How to Let It Go: Releasing hurt to welcome forgiveness
In order to allow room for joy and happiness in our life, we have to let go of things that are filling our heart and head with pain, bitterness, and resentment. Easier said than done, I know. Just remember that allowing forgiveness is part of your own healing journey. Do it for yourself, not for anyone else. Forgive someone not because he or she deserves forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.
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The Process of Letting It Go
If you find yourself stuck and unable to move past a painful experience, consider these tips to help you let go of what’s weighing you down.
1. Acknowledge the burden. By specifically acknowledging the burden or hurt you want to release, you can better identify exactly what it is that is holding you back and what it might take to release those feelings. Express your hurt in a way that makes you comfortable: explain your feelings to the person who hurt you, write in a journal, vent to a neutral friend, or write a letter you don’t intend to send. However you do it, get those feelings out!
2. Take responsibility. You must take responsibility for your own joy and happiness; do not let another person hold that power over you. So if someone has hurt you, YOU have the responsibility to figure out how to start feeling good again. It’s not on the other person. In fact, sometimes there is no other person; sometimes it’s just life in general. Heck, sometimes we are the other person; maybe we’ve created our own burden or maybe we are burdened by the guilt we feel for hurting someone else. Sitting around blaming life and waiting for life to apologize to us is pointless. Get on with it! You have the power. By making an intentional decision, you take responsibility for the release process. Release and forgiveness do not happen by accident.
3. Be mindful. After acknowledging the burden in Step 1, focus on the present in order to lessen the impact of your past. Stop telling that part of your story on repeat, forcing yourself to continue wading through that sludge. Decide to focus on today, the now. When thoughts of the burden creep in, acknowledge them for just a moment and then bring yourself back to the present with a grounding affirmation. According to chemical dependency clinical supervisor Jean Berry, MS ICAADC, “[R]eciting, writing, or meditating on a positive affirmation each day can help you re-frame your thoughts.” Try one of the following or come up with your own statement that reflects your desire to move on. Repeat as often as necessary!
I am at peace with the past and the present, and I welcome the future.
It’s okay. I’m okay now. That was the past. I choose to focus on my peace today.
4. Offer forgiveness—to ourselves and to others. You do not have to understand or agree with someone’s hurtful behaviors in order to offer forgiveness. And you do not have to receive an apology in order to offer forgiveness. In fact, waiting for an apology often impedes the process of letting go, because you feel additional resentment for having to wait. Instead, recognize that offering forgiveness is about supporting your own healing process; it’s not about the other person. Sometimes we even have to forgive ourselves. Maybe you didn’t get a job because you botched the interview and you can’t stop thinking about what you should have done differently. Maybe you made a poor choice that damaged an important relationship and you are burdened by guilt. You deserve forgiveness, too.
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Ways to Offer Forgiveness
When you are ready to offer forgiveness to someone else or to yourself, consider the following methods of releasing the burden if you are not able to talk directly with the person who wronged you.
4-7-8 breathing. Use this breathing technique to decrease anxiety and control emotional responses. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4. Hold the breath for a count of 7. Exhale through your mouth to the count of 8, while thinking one of the forgiveness statements listed below. As you exhale, imagine releasing the burden from your body.
Chair talk. With two chairs facing each other, sit in one chair and imagine the person who wronged you sitting in the other chair. Speaking directing to the empty chair, state the damage or pain the person caused you and how it made you feel. Clearly state that you are letting go of the burden and pain.
Mirror talk. Similar to the chair talk, but with you talking to yourself in the mirror. This activity works well if you are forgiving yourself for carrying the burden of guilt.
Write a letter. If writing helps you reveal your emotions, trying writing a letter. You don’t even have to send the letter; just expressing yourself is therapeutic and can help you let go of the hurt you are holding onto. If you don’t send the letter, you can take an extra step to let go of the emotions expressed in the letter: burn it and watch the negativity literally disappear!
Shout it out. Listen to a loud, heavy-metal-type song and scream out, “Burden, I release out!” (Or something similar.) Let it all out. Consider following this up with a calming breathing exercise, such as 4-7-8 or box breathing.
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Statements of Forgiveness
I forgive those who have harmed me and I release the pain.
I forgive you for the pain you caused me.
Burden, I release you. I am well.
I am human. I have made a mistake that has hurt (“other’s name” / “me”). I forgive myself.
I am glad to be able to let go of the pain you caused me. My personal boundaries do not allow you to be in my life anymore.
I forgive you.
Written by Laura B. Demers, © 2021 Reclamation Sisters