I’ve been scolded for holding a 45-year old “grudge” and told I should just “get over it.”
You can call it what you will: a grudge, animosity, resentment, anger, bitterness. I own up to all of them when faced with dredging up past neglect, abandonment and abuse, whether at the hands of my parents or ex-husband.
And, my reaction to the demand to "get over it" is strong. Don’t tell me how I should feel. I know how I feel and I’m allowed to have and own my feelings, whether anyone considers them valid or not.
My internet friend, Karin @ Altadenhiker, commented a few posts ago, “I think forgiveness is vastly overrated.” I do, too, and even more so the “getting over it” part.
While some people will tell you that forgiveness is for yourself, in my heart and at the very core of my being, I cannot and will not forgive any abuser, mine or anyone else’s, for subjecting their victim to neglect, abandonment or verbal, physical or sexual abuse, regardless of how recent or distant the abuse.
It makes me angry when our society implies that the victim should forgive the abuser. I reject the group mentality that protects the abuser and blames and brainwashes the victim into believing they are the problem because they are unable or unwilling to forget and forgive the perpetrator for the neglect or abuse. Blame is placing the responsibility for the abuse where it belongs, on the abuser. S/He abuses, then moves on, leaving the victim to clean up the mess.
Still so many people cry out impatiently for the survivor to “just get over it,” which is usually followed by more invalidation and dismissive demands to then “forget it and move on.”
Is it any wonder why so many victims DON’T tell? Society has convinced the victim that the guilt and shame is theirs to bear and that they must have somehow deserved or invited this kind of mistreatment.
Getting over it or forgiveness denies the victim the permission to be angry, permission to speak, to have a voice, to vent and rage and FEEL all the emotions that he/she was not allowed to feel before as a victim.
Victims are further victimized by being required to deny their anger and pain when they are forced to interact in some way, directly or indirectly, with the abuser. Just ask the adult man who was emotionally and physically abused for two years of his young life how he feels about the man, his abuser, still being “friends” with his mom. Or ask the adult woman who was sexually molested at a very early age how she feels about constantly being confronted by her abuser because he’s allowed to continue being part of the “family” on Facebook.
I cannot and will not ever get over or forgive people who have hurt me or my children, regardless of how old they are or how long ago it was. Those people are not deserving of my forgiveness.
If there is anyone to forgive, it’s me. Forgiving the years of running and hiding and denying truths I either suspected or knew all along. Forgiving myself for not paying attention to my own needs. Forgiving myself for not walking away when I could (but not when I was unable) and forgiving myself for prolonging all the pain and neglect that was inflicted on me and my child by denying for so long that it was even there in the first place.
I had a wonderful therapist years ago. After several tearful sessions, I asked her, “How do I get over this?”
She said, “There is no ‘getting over.’ There is only healing.”
She was right.