When someone is wronged, it's very hard for them to forgive the person that harmed them and let bygones be bygones. Closure doesn't come without forgiveness, but what happens when the person that has wronged them is a parent? How does one forgive a parent that treated them like dirt or abandoned them as a child? That must be the most difficult of forgiveness to find inside themselves. But people do. Sometimes it repairs a fractured relationship and sometimes it doesn't, but it almost alway means closure in very difficult relationships.
Her Mother Never Understood
“Forgiving my mom for years of child neglect and abuse. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever forgiven someone for, but I needed to let it go for my sake.
We never spoke much after that and then she got cancer. We tried to give it a shot then but it was too much damage done and then she passed. I honestly made myself realize she wasn’t just this monster that built my nightmares, she was also a human. In being human, she made mistakes. She didn’t treat a mental illness, and is someone that shouldn’t have had children. For some reason, looking at it like that allowed me to move forward. I’m sorry she can’t see her own errors.”
He Finally Got Clean
“I forgave my dad for his addiction problems during my childhood. He lost his sobriety when I was one and didn’t get clean until I was 15. He still doesn’t know me very well. He thinks he does, but he’s wrong. I’m not mad about the time lost and am incredibly proud of his 5 and a half years. I’ve forgiven him, but addiction has had a permanent effect on our relationship and on his brain. I love him, though.
It was so worth it. My dad and I may not be very close, but the things we get to share are so important. Seeing how much he loves science documentaries and playing card games with us makes him more than just an ex-user. I get to see him as a whole person. I watched my dad wrestle with his sobriety. I watched him get clean. It was painful and difficult and I had to deal with a fair amount of anger, but I got to see the transformation. I got to see him turn into a person capable of being a father. My mom also didn’t want to divorce. He had one strike left before she did and he managed to not lose us. There were certainly times where I wished they weren’t together, and I can’t say what would have been better. We were old enough to know what was going on and it would have been messy.
Hate the sin, not the sinner.”
A Nasty Mother Is Forgiven
“I was 11 and I had just been diagnosed with skin cancer when my very abusive mother told me that God was punishing me for being a bad son. I forgave her when I went to church to get baptized because I realized I didn’t have the time to be hateful like her. I forgave her for the things she has done and said to me and I forgive her whenever she does anything because I know that my life has been shortened enough by the poor decisions I’ve made. It was hard, it was one of the few things I’m not sure I could ever do again, because she truly hurt me for years, she always told me I was a mistake and that I wasn’t ever wanted, but I let it go and my heart stopped hurting. I know I’ve never had a mother, not really, and I’m glad I stopped lying to myself about it too.
‘The strongest of God’s warriors are given the hardest challenges’ is something I heard in outpatient therapy and it’s stuck with me ever since. I know that God gave me the harsh realities of what my situation was because he knew I would be stronger, forged resilient because of it. I’ve chosen to dedicate my life to creating things to help people, and to help those less fortunate than I am through my life.
I’m happy and I’m healthy now. I’m in college on my way to get my engineering degree and I have a wonderful group of friends that love and support me. I’m making my way through life, a step at a time.”
Like Father, Like Sun
“My biological dad basically abandoned me when I was 8, telling me it was because I wouldn’t dance with him at a father-daughter dance.
The reality of the situation is that his rough upbringing in rural Appalachia, along with multiple mental illnesses, made him cling to any woman who would give him attention, and every single time she ended up being toxic or just straight up abusive. His current partner is always more important than the children from his previous marriage. He views us a lost cause, because he knows he wasn’t a great parent, so he tries to cultivate a new, perfect life when the old one falls apart. The dude’s built four families now and goes through the exact same cycle. Every. Single. Time.
As an adult, the nastier parts of the diseases I inherited from him began to show. It’s a full-time job trying to reel yourself in. It’s like I’m not even in control some times. I understand exactly his thought processes now and why he did what did and continues to do what he does. I try to do the opposite of what he does, but boy is it hard.
I’ve forgiven him because mental illness is one sick trick and I know for a fact I’m only experiencing a fraction of what he has to deal with on a daily basis. Nowadays we’re more like friends. We still talk, and the funny thing is that we are SO similar. We interact on a level that I’ve never experienced with literally anyone else, even with all the bitterness and resentment thrown in there. He’s almost like my twin on so many levels. People all the time come up to me and ask if I’m his kid because I look and take after him almost 100%.”
She Can’t Ever Forgive
“I had to teach myself not to forgive.
I was raised very Evangelical Christian and it was constantly drilled into our heads that we HAD to forgive. Even monstrous things. That being angry over it was a sin. That seeking any change before forgiving was a sin. That expecting apology before forgiving was a sin. That I was a bad person for failing to somehow magically forgive completely unrepentant people for the horrible things they’ve done to me, and for the misery they made my life.
I was abused by a family member. They made my life awful. I lived in terror. But my parent, the person who should love and protect me most in the world, let them. They just let the abuse happen, not out of fear for their own safety, but because they judged their own happiness as more important than my safety, and because they thought just praying was the only acceptable way to respond, and the only way to try to change things
I have PTSD from over a decade of abuse. And during that decade, my parent watched, and just prayed, and cried and got mad at me for not FORGIVING the person actively abusing me. I still love my parent. I believe they’re a good person, warped by religious beliefs that make a holy virtue out of cowardice and apathy, and possibly conditioned by abuse they’ve experienced themselves. I take incredible care of my them, and I love them more than anything. But I will never, ever forgive them.
The relative who abused me? They’re a piece of trash. They’re unrepentant. And I’ll never, ever forgive them, either.
Because I deserved to be angry. Everyone in my family told me that it wasn’t a big deal, that I just needed to stop triggering the abuse! That I needed to understand the bystanders’ points of view and how hard it would be for them to damage their relationship with the person abusing me! EFF that! No one else was angry on my behalf, and I won’t betray myself by treating it as anything less than it was.
Everyone else was ready to forgive the abuse done to me. And pressured me to do the same. While the abuse continued and while they implied that my refusal to forgive (which, here, meant ‘stop being upset over being abused’) was just as bad as the person who was abusing me.
And I struggled to forgive, for a long time. I’m not doing that anymore. I deserve to be angry, and they have made no amends. If no one else will say ‘That was wrong,’ then I, at least, will. And I’ll remind myself that I’m not a bad person for not forgiving.
For some people, forgiveness is healthy – a relieving of burdens, a healing moment. For me, it’s not.”
She Could Forgive One, But Not The Other
“I tried to forgive my father for the abuse, but I needed him to own it first, and he didn’t. I guess he’s convinced himself that he was a great father and that he’s just a victim of addiction, despite the fact that he’s just as violent sober as he is wasted. I did my best to let it go, but I couldn’t. Now we have no relationship. He still texts me on Christmas and my birthday, and even texts my mom every Valentine’s Day and on their wedding anniversary, despite them being separated for five years.
That being said, my mother was also an addict. I found her stashing drinks in my suitcase on my 18th birthday, and eventually she drank herself to near death. She spent six weeks in the hospital with a failing liver, developed Type 1 Diabetes and had something wrong with her brain as well. Me and my brothers and aunt had to discuss whether or not we’d call an ambulance for her or take her to hospital ourselves, but she said if we did, she’d never talk to any of us again. It was total torture, sitting at home every day, waiting for that phone call saying she’d passed. It never came though. She made a full recovery. It’s nothing short of a miracle, really, and I actually went with her to one of her appointments to give a card and chocolates to her consultant as thanks for taking such good care of her.
My mother couldn’t have been more sorry for what she put us through. It broke her heart to know how much pain her kids were in. I was angry for a while, but I forgave her, because she didn’t just say she was sorry, she meant it, and it showed in her actions.
We have a very close relationship, me and Mum, and I thank God every day that she’s still with us. My father was unwilling to accept that he was a turd dad and an awful person. My mother fought to win back the trust of her children.
It’s night and day, really.”
They Don’t Even Care About Her Wishes
“My father has no empathy, like he doesn’t realize the things he does or says hurt people. So me forgiving him (or not) for anything he’s done doesn’t really resonate with him because he doesn’t know he’s done anything wrong.
After my mother died when I was 21, he kept asking people at the insurance company and the banks and whatnot, ‘Does it matter that she’s adopted?’ Like no, what are you doing? I was adopted at 2 weeks old, it doesn’t matter, but thank you for bringing it up over and over and over like I’m not standing right here.
The other BIG one was a couple years after she died. My grandmother, her mother, wanted her reburied in the city she (my grandmother) lived in, an hour away from where I lived, the same city she was currently buried. My father started the process to have this done, and didn’t think to mention it to me until the day before it was going to happen. My parents had been divorced when my mom died, so no one actually had rights to do this, but the cemetery didn’t check. I called them to tell them this, they flipped out, stopped the process immediately (all they’d done was mark where the grave was) and they said they’d take care of yelling at my dad (and grandma) for attempted fraud and possible grave robbing. I got a call the next day from my grandma saying I was breaking her heart by doing this, my mom wanted to be by her. No she didn’t, she’s dead, plus she hated you, lady. I told grandma, ‘Over my dead body will you ever move my mother. What are you thinking?’
Five years later the cemetery changed management and my grandma heard about it somehow. She went back and told them she was the only living relative and wanted my mother moved. So they did it. This time my dad told me after it was done. I didn’t speak to my grandmother again and she died four years later. My father is still alive, but he doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong, it was my grandmother’s wishes. Plus she’s the one who paid for it.
My mother is now reburied in another city next to a woman who verbally abused her most of her life. She couldn’t wait to move away from her and go to college and start a life away from her control. I think my grandma knew it so she had to yank her back, even after she was dead. It’s kind of tempting to move my mother back after my dad dies and bury them both together in the city I live in, but my mom has been dead 25 years now, what’s left to move?”
Forgiving Himself For Blaming His Father
“This one is sort of weird. When I was very young, my dad had brain cancer. I must have been 5 when it first started because my sixth birthday was the only birthday my dad wasn’t there for.
The cancer was operable but in order to fully remove the tumor, they had to take about a golf ball sized piece of his brain as well. He had a really long recovery process because he basically had to relearn to walk and use his left arm. He was able to go back to being almost completely normal but still had some deficits. He wasn’t able to keep his job or drive but he did yard work and occasionally he cooked, and he never stopped making jokes.
Regardless, it was hard for me growing up because I felt like I had been cheated, I guess. My mom was always working and my dad was there but was just different in ways. The worst part of it is how people look at you differently. When we would go out, people would stare at his scars and people who knew us would talk to me like I was damaged goods, like anything they say wrong would cause me to shatter (with good intentions, I suppose). But being a kid and not fully understanding the situation, I blamed my dad and took out all my frustrations on him which wasn’t fair because it wasn’t his fault. I treated him pretty terribly when I was a kid. It took me longer than I’d care to admit to realize how lucky I was to have him in my life. He fought through cancer, chemo, rehab, and a bunch of other stuff just so he could stand and clap at my karate tournaments. I don’t think I could ever have a better role model and I hope to be just as great of a father to my future kids as he was to me.
But this isn’t a story about how I forgave my dad for things that weren’t his fault. After I came to the realization that my dad was everything and more than I could ask for, I was unbelievably guilty for everything I had put him through even after he had fought through cancer to be in my life. It still put a strain on our relationship because I believed he should hate me and that I didn’t deserve his love.
Ultimately this story is about how I had to forgive myself for everything that I had done in order to have a relationship with him because, although I was a kid and didn’t understand, I was the reason that we didn’t have a great relationship. I am proud to be his son now.”
She Forgave Him For Her Own Good, Not His
“My father was never present in my life after the age of 3. I spent my whole life growing up feeling sad on Father’s Day, wishing he would send me a present or card on my birthday, wondering why I wasn’t important enough to matter.
I grew up with this sense of emptiness because of that void.
A couple of months ago, I found out that he had died after being sick for a year. I decided to forgive him for neglecting me my whole life and all of the sad feelings that brought about in my life. I figured, he doesn’t deserve the forgiveness. But I deserve the internal closure and peace of mind.”
An Ongoing Process
“My mom physically and mentally abuses us and belittles us, primarily exploiting us for what she can. She steals money from us, is highly inconsistent with punishment and rules to the point where doing anything incites anxiety at some points. She does this at random times, so sometimes, I’ll forgive her and try to live like we are past it and the same stuff pops out of nowhere.
She is single and refuses to get a job, living off of the money of my step dad, who killed himself, and whatnot. Anytime I call her out on any of this or try to talk to her about it, it escalates out of control and my grandparents back her. Any time I try to resist, she threatens me with cops and because of my size, it is a legitimate thing to be concerned with as she has before, but they did nothing then.
She doesn’t care at all about our feelings and it has gotten to the point where my little brother lost sense of what’s right because she let’s so much slide that he does, but then beats him for almost nothing, and now I have an extremely edgy 4th-grade brother who physically harms me and my dog, and puts no effort into anything and is generally angry at all times.
I have to forgive her for my own sake so I don’t mentally break, but looking back at old problems just makes me wonder how I’m ever supposed to build a relationship with her. When my best friend killed himself, she just made me do labor and said that it would be ‘good for me.’ She didn’t say anything else. I want to be nice to my brother, but she killed our relationship as she basically did with her relationship with me. Her general neglect allows me to take care of myself most of the time though, so it isn’t much of a direct problem now that I’m older, but it still sucks.”
Life Threatening Threats
“I forgave my father for trying to burn down my home while I was asleep inside. He was on a ‘bender’ (smoking crack for days) and we got into a pretty heated argument, mostly because of his substance use. I eventually went to sleep and woke up to some neighbor dogs barking very loudly, and realized my home was on fire.
After running out of the house, he was just standing there with the creepiest look on his face.
He died of cancer late last year but we had a good relationship and I’m still grieving his loss tremendously.”
He Forgave His Father, But That Was All
“My father left when my brother and I were young.
I had gone the longest time thinking he was dead or didn’t want to speak with us, until I got a message from him during my last year of community college, asking for forgiveness and to talk. Initially I turned him down, but after some deep thought I decided to give him another chance. I forgave him, got to know him, developed the relationship that I always fantasized about since I was a boy. Wanting to know him better influenced my college choice and I found one that was close by, so I could see him every so often.
After my first year there, he asked for money so he could pay his rent and I stupidly agreed, expecting reimbursement from his next paycheck. Soon after, I heard nothing from him. No texts, no calls; no information from his parents who were closer to him than I was. At the end of that year, I had quit college (for reasons other not related to him) and moved back home.
Afterward, I heard from his parents that he was very remorseful and sorry for what he did and I did end up calling him over Christmas. It would be our last conversation and I told him that I forgave him, but couldn’t trust him again. I learned a valuable lesson from my father; not quite the one you expect to learn. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to continue contact with that individual and be best buddies.
Sometimes you have to forgive for your own mental health.”
Forgiveness Given And Accepted
“Forgiving my mother for the neglect and unintentional abuse I went through during some of the most difficult times in my life was hard, but I’ve done it.
It started with my (step) dad being taken away in handcuffs when I was eight and progressed from there. She went through a slew of abusive boyfriends who abused not only her, but me as well. The worst of them was my little brother’s dad. When we finally got away from him, we moved to a new city that I hated and I went to a school I hated. She was trying to deal with her own problems and it was hard to throw my problems into her mix as well. I was depressed, anxious, and developed an eating disorder due to bullying, but for years my mother didn’t listen to me. I even ended up in a psychiatric hospital due to a suicide attempt.
When I was 17, I moved across the country and sometime after my 18th birthday, we were talking and she apologized. I know it wasn’t easy for her to admit that all these years she was hurting me and not helping me.
We have a great relationship now and I’ve actually moved back in with her for the time being while I try to get back up on my feet. I still struggle with my mental illnesses, but I know if it comes down to it, my mother will be there for me this time.”
Building Back Trust
“My mother and I have always struggled to get along, but what finally got me was when she kicked me out of the house two days after my father died. My parents were divorced so it’s complicated, but I was the only one handling his affairs and taking care of him while working two jobs.
She screamed at me she wanted her life back and when I packed my stuff, she demanded the keys. I felt so alone and it took me a while, but I forgave her for how she treated me for what I felt was abandoning me when what I needed most was family to tell me things were going to be ok. I forgave her for that. I almost cut her out of my life because of this, but I didn’t and eventually, recently, she actually gave me a genuine apology.
We talk more now, though I don’t know if I’d say we are close.”