Forgiveness as a Coping Skill 

It can be challenging to focus on the reasons to be grateful and to actually practice forgiveness. The losses we have experienced, the pain, the sadness, the disappointment, the jealousy, and any other feeling you are having that can keep you in a place of feeling stuck and ungrateful can be overwhelming.

How can someone even consider practicing forgiveness with such a swirl of emotions and feelings running through their mind? One thing I’ve been focusing on recently is forgiveness is meant to be experienced as a process just like grief. With any process, that inherently means we must choose to take the first step in a series of steps. At times we will move several steps forward, and at others we may take a couple steps back. For some, this could be very frustrating and in some ways seem pointless. But humans are not perfect and neither are our experiences of our feelings and emotions. Those steps backward are reminders that there is still something there to work through, but it doesn’t mean we can’t continue to move forward.

What does practicing forgiveness look like? In my opinion, it will look different for everyone just as grief does because it is a very personal journey. To try and keep it simple, here is how I view the forgiveness process:

  • Acknowledging the actions that have harmed us
  • Identifying the ways in which we have been harmed by them
  • Recognizing and understanding that we can’t change what happened
  • Choosing to let go of these feelings in order to refocus on what we have control over in the process of moving forward

This is much easier said than done, but keep in mind that we don’t have to get it right every time. We just have to make the decision to try and continue trying until we get it right most of the time.

The overall goal is to improve our quality of life so that when we are triggered – by a time of year, a place, a conversation, a person, et cetera – it doesn’t stop us in our tracks and change our outlook on the rest of the day. As a result, we can take a pause, work through those feelings, acknowledge one way we are still grateful for this current moment, and remain present for ourselves, our friends, and our families.

One day, you will look back and find meaning in these experiences. You will understand that there was a reason you went through what you did to grow as a person. Practicing forgiveness will take less and less effort as time goes on, and one day you won’t even notice how often you are actually doing it.

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