“I want you to walk me down the aisle” my oldest daughter announced loudly over the din of bar patrons. We were in New York City, surrounded by her best friends and future bridesmaids and heading out to search for the perfect wedding dress.
“I’d be honored!” I replied. It seemed only fitting since I had raised her alone with little to no help (financial or otherwise) from her father. I wondered if he’d even show up for this long-awaited event. He hadn’t bothered to attend her college graduation, a fact that hurt her deeply. I held out hope that this time would be different. After all, she was getting married!
A year of planning flew by and the guest list was in place. Her father indeed was flying in for the big day, accompanied by his wife and two grown children. I was relieved and knew it meant the world to our daughter.
Several weeks before the wedding we headed to the final dress fitting, stopping for lunch along the way. “So have you thought of a way to include your dad in your wedding?” I asked. “Are you going to ask him to give a speech or something?”
“I’ve been meaning to talk to you” she replied slowly and deliberately.
I knew what was coming. I could barely swallow as she told me that she’d like her dad to join us on the walk down the aisle. She said she wanted the fairy tale wedding even if she hadn’t had a storybook upbringing.
I cried. A lot. I reminded her how hard it was raising a kid on my own. I lamented that he didn’t deserve to show up after all the “work” was done and have a proverbial seat at the head of the table.
But at the end of the day it was her wedding. I told her I would be okay with whatever she decided.
The wedding rehearsal was the first time in over thirty years I laid eyes on the man who left me pregnant at eighteen. I had never met his wife or two children and pondered the peculiarity of my daughter having siblings I know little to nothing about.
“I’m sorry I’m butting in,” he said.
“Excuse me?” I replied as I nervously looked around for his wife.
“I feel like I’m butting in. After all, I don’t know any of her friends,” he tried again.
“She wants you here. It’s important to her. In fact, she’s hoping you’ll be more involved in her life now.” I had so much more to say but now was not the time.
He looked wistful. “I’ve missed so much,” he responded in a barely audible voice.
And in that moment, something changed.
All the years of anger and hurt melted away. I forgave him. In fact, I felt sorry for him. After all, I had had the privilege of watching our daughter grow from a headstrong little girl into a brilliant, talented and beautiful woman.
He had missed it all.
The following day it was my honor to walk my daughter to the alter. Halfway down the aisle we were joined by her father, a symbolic gesture that did not go unnoticed by those who knew our story. It was a perfect moment, a perfect day, a fairy tale wedding.
Do you have someone to forgive? Have you been holding on to resentment for far too long?
It’s not easy to forgive. In fact, there are hundreds of books and thousands of articles written about the subject of letting go.
But is just letting go enough? I don’t think so. It’s a much more complicated process. Done right, it’s an art.
If you are ready to elevate the act of forgiveness to an art form, here are my top tips:
- Take some time. It’s been said that time heals all wounds and you may need some space to process your feelings. You’ll know when you’re ready but be prepared to skip the “whys.” Understanding why someone acted the way they did is not necessary for your forgiveness process.
- Stop talking about the pain. Constantly reliving hurtful moments from the past will only deepen the wound and keep you from moving forward. While professional help can be vital to recovering from a serious transgression, consider limiting who else you share with to a few trusted friends or family members.
- Walk a mile in their shoes. Imagine for a moment what the other person was going through at the time. I like to believe that with few exceptions, most people are just trying to do the best they can. Empathy is closely related to forgiveness and the first step in its direction.
- Understand what you do and do not have control over. First, you have no control over the actions of anyone else. However, you can control how you choose to respond and what you decide to take away from any situation in your life.
- Take responsibility for your part. If you believe that you consciously (or unconsciously) create your own reality, then take responsibility for having the experience. Look for the message this particular situation is trying to share with you.
- With each message comes a lesson. Many times the most hurtful experiences are our greatest teachers. They catch our attention and remind us to be grateful for all the good in our lives. Spend some time listening to your inner voice or journal your feelings. Often these quiet, reflective moments will reveal the answers you seek and are the catalyst for moving past the pain.
- Letting go of the pain is not the same as forgetting. This experience is a part of your story now… a part of the fabric that makes you the unique human being you are. The memory should fade with time but the lessons learned will stay with you forever.
- Focus on gratitude. This is a good opportunity to hone your spiritual beliefs and deepen your sense of gratitude. Being thankful for the chance to learn and grow will surely help you heal. When your mind wanders back to the hurt, acknowledge it then bring yourself back to the present moment.
- Hold a ceremony to release the hurt. Write down your feelings and burn them in a fire. Release your thoughts into the breath as you blow up a balloon and then POP them away! Bury a photo (or other object that reminds you of the pain) into the earth and then dance a little jig on the burial plot. Whatever you choose as a release ceremony, take a moment to rejoice in your freedom from these painful thoughts.
Do you want to delve deeper into the “release process?” Are you ready to let go of the past and invite prosperity into all areas of your life?
Our upcoming Release~Rejoice~Redesign Retreat may be just what you are looking for! A small group of women will be traveling to the magical island of Bali, Indonesia next February. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a plan for your dream life.
I’d love nothing more than to have you join us! Take a few minutes to check out our retreat page and feel free to contact me with any questions you might have. I think it just might be the escape you need to take your life to the next level!
Until next time, practice forgiveness!
P.S. If you haven’t joined our private Facebook group Women Passionate About Travel, you’re missing lots of fun! We share travel stories, tips, photos and dreams and we’d love to have you join us! Sorry guys, this group is for ladies only!