When we grieve the death of a loved one, it can bring up unresolved issues, wounds and pain. Part of the grieving process is to review the entire relationship and all it has mean to you. I am posting a copy of Chapter 8 which might help you deal with some of those issues that have come up. The best way through it is to work through it. Forgiveness is often a vital piece in coming to a healing place. I’m praying for you as you consider the need for forgiveness.
Love and Prayers, my friends.
MY FOREVER MEMORIES OF YOU
I Need to Forgive
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15
Sharing Our Experiences:
Unresolved lingering grief is often due to a deep hurt that was never resolved. It can haunt the griever and leaves them bitter since it appears there is no way to take care of it. Forgiveness is not for the one who hurt us—but actually for our own benefit. Carrying bitterness and anger around is like a vicious cancer growing in our spirit. It consumes us, steals our joy, robs our peace and leaks out poison. Even if we are innocent and the hurt was horrific, we still need to forgive. Every real relationship requires forgiveness. Perhaps the deceased wasn’t there for you when they should have been; maybe they abused, neglected or deserted you. Whatever they did wrong was between them and God. Whether you forgive or not is now between you and God. Even if it seems there is absolutely nothing that needs to be forgiven. It might be wise to read this chapter anyway. Perhaps some of the things people say to you upon your loved one’s death needs forgiveness. Forgiveness is always needed. There are many hard things about grieving. Forgiving is one of them.
My Story- I Need to Forgive
At the time of Steve’s death, I couldn’t think of anything I needed to forgive him for. He had been expected to die any time for about 4 years. Every time we said goodnight, or I left to take the kids to school, we both realized he could die while I was gone. Steve also had several experiences where he died and was brought back. After living on the brink of death for so long, you realize that the last thing you say or do could be your last memory. It causes you to live deeply and not leave things unfinished. We both cherished each moment like it could be the last. I couldn’t imagine needing to forgive him for anything. He had fought hard and long to stay with us. He suffered intensely yet didn’t let that rob him of living to the fullest.
A few days before his death, I had a fleeting thought. The kids needed new shoes so badly yet we had absolutely no money to buy any. I thought how unfair it was that Steve’s illness had taken so much from our family. That thought shocked me. As soon as I thought it, I was upset for feeling it. It was definitely not Steve’s choice to be sick. I know he felt horrible that his illness had made it so hard on me and the kids. I later realized that even though I didn’t directly blame Steve (because he was one of the most selfless people I had ever known) that I still needed to forgive him.
Another time, after his death when I was left to face some huge financial issues and critical problems with my children, I found myself tempted to get really angry at being left alone to face life without him. Anger comes in many forms during grief and needs to be dealt with quickly before the sin of bitterness sets in. I found myself angry that others got to have a longer life with their loved one than I did; or angry at things people said while I was grieving; and angry that some of our closest friends left us in our greatest time of need when Steve had such a long hard illness. They couldn’t handle it.
Though we all have the need to forgive, I have worked with people who have had to forgive far worse than I have ever experienced. Some have had to ask God help them forgive a loved one’s suicide; or the person who murdered their loved one; or a whole missing family whose remains were found five years later (but the case is still unsolved). Some have had to forgive the person who died for mentally, physically or sexually abusing them during their lifetime. Some need to forgive a parent for abandoning them when they were young. Death does not relieve us from the need to forgive no matter how simple or horrible the deed was. It doesn’t even matter that we were completely innocent and the offender was evil. Forgiveness is not for the offender; it is for us. It frees us to fully receive God’s forgiveness and love in our own lives.
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13
Your Story- I Need to Forgive
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37
(This may be a hard chapter to go through, but go through it any way. It is impossible to forgive without God’s help. Our human nature wants to hold on to the pain and blame. God knows that we will only be complete and free when we accept His forgiveness and practice forgiving others. Write what you are angry about—then be prepared to forgive. There will be more on the forgiving part.)
“Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who insult you.” Luke 6:28
Helpful Input- I Need to Forgive
Forgiveness is a hard teaching, not only for when you’re grieving, but in any aspect of life. It can be amplified when you are going through all the emotions that can accompany grief. We may fully have the right to be hurt and angry. In our complete innocence, we might have been somehow violated. It is true, we have the choice to hold on to our bitterness and anger. Our hearts may cry out for vengeance. God will listen to our cries. Then He will patiently remind us that we still need to forgive.
Dear friend, you may be really angry upon reading this. You may be calling out, “I have the right to be angry!” “It’s my choice to not forgive.” “I will never ever be able to forgive.”
You might be ready to skip this chapter or close this book altogether at this moment, but you always have the need to forgive in front of you. There is no way to fully receive God’s forgiveness unless we forgive. There is no way to be free from the prison of hatred, irritation, bitterness and anger without forgiving. The lack of forgiveness holds us back from the abundant life given to us through Jesus Christ. When we hold something against someone, it is like an invisible wall that blocks the complete forgiveness God gives us. It deeply affects our relationship with the Lord.
I know what not forgiving can do to a person. When I was preschool to first grade, a family friend sexually abused me. He was a grown man who purposely perpetrated vile acts against a little innocent girl. He was fully in the wrong and I was clearly innocent. I didn’t even understand, yet I knew it was wrong. I tried to tell someone but probably didn’t know how to say it. Little did I know that un-forgiveness could cause such evilness to grow in my innocent heart. I was well into my twenties before I realized what a toll not forgiving took upon my soul. I looked fine on the outside, but there was a poison flowing in my spirit. It was un-forgiveness. It had spread to include an ugly bitterness against not only the guilty man, but those who I thought should be protecting me. It caused pure hatred and a sick feeling to well up inside me at the very thought of these people. This dark vein that ran through me had a strong hold over me. I didn’t fully realize how strong until I was able to begin to forgive. I learned when you belong to the Lord, we are called to forgive those who have hurt us.
Forgiveness is much more than simply saying, “I forgive.” (Although the first few times, that is one of the hardest things to do.) It is really impossible to forgive on our own. We need to ask God to help us forgive. He is the Author and Perfector of forgiveness. His love is so far above ours that He sacrificed His own Son Jesus Christ to take our shame and blame of sin. Jesus is truly the only innocent person there has ever been. God sent Him specifically to take our sins so we could live blameless with Him forever and ever. When Jesus was dying on the cross for all our sins, He asked our Father in Heaven to forgive us, for we didn’t realize what we were doing.
We cannot live free from the effects of the sin of un-forgiveness until we let go of it. We were made in God’s image- with the ability to forgive, as we have been forgiven. It frees us up to live more fully with God. Not forgiving (no matter how deep the crime) stands between us and the Lord. It also affects all our other relationships.
Many people find themselves angry at God when they are grieving the death of their loved one. They drive themselves crazy asking “why?” “Why did God take my loved one?” “Why didn’t I die instead?” “How could God let someone so good die?” “How can I trust a God who let something like this happen?” God did not plan for death, suffering and disaster. He designed us to walk and live peacefully with Him for all eternity. Yet He also gave us free choice. None of us has been able to live without sin. It is sin that causes death, grief, sorrow, illness, violence. God will listen to our “Why’s?” and then draw us closer to Him through Jesus Christ. He will not always answer the why? So we have to let go of the blame, questioning and anger. When we let go of our un-forgiveness toward God, we will find the One who will never ever leave us—the one who will bathe us in eternal life with Him.
You stand at a crossroad when you face the death of a loved one. We begin to realize the shortness of life, the forever-ness of eternity, and our need for a relationship with God. There may not be a real need for forgiveness for anything your departed loved one did. You may have already forgiven for anything that stood between you. If so, you are blessed—or perhaps not being completely honest. Even the very best relationships require forgiveness. There is no way any of us can live without either purposely or unintentionally hurting those around us.
Forgiveness becomes so much easier the more we ask God to help us do it. Perhaps that’s why I felt like I didn’t need to forgive Steve much when he died. I had a lot of practice before, so it became easier to forgive more quickly. Every single one of us needs to forgive and be forgiven. I’m praying for you as you face this opportunity.
“If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness therefore You are feared.” Psalm 130:3
Practical Ideas- I Need to Forgive
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” Matthew 18:21-22
Look back on your memories of your “Remember When” chapter. Do any of those memories spark anger, resentment, hurt? Perhaps they are things you need to forgive your loved one for?
Ask God to search your heart and let you know what things you are holding on to that need to be forgiven.
Be willing to give up your right to harbor anger and obey God in His call to forgive.
Realize it often takes more than one time to forgive. New situations will cause you to recall old hurts and you will need to forgive all over again.
You shouldn’t necessarily tell the person you forgive them. That’s between you and God. Sometimes telling them will escalate the issue to a whole new level- like “Oh yeah? You want to forgive me? Well, how about when you did this to me?”
Pray for those who have caused you pain. As you forgive them, ask God to bless them with a closer life with Him. Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies. Sometimes those we love the most can seem like the most hurtful enemy.
Remember that our battle is not against flesh and blood (a person). It is against the powers of spiritual darkness (Ephesians 6:12)
Anger itself is not a sin. However, if we let it turn into bitterness or un-forgiveness, it can become a sin. While grieving, you may be easily angered by what people say or do. Pray about it quickly. Pray for the one who made you angry and forgive them so you can be free from sin.
If your anger is against your loved one who has died, you can still forgive them. They do not need to personally hear you forgive them.
If you are hurt or angry by what someone says or does as you grieve, pray for them and forgive them. They probably don’t even realize they hurt you.
Those closest to you may not grieve the same way you do. It may cause tension or hard feelings between you. When tempted to be angry, chose forgiveness and prayer instead.
Write a letter to God to tell him about how angry, hurt, upset you are. He will listen to your heart and then help you forgive the one caused it. David often raved about his anger, the unfairness, his hurts to the Lord in the book of Psalms. God helped him forgive the very ones he vented about. David was “a man after God’s heart.”
Use God as your filter to run things through before you speak or react in anger. Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger (James 1:19)
If you are mad at God, let Him know. He already knows but is waiting for you to express it. Let go of the anger against Him and you will discover He is truly what you need.
Write a letter to the person you need to forgive…then read it out loud to yourself or a trusted friend… then shred it or burn it.
If you need to, write seventy-seven letters to forgive, read out loud and shred.
If the person continually wounds you, put some distance between you. It is easier to forgive from afar.
“Get rid of your bitterness, hot tempers, anger, loud quarreling, cursing and hatred. Be kind to each other, sympathetic, forgiving each other as God has forgiven you through Christ.” Ephesians 4:31-32
Interactive Work page- I Need to Forgive
Forgiveness doesn’t just happen. It is a choice. Be willing to relinquish your right to be angry; and instead choose to forgive as God has forgiven us. You will be greatly blessed with the peace of Jesus Christ and a freedom from the sin of un-forgiveness.
As you review your relationship with your loved one, what comes to mind that needs forgiveness?
Is there someone who played a part in your loved one’s death that requires forgiveness? (a doctor, a drunk driver, the person who sold them drugs…)
List those who need forgiveness who have said something hurtful since your loved one’s death (“It’s OK. You’ll have another baby.” “God needed them more than you.” “I know how you feel.” “You can marry again.” “You should be over it by now.”…)
What about those who try to tell you how to grieve? Or think they know what activities you should be doing? Or how long you should take to grieve? Write down those names and choose to forgive.
Have there been family arguments and misunderstandings over possessions, money, property or the care given to your loved one? Write down what needs to be forgiven in these circumstances:
“Make sure no one ever pays back one wrong with another wrong. Instead, always try to do what is good for each other and everyone else.” 1 Thessalonians 5:15
Prayer Journal- I Need To Forgive
“Try to live peacefully with everyone, and try to live holy lives, because if you don’t, you will not see the Lord. Make sure that everyone has kindness from God so that bitterness doesn’t take root and grow to cause trouble that corrupts many of you.” Hebrews 12:14-15
My Prayer Journal- I Need To Forgive
(Once again, these are excerpts from my prayer journal—pieced together over several occasions.)
Help me with this anger! Someone started a fund which a lot of wonderful people gave money to. I know they all wanted to help a young widow with four children. It was a pretty good amount of money, but it made me so mad! I was shocked how mad I was. Where were those people when Steve needed them so badly? I don’t want the money! I want Steve back! Even as I pray about this, I realize, these people were there the best they could be during Steve’s illness. They couldn’t have paid his medical bills. They couldn’t save him. They couldn’t bring him relief or peace. Only You could do those things. Father, I realize they want to help the kids and I. I forgive those who didn’t know how to be there for us. I truly am grateful for the generosity and compassion of all those who gave. Help me grieve with grace, knowing You are with me. Give me wisdom to know how best to use the money they are giving us.
Lord, the momma bear in me came out growling today. My mom meant well. She was going to help with the kids, and started making choices for them that were not her choices to make. She probably assumed I was too upset or weak to care for my children. From my usually soft voice came a strong and powerful explosion. I let her know these were my children and it was my family and she will not take it over. Father, I know my mom likes to take the lead, but I needed to set that boundary loud and clear right away. Steve may be gone now, but I will do whatever it takes to keep my family together and care for my children. Father, I need to forgive my mom for wanting to take over, yet I’m so glad You gave me the strength to make it clear that I will care for my children. I am trusting You to help me. Lord, as time goes on, show me how I can let my mom help—without taking over. She is part of our family, too—just not the head! With Steve gone, I know You are the head of our family.
Father, today I need You again. My daughter is having such a hard time with her dad’s death. I thought she would—since she struggled with his illness so much. She’s making poor choices and causing great pain. I know she doesn’t mean to. She is fifteen and losing her dad at such a critical age has shaken everything in her. Father, it’s easier to forgive her for the pain she causes because I understand where it’s coming from. I know her heart. I know she won’t always act this way. The real challenge for me is to forgive the people who give me every kind of advice you can image about my daughter. I’ve had some infer that she is a bad girl and that I am not a good mom. I absolutely know that both of those are not true. Father, help me forgive those who give well-meaning advice. They are not living our lives. Help me be patient with them as they try to tell me how I should raise my daughter. Help me choose wisely who I speak to about what’s going on. Put someone in my life who loves her, believes in her and knows that the way she is acting is not who she really is. That’s You, isn’t it, Lord. You love her even more than me.
“Whoever forgives an offense seeks love, but whoever keeps bringing up the issue separates the closest of friends.” Proverbs 17:9
Your Prayer Journal- I Need To Forgive
“We love because He first loved us. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” 1 John 4:19-21
(Ask God to help you forgive your loved one for anything that was left unsettled; to forgive those who hurt you now, and to let go of any anger you hold against the Lord.)
“And what I have forgiven- if there is anything to forgive- I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” 2 Corinthians 2:10b-11