. If I held myself to ‘never’ I would not heal. And I wanted to heal. I wanted to reclaim myself. To rebuild my life and to reconnect with my daughters.

In facing never on the page, I asked myself, “Is this true? Will I never be able to forgive myself for what I did to my daughters’ lives? Will I never feel joy again?”

And then I asked. “Is this what I want in my life?”

My answer was an emphatic “No.”

What I want could only be found through forgiveness

What I wanted was to live without fear. I wanted to live with love in my heart. And most of all, I wanted to reconnect with my daughters. During the final three months of that journey I had disappeared without a word and they had waited for a call from the police telling them that I had been found – dead or alive. They feared the worst.

When he was arrested, my daughters were thankful that I was alive. They were also justifiably angry. At 15 and 17, they did not deserve that terror.

I could not change what I had done. All I could do was ask for their forgiveness.

Forgiveness is healing

Forgiveness is a powerful tool for healing. To receive forgiveness, I had to be able to give it, without qualification or reservation. That meant, I had to be able to forgive the abuser. And, I had to forgive myself.

When I forgave him, I didn’t say, ‘you are not accountable.’ I didn’t forgive him to let him know I forgave him.  I forgave him so that I would not have to hold onto anger, blame, shame or guilt. I forgave him so that I could be free of him.

Forgiving him wasn’t ‘easy’ but it was straight-forward. I have never spoken to him again since his arrest. To forgive him I continually repeated the words to myself and accepted them as truth. “I forgive you.” When the little voice inside me rose up and said, “But…” I reminded it that I had forgiven him and could not harbour resentments, questions or doubts. It was the only way to stop thinking of him.

Forgiving myself was more difficult. I wanted to hold myself pinioned to the sword of self-blame. I wanted to chastise myself. Berate myself. Condemn myself for having been a fool, for having hurt my daughters so much. But, to do so would have meant I did not believe myself worthy of my daughters’ forgiveness. By telling myself I would never forgive myself, yet asking them to forgive me, I was withholding from myself the very thing I wanted to receive.

I forgave myself so that I could be free

And so, I forgave myself. I didn’t qualify my forgiveness. I didn’t define it or limit it to specific events. I simply forgave myself.

I cannot give what I do not have. I cannot receive what I am not willing to give. To receive forgiveness, I must be willing to ask for it, and to give it.

I cannot change the past. I can forgive it.

And so I did. And so it is.



#fbf – Flashback Friday — I wrote the original version of this post in February 2006, almost 3 years after he was arrested.


24 thoughts on “#fbf Can forgiveness change the past?”

      1. I had to tell someone what I told myself the last night I left the situation I was in. “I will never let a man make me feel this way again.” It was a game changer.

        I don’t think I’ll let a man get that close again.


  1. I think I found you through your original post of this. I hope more find you that need to read this. I believe in DIVINE Appointments and I feel sometimes telling the story over and over whether someone is reading it for the first time or someone is reading it again who needs to hear some things a hundred times before they sink in. When I read this, this morning, I had to move from my iphone to my keyboard because sometimes you just have more to say. 😉 And I knew these would be one of those times. Your posts always inspire me to write and LIKE but for some reason ever since I switched phones, I have to sign in EVERY time. It’s annoying.
    As writers we write. I also found that I got stuck in writing my book during my forgiveness journey.
    In my case, I let my abuser re-enter my life. Telling me this time it was all about me. For a while it was validating. I got caught up in the affirmation. As a married grown up (chronologically at least) woman, I should have made better choices. But there was something about this man that sucked me in. Twice. I hated him. I thought. And except for the memory of abuse and the wild ride of experiences we shared in our younger days… He was my first, he was an adventurer, (I learned how to fly a Sail Plane and soloed! Sail, cross country ski, etc…) Memories that you think about later in life. And the fact that he was my first… everything. And we were engaged. And he was the first to ever abuse me. And the last! But it’s a jumble of emotions. I mean, you ran off with your abuse because, well yeah, I KNOW that feeling – it is like a the mom filter, the I know better filter, comes loose and slips out of place. For a while. And temper is a funny thing. It’s not this constant, at first. There are great times mixed in. And then the eggshell walking begins and well you know the story.
    In my case, he came back and stupidly I let him in. I thought I hated him. But they say that love/hate line is thin. And they are master manipulators. But hey I knew better! Was writing a book about young girls and abuse. And for a while. I took a powder and enjoyed the ride. Let the world go away. My husband even knew. He is so great. He thought that though I didn’t think about it daily like I do now. he knew my story and maybe through just talking things out, I could get closure. Never dreaming what would come next because I always had made such a big deal about cheaters and liars. Oh but how I wanted my abuser to see what he’d missed out on. And in the process messed up my life.
    Now to gather this mess up and tell you why I am sharing this here on this particular post. He asked for forgiveness over and over and I said I’d given it. But he got upset that I couldn’t forget. I will never forget. But I do forgive. I understand where he came from to cause it all. The buttons that got pushed. The out of control parts of him that caused things in his head to get twisted. I really did forgive him. For the past. But no matter how much I wanted him to have changed. He really hadn’t. He just understood things better. We both did. About us. And it became about him again. And it always will. Gratefully, my husband stuck it out. I absolutely no 100% I wouldn’t have. So I had to forgive myself twice. For allowing it twice. And though it has been a few years now. that re-connection, that only today’s technology can bring, you are right. We can’t change the past, but I can forgive it. And use it. Because of my story, I have an added chapter, a warning to middle aged women with past loves lurking out there on social media sites looking for us. Never in a million years did I expect it. In my case, I needed the closure, though the act of forgiveness almost ruined my life. I am not sorry it happened. It made me who I am today. And I will never stop writing about it. Well, maybe this minute I will and stop hijacking the space on your comments! 🙂
    Thanks for always pricking my inspiration!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. And thank you for sharing your inspiration here, and on your blog and in the world Di. We all need the inspiration — and we all need the opportunity to see ourselves outside the context of ‘what happened’ so that we can understand our growth and learning –then we can share, like you do.

      Thanks my friend!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love your art and your wisdom and your heart and now watching your journey as you learn to love and trust again! I pray that this year is your best yet and they just keep getting better. I love how honest you are. I can only hope that our stories make women going through abuse see themselves and have an aha moment where they realize that they are stronger than they think and to find the courage to leave the abuse!

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I love what you wrote Elizabeth — In reading your words I think that I used the words ‘I forgive’ not to ‘forgive him’ but rather to allow myself space to heal while I was still too weak and broken to think about him without it hurting me more.

        Thanks for the beautiful insight. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow Louise I know your story and I’ve heard it before but I really heard it this time. The forgiveness piece is so important. It’s almost like I could interchange the words from my story into the words from your story just with different details. The forgiveness piece is still a bit of a Klingon for me. Your words inspire me to do that once and for all. The experience with my ex keeps rearing its ugly head through this Mexico property fiasco which seems to go on and on. It’s like the forgiveness wound keep getting bumped up against re-injuring it with each phone call or legal transaction to do with the property in Mexico. I am so ready to be done with all this. It has taken four years trying to finish off the legalities of the property, it us such a corrupt system as was my ex and I got so pulled into it. Like you it’s hard for me to believe now that I allowed myself to be so un informed and naïve. Did I need his love that badly? This long drawn out process keeps me in the loop and tied to him, to the memories, to the regrets. I’m being patient and kind to myself and will use your technique of repeating I forgive him, I forgive myself, I forgive the Mexican corruption, I choose to be free.

    Thank you thank you thank you.

    Living Between the Beats, Judy Atkinson http://www.circlesofrhythm.com

    Liked by 2 people

    1. isn’t that the truth though Judy? — ” It’s almost like I could interchange the words from my story into the words from your story just with different details. ” Our stories are the same kind of different — the ‘details’ change but our human reactions, interactions and actions are personal yet universal. That is the power of community — and our connections. Much love to you dear friend. We need a walk!


  3. We forgive to heal ourselves it is more about us then it is about those we are forgiving, not that forgiveness is easy it isn’t it usually is bloody hard to do and it isn’t something we can just do, we need to be in the right place to forgive. When a person is able to forgive they are able to heal from inside

    Liked by 1 person

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  5. I’m glad you reposted this, Louise. I’m going to print it and hang onto it. I’m not quite there yet as far as forgiveness is concerned. Thank you.


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