Grief and Forgiveness
I recently had some memories and sadness come up regarding my biological father. Unfortunately, he died only three days after his birthday several years ago. This year on his birthday I realized if he were still alive, he would have turned 70. The thought of that age milestone triggered many thoughts, along with feelings of sadness and grief.
As I sat with my feelings, a great story from the late Wayne Dyer came to mind. I’ll briefly paraphrase the story for you:
After several years of doing decent work as a Psychologist but feeling a lot of failure in his personal life, Wayne Dyer went to his Father’s grave site. Wayne spent a lot of time and energy in his adult life trying to meet his father. Four years before visiting his Father’s grave, Wayne heard from a cousin who told him his Father died several years before.
Wayne had a lot of unfinished business with his Dad. He never saw him but dreamed of him frequently, would feel angry, and was seeking some closure to his unanswered questions.
That day Wayne Dyer visited his Father’s grave site was the first time he met his Father. He had so much rage inside; he actually thought about pissing on his Father’s grave. He resisted the urge, reasoned with his feelings for a while and then struck up a conversation with his Father. Wayne cried, shouted, and demanded answers from a grave.
As the hours passed, Wayne Dyer began to feel a deep sense of relief and calm. He became quiet and still. He began to walk away but then felt an overwhelming force drawing him back in. He returned to the site and said, “I somehow feel as if I were sent here today and that you had something to do with it. I don’t know what your role is, or even if you have one, but I am certain that the time has come to abandon this anger and hatred that I have carried around so painfully for so long. I want you to know that as of this moment, right now, all of that is gone. I forgive you.”
Wayne had realized his time of hateful thoughts was complete. He said “From now on I send you love and compassion.”
As Wayne carried on with his life, he felt peace, cleansing, and a brand-new sense of lightness.
When Wayne returned home, he was a changed man. He made plans to relocate and birth something that was dominating his inner world: his first book.
The beginning of that story from Wayne Dyer reminded me of the relationship I had with my biological father. His name was Donald. He, like Wayne Dyer’s Father, was an alcoholic. He also was a Vietnam Veteran who suffered from PTSD.
Although my dad was involved in my life, I felt like I knew him just a little bit. What pained me greatly was that relating with my dad was always on his terms, within his rigid boundaries and comfort levels. My dad was very troubled, and as a sensitive boy and young man, I respected his limits but longed for a deeper connection.
More recently, after I completed a specialized training in Grief Companioning, I decided to write my biological father a letter. I’d like to share that letter with you now. It starts like this…
“Now that you’re gone, it’s time for me to stop judging you. A lot of time has passed since your death and my memories have been overpowered with the ways I wished you were different. I understand your miss-trust of the world around you but I still don’t know why you never let me in and gave me the chance to know you as my father. In my adult life, I felt like you saw me often as a friend and not a family member. Dad, I never understood you, the real you, at least the you I saw as a dad through his son’s eyes.
For a long time I’ve judged you as a man who never lived to his potential. I’m very sorry for that, Dad. I truly am. I’m also ready to stop thinking that when you come to mind. It’s just that I saw something in you that I never got the chance to see expressed. I wanted to feel connected to you and know who you are. I find myself feeling sad that you’ve been dead over 13 years and I’m still yearning to know more about your positive qualities.
There’s one question I still wonder about you. With all of your suffering in your living years, did you ever want to change? I recall a conversation with your therapist at the VA hospital who told me that she believed you didn’t. Rather, you wanted a platform so you could complain and be heard. Is that true Dad? Is that all you wanted?
It breaks my heart to learn that you were too pained to face your demons. But I do respect your efforts. In that regard, you did teach me to hang on to hope. Thank you for that, Dad. I didn’t realize how important that was till now.
These are the silver linings that I want more from you Dad. Or better yet, the blessings as I express more compassion to you and as I reflect on your relationship, hoping to get to know you more.
Now that I forgive you I want you to know that I’m listening. I’m listening with my heart. Although your physical body no longer exists, I still feel Spiritually connected to you. I know and feel our relationship continuing. And I hope to learn as much as I can from you.
Writing my letter helped me clear up some feelings I wasn’t previously aware of. If you’re thinking of someone who has passed on but you didn’t get to know them the way you wanted to, I highly recommend writing them a letter or talking to them at their grave site. Both are tremendously helpful in the healing process.
Doing something like writing a letter or talking to the Spirit of someone deceased helps to move those feelings of grief and help forgive. Forgiving can help you feel lighter and more joy. It may even clear out the inner self-sabotaging feelings that keep you stuck in certain parts of life.
Wayne Dyer knew he had bigger things to accomplish in life. After the day with his father at the grave site, he found himself flowing in abundance, and living with more joy.
After I wrote my letter, I felt a deeper relationship with my father. That was something I had wanted all my life. It also helped to find courage to talk more about my dad with my siblings and other relatives.