By Michelle Hill, Safe Harbor Community Counselor
Forgiveness is a powerful means towards healing for victims of domestic violence, yet it is an extremely difficult process. After participating in months of Safe Harbor counseling to heal from the abuse she had suffered for five years from her husband, “Elizabeth” shared during a session that she felt like she needed to forgive her abuser. She told me that she felt that forgiveness was essential in order to recover from her past. Elizabeth did not want to deny or excuse the abuse or to release her abuser from his responsibility. She wished simply to release herself from the pain of those traumatic experiences that continued to get in the way of her own happiness and peace.
Elizabeth and I talked about forgiveness and what it would mean for her. We discussed ways in which she might be able to reach a sense of forgiveness for her abuser. Elizabeth finds a lot of strength through writing, so I suggested that she write a letter to her abuser that she would never send to him. Through this letter, she could safely express herself to him, fully and honestly. She could write specifically about how he had hurt her, how he had changed her. Most importantly, though, she could express how she had recovered and how she, through forgiveness, would release the emotional grip he had had on her quality of life even after she had ended her relationship with him.
Two weeks later, Elizabeth brought the letter to our session. She read it out loud. She paused several times to take a breath, to cry, to let the memories release. When she was done she released the letter. The experiences she had written about and read about out loud no longer held her captive emotionally, physically, or spiritually. She was freed from the abuse in her past, empowering her to move forward with a sense of strength, peace, and joy in her future.
Below is a portion of Elizabeth’s letter that we are sharing with her permission. We hope this letter will provide hope to other victims and survivors as they are seeking safety, support and healing along their journey.