How I Forgave Decades of Abuse and Set Myself Free
I used to fear him.
I used to hate him.
Then I forgave him.
Hurt people hurt people, they say. If that’s true, my father was certainly a hurt person. He claims it wasn’t always so bad. They say we used to play together when I was a child. But honestly, I do not remember the happy memories.
I remember when he got abusive and hit my mother. I cried. I was afraid. I wanted them to get divorced. I was about 4 or 5. I remember him being demanding and controlling. I remember him being verbally abusive and yelling all the time. Then again, yelling was a normal part of our dysfunctional family life. Then I remember him hitting me. More and more. As I became a teenager the problem escalated. Eventually it was a daily occasion—often several times a day.
I recall being afraid. I recall yelling. I recall running away. I recall walking around the streets at night being afraid to go home. I recall the bruises, the blood and the tears. I certainly recall the fractured finger I still can’t bend as well as the one on my other hand.
Fear and tears and desperation. This is what I recall. Him yelling, “I am your father. I love you. Say that you love me.”
How could I have loved him? How could he have loved me? Love is not about yelling, bruises, broken bones and abuse!
My first plan of escape was suicide. Obviously, that didn’t work out.
My second plan of escape was moving far away, across the ocean and never speaking to him again.
This was a good and solid plan. It somewhat worked. Eventually, I stopped having bad dreams. I wasn’t afraid anymore.
But the blackmailing and pressure began from my family. No one understood. They thought I should grow up, forgive and become daddy’s little girl. Friends didn’t believe me or simply didn’t want to hear my story.
I was alone with a terrible pain that no one understood.
Oceans away, years after, my pain didn’t heal. It lessened, but it still affected me.
As I was getting into self-development and holistic healing, I read more and more about the power of forgiveness. I’ve learned about unwritten letters. I hesitated. I hesitated for a long time. Then I decided to give it a try. I tried and tried, but somehow my unwritten letters didn’t bring me relief. I couldn’t bring myself to write them from love. I couldn’t bring myself to write them from my heart. I certainly couldn’t bring myself to end with forgiveness.
I asked, “How could I ever forgive him?” I had every right to be angry and to hate him. He didn’t deserve forgiveness. At least, that is what I believed.
Then, one day, I was out for a run. Suddenly, it hit me. I wrote the letter quietly in my mind, and then wrote it down on paper as soon as I got home.
I told him that I used to hate him. I told him that I used to fear him. I told him that now I understand that he was miserable carrying his own story with his own problems.
I told him that I understand that he was angry at my mother for leaving and couldn’t deal with a teenage daughter. I told him how I understand that problems I will never know about affected him, that he didn’t know better but to become abusive. I told him I forgave him. I told him that while I didn’t need him as a father all I can send him is unconditional love and my best wishes.
I never sent him the letter. But, energetically, it passed.
I felt relief. I felt forgiveness. I felt gratitude. A big rock was lifted off my shoulders.
Several months later, when my grandmother died, I had to meet my father at the funeral. I admit I was nervous. It was a moment of truth: did I really forgive him? I was apprehensive that, once I saw him, the fear and hatred would come back. It didn’t.
The man in front of me was a miserable person. I felt compassion towards his broken spirit. He was not my father; I do not have one. He was simply a stranger—a stranger for whom I can only feel compassion and to whom I can only send unconditional love.
At that point, I knew I’d truly forgiven him.
He taught me fear, misery, and pain, but the pain his actions left behind forced me to eventually heal my spirit. With that, I was forced to learn and to experience true forgiveness. And for that, I will forever be grateful.
I used to fear him. I used to hate him. Then I forgave him.
And now I am at peace.