3 Dynamics that Connect Forgiveness and Grief

I launched into business as a Life Coach just on one year ago. I very quickly dived into some Grief Coaching with various clients who wanted to process loss that seemed similar to the loss of our baby girl Anastasia Zoe.

One of the first things that I would say to my clients is that your early experiences of loss will shape every other experience after that. The way you are given permission to grieve then, forms how you will grieve now.

Then you begin to move into work on forgiveness and your theology in practice often shapes how you will know to forgive also. We move from loss into acknowledgment of the grief and the forgiveness required, then often the redefining of relationships based on property now processing that deeper grief.

I know so many people doing great work on themselves in this season. My work and passions connect me globally with so many of these courageous humans. This current reality has brought up both collective grief, generational loss, personal trauma and surfaced pain that has been hidden for years.

Often one of the most pressing questions that comes up as people have to deal with their past or acknowledged that it is now impacting their present is What Is Forgiveness? And How Do I Forgive?

One of the most current writers on forgiveness is Fred Luskin and he teaches that the essence of all unforgiveness is: I didn’t get something I wanted. I got “no.” I wanted my partner to be faithful; they weren’t faithful. I got “no.” I wanted somebody to tell the truth; they told a lie. I got “no.” I wanted to be loved as a child; I wasn‘t loved in a way that I felt good about. I got “no.”

It’s so important to be able to understand the universal experience of this—of objecting to the way life is and trying to substitute the way you want it to be, then getting upset when your substitution doesn’t take.

The essence of forgiveness is being resilient when things don’t go the way you want—to be at peace with “no,” be at peace with what is, be at peace with the vulnerability inherent in human life. Then you have to move forward and live your life without prejudice.

It’s the absence of prejudice that informs forgiveness. You realize that nobody owes you, that you don’t have to take the hurt you suffered and pay it forward to someone else.

You don’t just accept it because life sucks and there’s nothing you can do about it—though that may be true—but you accept it in a way that leaves you willing to give the next moment a chance.

I believe this fully and Fred gives this great language. My revelation is that Relational Resilience builds within you when you can move forward acknowledging the pain, betrayal, loss and grieving it well then through that grief accepting the part you play in releasing forgiveness.

Before you can forgive, you have to grieve. I have known this to be personally true and I am seeing it outwork itself in the work that I do.

Fred Luskin says

‘At the most basic level, forgiveness is on a continuum with grief. The way I understand it now is that when you’re offended or hurt or violated, the natural response is to grieve. All of those problems can be seen as a loss—whether we lose affection or a human being or a dream—and when we lose something, human beings have a natural reintegration process, which we call grief. Then forgiveness is the resolution of grief.

But the challenges we have with grief are twofold: Some people never grieve, and some people grieve for too long.

A deep human being feels pain and allows oneself to suffer because that’s part of the human experience. Without acknowledging that you’ve been wounded and you’ve lost something, you don’t gain the benefit of the experience—of acknowledging that you’ve been hurt and mistreated, but also of healing. And so there is a power that comes from the experience. 

But a deep human being also lets go of their suffering—he or she doesn’t maintain it forever, doesn’t create his or her personality around it, doesn’t use it as a weapon. You don’t cling to the negative part of the experience so that you can have something to hold accountable for your failures.

He has identified three steps of grief that are essential before someone can start to forgive.

Steps to forgiveness The first step is to fully acknowledge the harm done, whether by you or somebody else, and to own the fact that you’ve lost something—that you didn’t get something you wanted, and it hurts. In a therapeutic context, that could be painful work. Sometimes its take therapeutic work before somebody’s ready to forgive because they’ve suppressed a bad experience or been in denial about it, and it may take effort to get them to acknowledge the harm or its consequences.

The second step of the grief process is to experience the feelings normally associated with the negative experience. It’s not enough just to have someone say, “Hey, I was beaten for 12 years and I want to get over it” if they’ve never been miserable about their suffering. They’re going to have to be miserable before they let it go. I’ve never met anyone who suffered real loss and didn’t suffer at some level. You experience a range of emotions—you’re sad, you’re scared. But when you forgive, you understand that there are other options besides continued suffering. You’re not letting go of the event—that’s immutable. But you can transform the emotional response to it.

The third and final step is that what you’re grieving can’t be a secret. I try not to let people forgive stuff that they haven’t shared with others because there’s such good research on resilience showing that people who go through harmful experiences and don’t tell anybody have much worse consequences than people who do tell others.

The human connection is central to healing.

That said, the people who tell everybody about their grievance have the second worst outcomes.

The resilience research shows that what you need for a healthy response to difficulty is to share your problem with a few select, caring people over time. You don’t spill your guts to everybody, and you don’t spill your guts to nobody. For people who don’t have trusted confidants, I have suggested that they go to a therapist or enrol in a Freedom Course or something to make sure they’re not holding any shame.

Shame Resilience is KEY to moving forward.

I am personally seeing these steps be taken by so many people I know right now. I feel like across the earth this practice is happening in many different forms.

When I coach people i teach them something of a practice based on a combination of Sozo Prayer Ministry work and some coaching tools

1. Recognize who and what you need to forgive

2, Release Forgiveness (this is a gift yof give yourself not the other)

3. Renounce the Lies that you have believed (this is part of the shame-off work)

4. Replace the lies with Truth

5. Redefine the Relationships that are needed for you to build resilience into your journey (see next post on boundaries)

To every single coaching client, friend, team member and stranger yet to become a friend, who is on this journey .. keep going.

Do not get taken out with unforgiveness.

Practice these postures again and again.

Seventy times seven if you have to!

This is the best gift for your future.


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