Trauma can be like a heavy weight that we carry with us. It can leave deep emotional scars that are hard to heal. One of the emotions that often accompanies trauma is unforgiveness. For us, holding onto unforgiveness can be like carrying an extra burden, making the healing process even more challenging. I want to explore unforgiveness, how it can impact individuals who have experienced trauma, and how to release this heavy burden to begin healing.
Understanding Unforgiveness: taking steps to heal from trauma
Unforgiveness is a feeling of resentment, anger, or bitterness towards someone who has hurt us. It's like holding onto a grudge, unable or unwilling to let go of the negative emotions associated with the trauma. When we've experienced trauma, it can be especially difficult to forgive because the pain feels so deep and unjust.
The Impact of Unforgiveness
Unforgiveness can have a profound impact on individuals who have experienced trauma:
Prolonged Suffering: Holding onto unforgiveness keeps the pain of the trauma alive, extending the suffering and preventing healing.
Emotional Distress: It can lead to increased feelings of anger, anxiety, and depression, making it harder to find peace and happiness.
Physical Health: Unforgiveness can also affect physical health, contributing to high blood pressure and weakened immune systems.
Interpersonal Relationships: It can strain relationships with others as the anger and resentment spill over into interactions with loved ones.
Why Forgiveness Matters
Forgiveness doesn't mean condoning the actions that caused the trauma or letting the wrongdoer off the hook. Instead, forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. It's the decision to let go of the negative emotions tied to the trauma and to free yourself from the burden of unforgiveness.
7 Steps Towards Forgiveness
Here are seven steps to heal from trauma:
Acknowledge Your Feelings: Begin by acknowledging your emotions and validating your pain. It's okay to feel angry, hurt, or betrayed.
Seek Support: Reach out to friends, family, or a therapist who can provide a safe space to discuss your feelings and experiences.
Practice Self-Compassion: You must treat yourself with kindness and understanding, just as you would a friend. Remember that healing takes time.
Understand Forgiveness: Recognize that forgiveness is not about forgetting or excusing the trauma but about freeing yourself from the emotional burden it carries.
Write a Letter: Consider writing a letter to the person who hurt you, even if you never intend to send it. Express your feelings and thoughts, then decide whether you're ready to let go.
Practice Empathy: Try to understand the perspective of the person who hurt you. This doesn't mean justifying their actions but gaining insight into their motivations.
Release and Let Go: Ultimately, forgiveness is about releasing the grip that unforgiveness has on you. It's a conscious choice to release the negative emotions and move towards healing.
Healing from trauma is a journey, and forgiveness is a vital part of that journey. It doesn't happen overnight, and there may be setbacks. But with time and support, it's possible to release the heavy burden of unforgiveness and find a path toward healing.
Unforgiveness can be like an anchor, weighing you down and preventing you from moving forward after experiencing the trauma. Acknowledging your feelings, seeking support, and practicing self-compassion is essential. Forgiveness is not about condoning the trauma but freeing yourself from its emotional grip. As you begin the journey towards forgiveness, you can gradually release the heavy burden and find the path to healing and peace. Remember, you deserve to live a life free from the weight of unforgiveness and have the strength to embark on this transformative journey.
About the Author
My name is Sandra Strozier, MA. As a proud native of Atlanta, Georgia, and a "Grady Baby," I am fueled by a deep passion for empowering individuals through evidence-based curriculum within the Metro Atlanta Family Treatment and Juvenile Courts. With an associate degree in Sociology from Georgia Perimeter College and a BS in Urban Policy Studies, specializing in planning and economic development from Georgia State University's Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, I have built a solid educational foundation. Furthermore, I hold a Master of Arts degree in clinical mental health from Clark Atlanta University, School of Counselor Education.
In my current role as an Enforcement Analyst at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Atlanta, I am committed to making a positive impact on our community. Beyond my work with HUD, I have also founded DIVAS, Incorporated., a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering young individuals to develop self-confidence and effective communication within their family structures. Through DIVAS, I have extended my reach to assist families in healing from the trauma associated with substance use disorders.