2022 - June - Gazette - Releasing Regrets
My understanding of forgiveness expanded in a new way many years ago when our children were younger. It was one afternoon in our home when we had a playdate with another family. All of the kids were playing together and having a good time until two siblings from the other family got into a disagreement. The playing stopped while these two ran to their mother for help. The conversation that ensued was life changing for me.
After the brother and sister each had the chance to share their side of the story, the brother said, “I’m sorry.” I’d obviously heard this phrase many times but what followed was surprising. The sister said, “I forgive you.”
I had lived forty plus years by this point and had never before heard an exchange which ended with, “I forgive you.” This conversation changed my life from that day forward.
We started incorporating that phrase in our own home. When one of us did something for which we had regret, we’d apologize and in that apology was the implicit request for the others’ forgiveness. Next, whomever was the recipient of the apology had the option of saying, “I forgive you.” Because apologies and forgiveness are best done authentically, if we weren’t ready to forgive, we’d say that and wait until we were. I could see the release in our kids when they heard the three words, “I forgive you.” Their whole bodies took in the forgiveness and let go of the guilt and regret. I felt it in myself too.
It was powerful in our family and became a real gift. Unfortunately, we didn’t see forgiveness modeled in very many places in the outside world. Sadly, so many people carry the heavy weight of unforgiveness. I can see it in faces, postures and attitudes. Science has found that forgiveness has a positive effect on physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual health. But forgiveness of others can be difficult and forgiveness of ourselves can be even harder.
I’ve taught classes on forgiveness and am always surprised at the misconceptions people have. Forgiveness is not:
- reconciliation (although that can happen as a part of the process)
- a condoning of actions
- an end to seek justice
- a once and done decision
- a sign of weakness
- a pretense of accepting past hurts
Forgiveness is a choice and the decision to engage in the process and the experience of releasing painful emotions and feelings related to past events. It really is about letting go.
I see a lot of forgiveness and unforgiveness in the dying and grief journeys. As an end-of-life doula, one of the things I talk to dying individuals and their loved ones about is RUGS: Regrets, Unfinished business, Guilt, and Shame. I encourage conversations to help release some of the RUGS before a death occurs.
I also stress that if forgiveness is being sought after a death, it’s never too late. I invite people to befriend their feelings of guilt and regret and find healthy ways to move them to the outside and release them. Some of the ways include writing letters to deceased loved ones and participating in simple rituals of letting go.
For more on releasing regrets, please visit the Koch Funeral Home blog and social media sites. In addition, you are invited to the following gatherings.
- Monday’s Moments Virtual Gatherings on Monday, July 11 from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m.
- Virtual Grief Healing Circles on Wednesday, July 13 from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.
- Monday’s Moments at Sunset Park on Monday, July 18 from noon to 1:30 p.m. Please register by visiting www.CRPR.org.
- Death Café Virtual Gathering on Monday, July 18 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
For more information, please visit the Bereavement Gatherings and Events page on the Koch Funeral Home website. To reserve your spot and receive the invitation links, email Jackie@JackieHook.com, call 814-237-2712 or visit the Koch Funeral Home Facebook page @kochFH. If there are changes to our in-person gatherings because of COVID, we will provide updates on the website.
Jackie Naginey Hook, MA, is a spiritual director, celebrant and end-of-life doula. She coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program through Koch Funeral Home in State College. For more information, please call 814-237-2712 or visit www.kochfuneralhome.com.