Unforgiven-The Ugly Truth

Day Twelve of the Fifteen Habits of Great Writer’s Series Challenge said,

If you’re going to be a great writer, you’re going to have to shake things up. Maybe even break a few rules. Here are some ideas:

     Tell the ugly truth.

    Pick a fight with something that’s wrong with the world.

    Call yourself out.

    Make a giant confession.

    Take a risk.

    Write something dangerous (something you’ve never written before).

 I thought about this one for a while.  For the past couple of months I have written about things I believe are wrong with the world, about things I haven’t written about before, and I have taken risks.  None of the horrible things I imagined actually happened.  How would I be able to complete this challenge?

I was talking (texting) with my friend Jan C. last night.  I told her something about my grandmother and mentioned that I don’t typically share that with anyone.  As I read the challenge today I realized I have written about my mother, my father, my grandfather,  my siblings, and many events in my life.  What I have not written about is my grandmother.

I started to think about why I haven’t written about her.  I believe the answer is simple.  She is the one person I haven’t been able to forgive.  For some of you who know my story, you may not find that unusual.  When I was ending therapy last summer, Rhonda said I had one thing left to do.  That one thing was to forgive my grandmother.  I am not there yet.  I understand it is the one rope still holding my soul tied down.  I don’t believe I can ever find true peace and healing until I do that.  But, I don’t know how.

I forgave my mother for not protecting me, for abandoning me (more than once), for never letting herself  fully love anyone including me.  I know her story.   It helped me understand more about her and some of her life choices.   But that isn’t why I forgave her.  I forgave her because she cared enough to want me to forgive her.

I forgave my father for the early years of my life, I forgave him for not fighting to see me, and for not keeping his promises.  I know his life story.  I know he had to make hard decisions as he got older and had another family.  But that isn’t why I forgave him.  I forgave him because he cared enough to want me to forgive him.

I forgave my grandfather.  I forgave him for being a drunk, for being cruel, for never hugging me unless he was so drunk he was almost falling down.  I forgave him for never trying to a father after they adopted me.  I forgave him because I understand the disease of alcoholism.  I was a drunk and I did things that hurt people.  I could not forgive myself without forgiving him.

I forgave the boys who molested me when I five and six.  I forgave the “adult” that did it, too. I forgave the kids who bullied me in school and church.  I forgave my ex-husband.  I forgave the people in my church who turned their backs on me.  I forgave everyone, except my grandmother.

She choose to make me her child.  My mother said she started when I was just a toddler.  She would come and take me with them for the weekend.  I don’t know why two people who spent their weekends partying at local bars would want to drag along a child.   She told me as I got older that they would put me in the back room or upstairs room and give me whiskey so I would pass out and sleep.

She choose to adopt me and let my brother go to my father’s parents in West Va.  She choose to lie to me about my father and brother.  She choose to lie to the rest of world and made me part of her lies. I had to lie to my grandfather about all the adult things she shared with me.  I had to remember to tell the right story to people.  I didn’t dare tell anyone about what went on in our home.

She told me God didn’t like little girls who cried, who were afraid, who told secrets, and that God punished us for the bad things we did.  Bad things happen if you are bad.  So many bad things happened in my young life, I knew God must not love me.  When my best friend died after  he got tangled in our rope swing in the tree, I thought it was my fault because I was bad. I carried that belief around for more than 35 years.

She didn’t hug me or kiss me like some of the other mother’s I saw.  When we sat in church, I moved close to her and put my head on her arm in hopes she might one day just put her arm around me.  I finally quit trying.   She told me I was fat so often that I started to see myself as fat even when I wasn’t.  She would take me in her room, show me her closet, and tell me she hadn’t bought a new dress in months.  She wanted to be sure that I understood the sacrifices she made just so I would have a home.  She told me I couldn’t learn to cook because I would catch something on fire, I couldn’t sew because I would put the needle in my finger or break the machine, and so on.  She made promises and then said she prayed about it and God told her she shouldn’t do whatever she had promise.

She decided to turn her back and shut me out of her life when I was drinking.  She wanted nothing to do with me. She forgot that she was a drunk until I was almost seven.  After getting sober, I made my list of people to whom I should make amends.  She was not on the list.  Jan F. asked me why my grandmother wasn’t on the list.  I blew up at her.  I had nothing to make amends about to her.  She should make amends to me.  I was told I had to make amends for my part and God would deal with her for her part.  I didn’t like it, but I did it.

I wrote a letter explaining my sobriety and my new way of life.  I asked her to forgive me for the list of things I did wrong.  I secretly hoped maybe she would forgive me and ask my forgiveness.  WRONG.  She wrote a short letter saying she wanted nothing to do with me until the “old Kathy came back.”   Before she died she sold our family house, disposed of everything in the house, and gave all the money to a church.  After she died, she had a lawyer send a letter stating that I was being awarded $1.00 from her estate. She had the same letter sent to my kids.  It was her final “F” you from the grave.

I have only scratched the surface with things I don’t forgive when it comes to her.  I feel the anger building as I share these things.  I hate the way I feel when I remember her.  I hate the way it poisons my spirit. Why can’t I forgive her?  She didn’t do anything worse than those I did forgive.  Or did she?

I know sharing this may bring some unwanted advice.  I know all the Bible verses about forgiveness.  I know all the reasons to forgive.   I know someone will say it is just a choice.  In recovery, we say we forgive for ourselves and not for the other person.  I know I need to forgive for me.  Maybe I need to forgive myself for not being good enough to forgive her.    Many people say the thing they love about my writing is the ability to get past the anger and write from a place of detachment and healing.  This blog post will disappoint you because it is written in a “different voice.”   I hope you can forgive me.


21 responses

  1. ((Hugs)) Cathy. I don’t have the answers. I have people in my life I don’t choose to forgive yet, so I think I’m one step behind you. At least you question whether or not you should forgive her–I think forgiveness isn’t always merited. Perhaps it’s because I’m still young and dumb, and not wise enough. *Shrug* I hope that wherever you go with this, you find peace within yourself. She sounds unspeakably awful, and I don’t blame you for not wanting to forgive all she put you through, even after she was dead. If you ever want to talk, I’m a quick phone call away!


    1. Thank you my friend. I love people who don’t have all the answers.


  2. It doesn’t sound to me like you are judging your Grandmother as much as you are accurately seeing her for the woman she was. As they say, it is the truth that sets us free.
    I can certainly see why you would find it difficult if not impossible to forgive your Grandmother.
    Maybe, we don’t actually need to forgive everyone. I remember reading once that we don’t have an obligation to forgive those who didn’t ask for our forgiveness. Perhaps, there are some people in the world that we have to give over to God, and allow God to provide the forgiveness that is not our responsibility to give.
    Yet, I can see how you would want to let go of the pain and heartbreak that would naturally come from having this kind of woman in your life.
    You’re a very courageous and truthful writer, and that’s what makes your stories so healing and powerful. Thank you for sharing your story!


    1. Thank you so much for those comments. I love your idea about giving someone over to God and let him handle the forgiveness. I am going to think about that.
      Thanks again.


  3. The depth of your experience keeps amazing me, and this piece exhibits your characteristic candor. It’s another great post. I have written a lot on forgiveness myself, and done workshops as well. The workshop participants who are really wrestling with forgiveness, like you, generally have a lot of experience extending it and are well acquainted with its benefits–emotionally, physically and spiritually. They are in the game intellectually but struggle with a missing piece. You made a fine distinction between those who care enough to want forgiveness. Another distinction is sincere remorse. It is harder to forgive in the absence of sincere remorse, but by no means impossible. I will spare you advice but validate your power to release resentment in your own time.


    1. Thank you Stephanie. I love hearing how other deal with the same things. It gives me hope.


  4. Cathy, I’m not giving you advice, Bible quotes, saint quotes……just a great big hug and a silent prayer. You’re very brave and disarmingly honest, Cathy.


    1. Thank you. Prayers and hugs are always welcome.


  5. Sending love and healing to you.


    1. Thank you 🙂


  6. Reblogged this on T!pT0e.


      1. you’re welcome 🙂


  7. baby steps — you’ll get there.


  8. Dear Cathy – your post touched me deeply. I have been thinking about forgiveness a lot as well. For very different reasons than you, but it is an issue that looms large in my life. I have been blogging about it as well. For me, the point that really resonates is that no one is born intending to hurt others. But some people hurt each other because they are damaged themselves. But in the end, holding on to anger and hurt just inhibits our own lives. How can we be happy in our lives while still feeling angry and hurt? It is really in our own self-interest to forgive, not forget, but forgive (as in “they know not what they do”), and move on. I am from the Buddhist tradition, and my teacher has an amazing video from a talk on forgiveness. I share it with you with all respect and compassion. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYi5Pdbi_bI

    Sending you a virtual hug.


    1. Thank you so much Jessica. I watched the video and appreciate you sharing it with me.


  9. It is easy to shut people out and hard to open up to them again. The most difficult thing is to ask for forgiveness. We are so unaccustomed to doing it in our culture. Good luck on your journey.


  10. […] Unforgiven-The Ugly Truth (cathysvoicenow.wordpress.com) […]


  11. I can relate to your feelings… I´ve been dealing with forgiveness for so long now and I still feel that I can forgive almost everyone, except one person who is my sister. Lately I come to terms with myself, and I have accepted that the best thing I can reach right now is indifference, which is far away from forgiveness, but also from anger and this is a good step, but I know that there is a forgiveness task which is still needed to be done, it has to do with letting pain go, with peace and not with lack of emotion. I think I have nothing to forgive myself, I just think that I need time proportional to the damage. Take care


    1. I think I am very close to indifference but still have some anger. It has softened over time but I can still “feel” it. I am working on it. Glad you responded.


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