The greatest gift my grandmother gave me was the opposite of her love. We had a tenuous relationship, but I had thought it was because of my father’s tenuous relationship with his parents; he is a gay man born to a midwestern military family in the late 1940’s. To say my family was one of secrets and anger would be an understatement.
In 2006, I came to a deep understanding that my inner violence of thought, words, and even action was rooted in self-loathing. I was weeding my soul garden, trying to bring it back to beauty and life, when my grandfather has a massive stroke. I was thrust back into a family that I had distanced myself. On the last day I saw my grandfather alive, my grandmother made awful accusations- from me trying to steal their car to me trying to steal her husband. We didn’t know then, but she was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s which was exacerbating her mostly well hidden (in my lifetime) mental illness.
On the plane ride home, I was so angry. Decades of anger bubbled to the surface. Many of the roots of some of my self-loathing, sense of unworthiness, and resistance to trust were from my experiences with her. I made the choice to set a boundary because I realized it no longer mattered if she didn’t love and accept me because even if I wasn’t fully there, I loved and accepted myself enough to only surround myself with people who do love me.
A year later, I was in graduate school. Something I had not even been considering the year before. In 2008, we were introduced to trauma healing through Caroline Yoder’s work and STAR Trauma Healing Level 1. Our class watched a documentary about forgiveness. It was about a father of a woman killed in the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. I remember that date because I had been in a building across the street the week before, I had friends in downtown when it happened and other friends who served on rescue crews after. I grew up 10 minutes away.
The documentary talked about how Bud Welch chose not to hate Timothy McVeigh, the bomber, and reached out to McVeigh’s father. He received so much flack about this, including from my grandparents. As I sat watching this, I remembered having a conversation with my grandmother that the death penalty for McVeigh would not bring back the lives lost, at best it would only end his ability to act on or influence others with his anger. My grandmother was livid. She couldn’t believe I would say such a thing, let along believe it. Our relationship severed significantly that day because I knew it was not acceptable to her for me to be me.
A couple years later, I was introduced to sacred contracts through Caroline Myss’ work. The combination with trauma healing ultimately provided the nourishment my soul needed to heal and forgiveness was never a part of it. Here’s why.
Hurt people hurt; they hurt themselves, they hurt other’s, and often both. My great-grandmother died when my grandmother was 13. She was forced to grow up quickly and care for her siblings and father. There was likely abuse based on how my grandmother raised her children and stories from her sister.
We make sacred contracts before we come into this life. Her contract with me was to create a contraction within our maya’s (illusion). I can only imagine, based on how badly she hurt those she loved and who loved her, what her other contracts were like.
As humans, we have to expand out of the contraction with our love and light, our true essence able to breathe again. I suppose some people would call this forgiveness. I feel it’s more of acceptance. She suffered, she chose to make others suffer, and that suffering eventually led me to create my first healthy boundary out of self-love. I couldn’t change her or make her love me, but I could love myself. To forgive her, in my mind, would negate that gift.
She died recently, peacefully in her sleep. The last ten years of her life were very hard, though. When I heard the news, my only thought was that I hope she finally found the peace she deserves. She wasn’t ever able to love herself. Her self-loathing led to my self-love. A beautiful gift not wrapped in a beautiful blue Tiffany’s packaging, but a soil, stinky paper bag. Though it’s a gift I treasure more than any other.