Animals can teach us a lot about releasing the past and moving forward after experiencing challenging and hurtful situations. We would be anthropomorphizing (attributing human behavior and characteristics) if we concluded that they forgave. Instead, their apparent resilience may spring from their natural inclination to live in the present moment and in alignment with Source, a benevolent, omnipotent and organizing force that is pure unconditional love focused on the highest good for all concerned. The healing process and building of trust might indeed take time, but hearts can and often do eventually reopen.
It’s important to remember that forgiveness doesn’t mean you’re condoning what happened, or that the action or situation is okay. You don’t need to tell someone that you’re forgiving them, nor do you ever have to speak to them again or put yourself in an unhealthy situation. You get to decide what’s best for you, if and when you’re ready.
Forgiveness is for you; it allows you to release the past for your own wellbeing and freedom. There may come a point when you find that holding on to anger and pain causes you more harm than good. We’ve heard it said that holding on to outrage and anguish can be akin to ingesting poison with the goal of the wrongdoer succumbing to it. That doesn’t really work…
Choosing to forgive is liberating, self-affirming. It can be a significant, life-changing act of self-care. Bottom line: It’s your choice, and conscious choice is extremely empowering! And making decisions with awareness – and of course with love – can minimize future regrets and lead to the best possible outcomes.
Forgiveness & Grief
Forgiveness is also a vital part of the grieving process. Often the grieving heart relentlessly revisits the final weeks, days, hours and minutes of a loved one’s life. Perhaps this futile process of ceaseless review helps one to continue to hold on to the departed – if it’s still going on in your mind, then it’s not over. Or perhaps it’s an agonizing investigation for clues as to how the outcome to such a sad, unwanted story could somehow be rewritten. And the regrets, what wasn’t said or done, what shouldn’t have been said or done…
Another typical grief response is to place blame. On others, including doctors and anyone else who tried to improve the situation but obviously failed because your loved one still died. It’s important to remember that death is perfectly natural and comes to us all. It’s not a failed medical event. An overwhelming sense of helplessness about the situation can also cause painful self-condemnation. For example, feeling angry at a loved one for dying is perfectly normal, yet very (and unnecessarily) guilt-inducing!
As with love, peace, joy and acceptance, forgiveness starts within. First and foremost, it’s essential to absolve yourself and let go of remorse, reminding yourself that you did the very best you could with your level of understanding at the time, and in a situation over which you very likely had little control. And most importantly, remember that you were guided by the love in your heart.
We cannot change the past, but we can change our attitude toward it. Uproot guilt and plant forgiveness. Tear out arrogance and seed humility. Exchange love for hate – thereby, making the present comfortable and the future promising. –Maya Angelou
BrightHaven Caregiver Resources to Help Your Animal Live Well Each and Every Day!
- Do you have questions about how BrightHaven’s holistic healing or animal hospice care approaches can help your animal? Book a consultation with Gail by sending an email to email@example.com.
- Follow Your Heart: Navigating a Terminal Diagnosis¬ – helps you walk this often-challenging path with a deeper sense of peace, confidence and clarity. (Author: Gail Pope, BrightHaven President and Founder)
- The BrightHaven Guide to Animal Hospice – learn how to care for your animal companions in their Golden Years and through the end of life. (Author: Gail Pope)
- Soar My Butterfly: The Animal Dying Experience – a simple guide to the signs and symptoms you may encounter during the final stages of the natural dying process. (Author: Gail Pope)
- BrightHaven Online Learning – help your loved one live the best life possible each and every day! We share what we’ve learned about holistic healing, animal hospice and living and dying well by following the wisdom of the animals since 1990.
LATEST ONLINE COURSE! BrightHaven Holistic Animal Hospice: Navigating a Terminal Diagnosis – in this self-paced module, we help you to determine the best path for you and your animal.
- Walking with My Dog Through (End of) Life – an intimate look at a profound life passage, from terminal diagnosis through hospice care and a peaceful, gentle natural death. (Author: Carol Howe Hulse, BrightHaven Education Program Manager)
For more resources and information to help you help your furry family member, please visit BrightHaven’s Caregiver Resources & Education and Animal Caregiver FAQ.
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