Assignment 8 - The Big Forgive
Assignment #8 Worksheet: The Big Forgive
After some introspection, these are three incidences and people which I’ve identified I hold some resentment towards:
1) My mom for not taking care of her own health and having a heart attack as a result.
8 or 9
2) Myself for bringing Sean to my uncle's house while Sean was sick. I think my uncle caught a cold from Sean which he never recovered from. 7 or 8
3) Kath for not contacting me more when the kids were little to see if we wanted to do playdates with them. 6 or 7
How I rate the emotional impact, on a scale of 1-10, of each of the grievances listed above is: (Write down the ratings next to your list above.)
One way holding this resentment benefits my health is:
- There is no benefit to holding resentment for #3.
- For #1 - I've felt that holding this resentment has been responsible for my internal drive to make healthy choices for myself and my family. Just thinking about it now, my brain is telling me that resenting her for dying doesn't directly help anyone, but I've felt this way for so long—I've depended on it in a way—so I'm really not convinced that there isn't some benefit to my feelings, at least in the form of lessons learned. I am eager to see how writing this story out will change how I feel about this. For now, I don't really see my point of view changing. BUT, I also know better, so I'm looking forward to doing this.
- For #2 – I also feel like I learned a hard lesson that is important to me. Although I didn't know that Sean's cold would necessarily get my uncle sick, and it's not 100% the reason for his eventual death, I still feel that I was really selfish deciding to stay at his house while Sean was sick. If I could do it again, I might have seen if we could have stayed with friends or maybe at least seen if there was an alternative to keep the virus away from my uncle. I feel like freeing myself from this resentment is letting myself off the hook for something I should have done differently. I'll have to think about this one some more after writing out #1. I know there is even a quote from the chapter that may help me let go of this, but I'll just have to come back to it.
Three feelings I would enjoy if I were able to completely eliminate this resentment (#1) from my mind and heart are:
1) A clear(er) conscience, lightness. (I would like to be rid of any resentment towards my mom. It hurts me to admit that I even hold this resentment towards her. It's not fair to her, and it's not right.)
2) Pride in being able to honor my mom the way she deserves. (I would like to feel that I'm honoring her memory by not holding this resentment.)
3) Less stress in my relationships with others. (It's become apparent to me while thinking about this assignment that this resentment affects how I feel about and interact with other people I love. Although I've been telling myself that this resentment somehow helps me to support them to be healthy, I'm realizing that it is actually preventing me from accepting them for who they are. And that doesn't help them to be healthy, nor does it support my desire to have good relationships with them.)
Three ways my health and life would improve as a result of completely forgiving the offender and letting go of this resentment are:
1) My relationships would improve. I would put less pressure on those that I love to make healthy decisions and instead, support and encourage them when they are ready. I want to provide my loved ones with unconditional love.
2) I may actually find that releasing this resentment will open my mind to other ideas that will help me improve my own health and the health of my family. Right now, I sort of feel restricted by old thoughts.
3) I would enjoy a clearer/cleaner heart when thinking about my mom. I want to get rid of the “I only wish....”
My Big Hurt story which expresses how I perceive the hurtful incident goes like this:
My mom died at the age of 59. She had a heart attack in her sleep and was just gone. I've had over 10 years to deal with this, but it still strikes me that she was there one day and a few hours later, she was gone. At any rate, I guess I need to back up a bit to explain why I perceived this as a “big hurt” story.
When she was about 53 years old, my mom had to have an angioplasty. I think she had been having chest pains, so they did an angiogram and decided that she needed the angioplasty. She was able to lose a bunch of weight after the surgery. I saw her at a big family reunion and was shocked that she looked so much thinner. I also remember worrying about the fact that she then weighed less than me. UGH. How's that for healthy support? At any rate, she did it—she lost a significant amount of weight. She seemed to be pretty happy about the results, although I don't think she enjoyed the new diet. She was making herself do it, but she didn't like eating that way. She was doing things like avoiding adding salt, and she complained that everything tasted like cardboard. I remember feeling so smug—like -I- didn't have to worry about eating cardboard because -I- didn't have the health problems she did. (How stupid can a young adult be?) Well, I don't know how it happened, but she fell off the dieting wagon (as I guess anyone who feels like she's eating cardboard will do). She gained the weight back. A few years later, my parents let me know that my mom had had another angioplasty, this time with a stent/cage put into her artery to keep it from collapsing. I don't know HOW it escaped me that this was a BIG DEAL. My parents always made everything seem like NOT a big deal. And I was naïve enough to believe them. Apparently, she started feeling chest pains during a school trip to Washington D.C. while they were walking around the museums and such. (She was a middle school teacher.) When she got back home to California, she went to the doctor and found out she had to have the surgery. For some reason, after this second surgery, I don't remember her changing her diet. Of course I wasn't living at home, so I didn't see her very often. I had no idea what struggles she was facing on a day to day basis. And I didn't think much of it—perhaps I just figured that she was on cholesterol medication, and if it got too bad, she'd just have another angioplasty. Pretty simple, right?
Well, no, unfortunately it wasn't that simple. At 2 AM on July 20th, 2000, my dad called me to tell me that my mom had died. She had a heart attack while she was sleeping. Without reliving the details, I just remember screaming my head off when I finally realized what had happened. Unfortunately, it was into my brother's ear over the phone that I lost it at the top of my lungs. She was gone. She was gone. I wouldn't get to talk to her again.... ever. I felt like someone had punched a hole in my chest and ripped out my heart. And it felt that way for a good 3 years. I went through so many emotions during those 3 years – Complete desolation, anger, hopelessness, anger, confusion.... I was angry at the doctor who had changed her medication a few weeks prior to her heart attack. Our family sort of came to the conclusion that the medication was keeping her alive. And to have it be changed—that caused her death. I was so angry with the doctor at first. Then over time, after I faced my own issues with weight and cholesterol, my point of view changed.
When my doctor tried to put me on cholesterol medication later that year, I refused and made drastic changes to what I ate. IMMEDIATELY. (I was 25 years old.) Changing what I ate was hard. The diet itself wasn't the healthiest diet, but it was better than what I was eating before then. And it was HARD. I HATED IT most of the time. It was HARD. But I did it. I did it because if I didn't, I saw myself following the same path my mom did. I was too young to have cholesterol problems, too young to be on lifelong cholesterol medication, and too young to die of a heart attack. My mom was 59 and she was too young to die of a heart attack. But she did.
As I went through this ordeal of changing how I ate to lower my cholesterol, my point of view on my mom's death slowly shifted. I started to feel that she could have done what I was doing. She could have changed the way she ate. Sure, it was HARD, but if she wanted it badly enough, she could have done it. Anyone could do anything if they tried hard enough, right? That is what my parents told me as I was growing up, and I believed it. So why didn't she do it? Why didn't she TRY to eat healthier? Why couldn't she keep herself healthy enough to stay alive? I thought to myself—if she knew she would die if she didn't change the way she ate, she would have done it—just like I did. And then I'd counter with, but she KNEW she could die—she had 2 surgeries to keep her from dying because of her cholesterol and all the plaque that had formed in her arteries.
At times, I felt and still feel like there was really no excuse. She should have known better. She should have done better. I felt like she chose to ignore what she needed to do to be healthy and stay alive—not just for herself, but for me. It hurts me even now—to feel like she had a choice—she had a choice to be healthy and stay alive and be there for me, but she didn't choose that. She choose to take the easy way out—to eat fast food and all sorts of other crap that didn't do a darn thing other than kill her. She chose that over doing something hard in order to be here. I feel like she left me.
I miss her so much. I don't want to be mad at her. I just want to see her again. I wish I could see her—I wish I could have a chance to help her. I wish I could have supported her better. I wish I knew what was going to happen. If I knew, I would have done whatever I could to stop it from happening. If she really knew what was going to happen, she would have done something to stop it from happening, too, right? I know she loved me. I just wish there was some way we all could have known. She must not have really understood what could happen. I know she wouldn't leave me. She would never choose to leave me. She would have never chosen to miss seeing me get married... to see me become a mom... to get to meet my kids. If she had any idea what she was going to miss—she would have done something. We all would have. I guess I'm not really angry. I just miss her so much. It's hard to miss her so much. I guess in a way, blaming her for the choices she made about her health keeps me from having to feel the pain of missing her and just not being able to do anything about it. I feel so helpless when I think about how much I miss her. I guess I feel like blaming her for the choices she made gives me something to latch on to. It gives me some sort of power over something—power over my choices and power to affect those around me to make healthy choices, too. I couldn't stand it if I thought my loved ones would suffer for something I could help prevent. And maybe I blame her for my feeling that way—like I have this burden—this responsibility to do whatever I can—everything in my power, and I guess everything that is not in my power—to make sure the people I love don't get hurt or die because of unhealthy choices. But that's not really her fault. And it's not really my responsibility. I know that's another chapter, but that is a hard one for me to let go of, too. It's not my responsibility. What IS my responsibility? Ok, I'm going to have to put that on hold until the next chapter.
Focusing on how I feel about my mom again.... Did she choose to die? No, of course not. Did she choose to make poor health decisions and let herself die? No—I don't think so. I know that she would have chosen to do whatever it took if she really understood the immediate consequences. She didn't choose to leave me. She would NEVER leave me. I bet she misses me as much as I miss her.
So, even after all this, I unselfishly and courageously grant my mom complete forgiveness, out of the goodness of my heart. Through this act of grace and mercy, I have completely let go of the issue once and for all. And I have also opened up my heart to FEEL all the love I have for her—that I've always had for her and all the love she had and has for me. I love you, Mom. I miss you. I forgive you.
A nonjudgmental, unconditionally supportive person I can talk through my Big Hurt story with is:
p. 105 “'I forgive you' means 'I release you.'”
p. 107 “It's an act of free will and a conscious decision to give up the desire to punish a person now, or in the future, for something that happened in the past.”
p. 107 “Another unfortunate thing about deeply held and suppressed anger towards someone is that it spills over and interferes with our relationships with everyone else.”