How to Forgive When a Loved One Leaves

When loved ones leave, the impact can be devastating. Here are 3 steps to healing your heart.

Posted in , Jan 5, 2016

A hand releases a dove representing how to forgive when a loved one leaves, The Power of Forgivenss

Excerpted and adapted from The Power of Forgiveness by Joan Gattuso with the permission of TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Copyright © 2015 by Joan Gattuso.

There are those we presume will be in our lives for a lifetime--our parents, our siblings, our spouse, our children, our best friends, other close family members, our business partners. Then the vagaries of life occur, and the son pulls away from the family and refuses further communication. This causes suffering for everyone in the family. Without apparent reason the middle-aged husband walks out of his marriage by announcing one morning at the breakfast table that he has been unhappy for years and is leaving. He says there is no hope for reconciliation. In fact, he has already secretly packed and never returns after his cereal and coffee. His wife, his children, his stepchildren are all in shock, and they suffer.

These events are real. They happen every day, and they inevitably cause much suffering. Our minds and souls count on these intimate relationships lasting forever. They are our anchors, and they can be our plumb bobs to keep us centered. But our histories and life experiences speak of something very different. True friends and family members invest tremendous amounts of self in relationships. We expect them to last forever, and then by another's choice or another's death they are no more. At such times the more we cling, the more we rehash every occurrence, every word spoken, looking for signs and meanings, the more we cause ourselves to suffer, and often greatly.

Here are 3 steps to forgiving a loved one who leaves:

1) Realize the relationship was for a reason and not a lifetime. 

We can begin to transform the pain and shock, as well as heal our shattered feelings when slowly we begin to realize that the relationship, in spite of its longevity and complexity, was for a reason and not a lifetime. Perhaps we do not yet understand all of the whys, but we do realize it is complete. We must in order to move on from loss and misery. With that realization we have tremendous opportunity to grow spiritually by faithfully and regularly releasing the hurt and expectations of the past. We do this by beginning the process of forgiving the other person for pulling away, for his unskilled behavior or his refusal to communicate. It is also necessary to forgive ourselves in connection with the dismantling of hte relationship. We forgive for any codependency, for not picking up the clues of the other pulling away or becoming preoccupied or disinterested. 

2) Remember the good times.

Next it is very helpful to feel grateful for the good that was in the relationship--the happiness, the joys, the sharing of significant times, the life lessons. Doing so will keep your heart energy open and soft. To go through such a loss does cause much pain, but no one needs to come out of it with a hardened heart that will either compound or bury the hurt.

3) Keep forgiving.

Keep forgiving, keep blessing and letting go until you literally feel the shift inside you. An affirmation many have used successfully is: "I forgive you, I bless you, I release you, I let you go." Repeat this affirmation for the days, weeks, or months necessary until a positive shift happens within you. When that occurs add to the end of the affirmation, "I love you." This new spiritually aware understanding brings about shift in your consciousness, and you will begin to experience the miracle of healing.

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