Letting go off the past and forgiving my parents has been an ongoing journey which continues. In this article I am sharing some of the tips that helped me any my clients live happier and more peaceful lives while having a cordial relationship with the parents. My father died almost 20 years ago in a hiking accident when I just arrived to the US so I was not even able to be present at the funeral. He was only 52 years old and as I am writing this I am approaching my 50th birthday. A few days ago I had an unpleasant phone conversation with my mother who was her usual negative, critical self, and at times like this what works best for me is to take care of me and detach from my mom until I feel stronger.
I started better understanding the dynamic when I entered my graduate school at the University of Miami pursuing my Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapist. Having started my own therapy and healing process, I finally understood my purpose for being here – while healing myself, it became evident that my joy and passion is to help others find love, peace, and harmony and learning how to let go off the past and the victim role.
Forgiving your parents is more about YOU than your parents. As Harold H Bloomfield says in his book Making Peace with Your Parents, p. 9, “there are emotional wounds and even health burdens that we suffer from the unfinished business with our parents.” We all have deep desire to be loved by our parents who for the most part fall short of our expectations and this is the reason that we suffer. Until I truly understood that my mother did the best that she could under the circumstances (her father, my grandfather was a violent alcoholic who suffered from untreated PTSD related to 2nd World War) I was not able to start healing the relationship. While we have a cordial relationship, I still struggle with her negative thinking. She hasn’t changed, but I have because I didn’t want to be miserable all the time and worry constantly. I understand now better that her way of showing love to me is by expressing worries/concern and by sending me gifts including money in the past when I lost my job.
Here are some suggestions that might help you as well:
1. Heal your resentments
Make a list of your resentments in detail. Let any feelings come up and do not be afraid to release and cry. You can also write a letter and don’t send it; It’s for the purpose of your healing. Remember, it’s never too late to forgive and let go.
2. Learn to express difficult emotions in more neutral way and set healthy limits
Use active listening skills and “I” statements. Example, I felt hurt when you did this…instead of blame and defensiveness. Make conscious effort to stay relaxed, attentive, and receptive. Also learn to let go of your feelings of anger or even rage safely and privately. I use breathing techniques, journaling, or going for a walk.
3.Avoid getting caught in melodrama
Dr. Bloomfield says, p. 113 “If you conscientiously work through your resentments, learn to express love and constructive anger, and defuse the guilt and intimidation, what your parent does or says will no longer have the power to control your health and well-being."
In some cases, you will need to detach from your family to provide the time and distance necessary to heal yourself and the relationship with your parents. Also, before a visit, set a definite time limit, set some ground rules (such as what topics you will not discuss in my case pretty much anything related to finances, my love life, or legal issues) and stay healthy and fit during the visit.
4. Communicate your needs and desires clearly
You can choose to replace irrational beliefs and beliefs that are different from what your parents had taught you. You are the creator of your own life.
5. Become your own “best parent”
Dr. Bloomifeld says (p. 194) “crucial to making peace with your parents is discovering that you are responsible for your own health and happiness. Do what makes you happy and don’t stay with people that are toxic out of obligation. Find ways to nurture yourself and have fun. You deserve it!