I admit I've made some awful mistakes in my life. I've said things that shouldn't have been expressed (or perhaps expressed differently), and I've remained quiet when I should have spoken up. I've pulled away from people I really felt close to, and I've allowed frustration to persist far too long.
I'm not proud of these faults, and I feel bad about the hurt I've caused others...even inadvertently. Many of us are thinking about conducting ourselves differently this year, and to me that includes the idea of forgiveness.
After a lot of reflection, I believe my mistakes usually happen after I've somehow been hurt myself. Either my ego needs were not being met or I didn't believe myself worthy or capable of anything else in that moment. It's about relationships and expectations, and being able to communicate how we really feel.
In my opinion, forgiveness doesn't mean what happened was okay. It means we're ready to move on from feeling terrible about it.
Consider asking a loved one for their forgiveness if you've hurt them. Acknowledge their pain and your empathy. Assure them their forgiveness won't endorse the mistake, but will instead allow you both to continue building your
Consider forgiving others if you've been hurt. You don't even have to say the words, "I forgive you," just let them know you're ready to move on. Your willingness to go forward without malice may open up new insights both personally for you and in your relationships.
As in many families, there was unfinished business between us when my son David was killed suddenly over a year and a half ago. At his funeral the Rabbi led us in what I call a forgiveness exercise that I found powerful, and I offer it
In our minds we asked David to forgive us for anything that was misunderstood, unsaid, undone, or incomplete. And we imagined him bestowing total forgiveness without hesitation and with great love.
Then we imagined David asking our forgiveness for anything that was misunderstood, unsaid, undone, or incomplete. With full hearts and no hesitation we envisioned ourselves completely forgiving him as well.
This exercise isn't only for circumstances of death, but is equally effective in any situation where communication (for any reason) isn't possible or likely.
There is one last person I haven't yet discussed forgiving. Myself. Yourself. Ourselves. We are the most difficult person to forgive because we're generally the hardest on ourselves.
This is the most important time to remember it doesn't mean the mistake was okay (even if it was understandable). You're acknowledging you're ready to move on from all the suffering attached to it. Releasing that suffering brings transformation in the form of serenity, peace, and a feeling of lightness that energizes your being.
And, after all, isn't that what we're all looking for in 2013?
Did you make any New Year's resolutions this year? If you did, are you keeping them so far?
Most of us start out with the best of intentions, whether it's losing weight, quitting smoking, or getting into better shape. But somehow, over the course of weeks or months, those intentions lose their oomph. For those of us who are grieving the loss of someone or something precious, staying motivated and goal-focused is especially challenging.
Navigating a life transition means you are in the midst of change. It may be an unwelcome change. We find ourselves having to somehow accept something that's unacceptable, or having to make peace with something we never envisioned. All that change makes it almost impossible to think about choosing more change, and yet that's what resolutions are all about.
Since humans typically find comfort in the familiar, I propose we observe the beginning of the New Year in a much gentler way. Let's begin 2013 with meaning and hope instead of difficulty and possibly regret. Here's how:
Take stock of the past year.
Ask yourself what lessons you learned in 2012. Did you experience some difficulties or challenges? Did something go really well for you? Life often teaches us important lessons if we take the time to consider what happened, how or why it happened, and how we responded.
What discoveries did you make about yourself last year? Perhaps you had a new self-realization due to your experiences and you identified a part of yourself that wasn't obvious before. Don't be quick to label these discoveries good or bad; time will clarify whether they're useful or not.
What personal qualities were strengthened last year? Again, don't be in a hurry to self-judge. Think about all your unique features and assess which, if any, were fortified during the year.
Which of your strengths became more apparent in the past year? Focusing only on your strengths (and we all have them), consider which ones became clearer over the past 12 months.
Ponder your ongoing development and priorities.
Based on all the lessons, discoveries, qualities, and strengths of the past year, are you becoming a different person than you used to be? In what ways? Is this a course you'd like to continue or would you like to modify it somewhat? Remember that we all continue to evolve over the course of our lives.
What is important to you now compared to what used to be important? Again, keeping in mind your personal assessment of 2012, think about whether or not your priorities and values have been impacted and, if so, how. Clarify today's priorities.
Determine next steps.
Now that you have assessed the past year, considered your development, and identified your priorities, you're ready to think about what you want to focus on this year. Rather than listing what you want to do, I encourage you to think about who you are and how you're continuing to grow.
What would you like to learn this year? What strengths would you like to enhance? What joys can you bring into your life that aren't there now? How might you embody your values and priorities? The answers to these questions will illuminate your plan for the New Year and keep you moving in a meaningful direction.
I am pleased to announce a new bereavement support group here in my Northfield office.
If you are grieving the loss of a loved one and would like to meet with others on the same journey, this group could be for you.
We will gather monthly (possibly twice a month if there is interest) on a Tuesday evening from 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. I will provide a safe, warm, comfortable environment in which to discuss our experience, facilitating with my usual blend of professional and personal insight. I will also provide coffee, tea, water, and light snacks. The fee per meeting will be $50.
If you (or someone you know) have been thinking about the benefit of grief counseling or support groups, this is an opportunity to "dip a toe in the water" without a huge commitment of time or money. There is space for 8 participants, so let me know as soon as possible by email here or call me at 847-977-4741 if you're interested or with any questions.
I'm looking forward to getting together!
Wishing you health and peace,
Essays on Grief Resilience