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Why Forgive Someone After They Die?


While pondering a traumatic experience from my childhood, the following question came to mind, “Does forgiving really make a difference if the person has already died?” This incident was years and years ago, and everyone else involved was now dead, so at first, I figured it was a non-issue. However, it became evident that it was an issue.

This incident had come back to my conscious thought for resolution. I needed to forgive everyone involved, including myself. This was important because until I did so, I was still using that incident, and the stories I had invented around it, as a valid measure of my worth today – I was letting what I didn’t know as a child determine what I could expect as an adult. I also needed to let go of any sense of blame on how the others chose to handle this experience.

Here’s what forgiving did for me and how I did so.

Here’s what happened; I was spending the night alone with my grandmother the night she died; and I was only six. No one had any clue this might happen; she seemed in perfect health when my parents dropped me off. However, around midnight she woke me by calling out for me to call my dad (her son). She died before he got there. My parents had no idea how to deal with this for me, so they figured it might be best not to say anything and just be ready if I asked any questions. I didn’t ask. They didn’t offer. The silence around this event lasted until I was 18.

To forgive my parents, I chose to see them as innocent rather than lazy or neglectful. They didn’t choose silence because they were trying to ruin my life forever; they honestly believed what they were doing what was best. I was able to appreciate them for doing the absolute best they knew in that moment, and for loving me enough to try to protect me from things I might not understand.

To forgive me, I reminded myself that as a child I had no real sense of perspective, no filter thru which to evaluate the situation. I was not the cause of the incident, nor in any way responsible for what happened. I was an innocent person who was merely present and witnessed something. None of what happened was really about me. I didn’t kill my grandmother, and she didn’t die just to get away from being with me. I was able to hold my 6-yr-old self in my imagination and comfort her the way I wish I had been comforted way back then. I was able to reassure my inner child that I was safe, still lovable, and still loved.

Is it important to forgive someone, even if they have passed or moved away so all contact has been lost? Absolutely, because forgiveness is about my mindset, how I filter what is happening to and around me. It really isn’t about the other person. Even if someone else has done something really awful to me, forgiveness is about releasing what happened so it no longer distorts my present. I don’t have to let people who have done me wrong back into my life, and forgiveness is how I get them out of my head, too.

Is there someone in your head, taking up space and energy, making you feel badly about yourself or your potential? Forgive them, and forgive yourself. You are whole and lovable and forgiveness helps you see and claim that.