Skeletal figure sits on the ground with arm propped under skull .


In the last six months I forgave someone who hurt me very deeply. I just said, “I forgive ____.” and threw something into a fire. I was alone. I didn’t tell them that I forgave them, I just did.

Finally I’m not angry when I talk about them. I can remember the good things fondly and not dwell as hard on the bad. I don’t always have something in my back pocket to be angry about.

It was liberating. I feel so much better and so much freer. I grapple with not picking up that unforgiveness, but it gets easier all the time. My heart isn’t as hard and I feel like for the first time in a long time I can breathe deeply.

What I didn’t expect however, was a new found grief. Now that I’m not angry all the time and my heart is softer I am actually grieving the person’s presence in my life. I find myself missing them, weeping over them, and noticing their absence almost all the time. Now that I don’t resent them, they aren’t present in my life as a source of anger or pain. I just feel an overwhelming ache that they’re gone.

If you had warned me that I would feel this way I would not have believed you.

If you had told me that bittersweet nostalgia would overtake me to the point of tears just because I saw something in a store or something funny happened that I wanted to tell them — I would have laughed in your face. But here I am, crying in the shower because a song came on the radio.

It was like there was this whole season of healing waiting until I laid down my blinding rage. It has happened with more than one person, so I know it’s not a one time gig. It’s officially a pattern.

I know that healing has many steps, a lot more steps than we could ever want. For myself, I would like exactly one step and for that step to be very short and very painless. Yet, that is not at all how any of this works.

I really have been a mess in this season of healing; crying and wallowing and not getting anything productive done. That’s what made me realize: Oh shit, I’m grieving.

I think one of the worst parts, besides fits of tears because you watched a movie and it made you miss someone and dear-god-can’t-I-even-watch-a-fucking-comedy, is that grieving means you’ve really let go. It feels like all the concrete things holding a very much alive person to you are gone. You have no overlapping business, no reason to talk, and no desire to be in relationship. All that’s left is to notice the hole that they left and to walk carefully around it while you try to scrape all the good in your life into a tiny pile so you can maybe make that hole less of a hazard.

You’re very much allowed to be sad. You’re very much allowed to miss people even if they hurt you. Your feelings are what they are. They’re nothing to feel guilty about.

One of the things I say the most is, “Life is long and weird.”

I use that phrase to remind myself that not everything has to make sense. Not everything has to fit neatly into boxes labelled “good” or “bad”. When you forgive someone it frees you up to feel loss more deeply than before. It’s hard and unexpected. But for me, it means I’m not actively being hurt anymore. I’m not staying angry. I’ve dropped the hot coal I was holding while I wished intently that they be the ones to get burned.

I do feel strange about grieving people who are alive but at the same time it’s a mile marker showing me that I’m one more step ahead in my healing so that I can be a better friend, a better partner, and a better family member to the people I have left.

As much as you may not believe it now, you may also find yourself crying over someone months or years after you felt like you forgave them and moved on. It’s okay. It’s actually a pretty healthy thing to do.

Forgiveness, grief, healing, Trauma