The women in the circle were doing some very deep work, honestly telling their darkest stories of shame and emotional pain. Each woman spoke from the depths of her being, bringing up into the light old wounds needing to be understood–needing to be loved.

Although the telling and the listening was intense work, each woman could feel pounds of oppression lifting off her body as she discovered compassion for the life she had lived.

When it was my turn to speak, I found myself sobbing for a little girl who had been robbed of her innocence. As I told my story, I realized how my whole adult life had been affected by the trauma of my childhood. My own heart opened to her and as it opened to the frightened little girl living inside me, it concurrently opened to the wounded adult who was still afraid of life.

Finally, I could honestly forgive myself for the ways I had hurt others, the successes I had never accomplished, and the limits I had always placed on myself. Today I understood that pain, unhealed, creates more pain. Now, that I could feel compassion for myself I knew I didn’t have to keep repeating the pattern that created the pain. I could create happiness out of the depths of my former despair.

What I wondered was whether I could forgive my parents for the difficult life they had exposed me to. With this thought on my mind, I joined some of the women of the circle outside while we took a break.

Two of the women were smoking cigarettes together. Their faces were drawn and haggard. They shared information with each other about the physical illnesses they were experiencing, which were numerous and overwhelming from my perspective.

Earlier during the day, in circle, these two women had courageously admitted to abusing their children. They spoke about their deep guilt and shame, and the tremendous anguish they felt knowing how badly they had treated their children.

As I observed these women during our break, my heart opened up to them. I looked at their physical bodies, considered their horrific illnesses and realized subconsciously they must be beating themselves up in shame. They were, perhaps, inflicting upon themselves greater punishment than anyone outside of them might sentenced them with.

They were as wounded as I was. Very likely someone had hurt them and in their pain they hurt their children. Just like I was seeing my part in the cycle, so were they. The abuser and the abused–all the same person. I offered a little prayer for their comfort and remembered my parents. They too had probably been abused, abused me, and now I could stop the cycle because I understood. In my compassion for myself, these women, and my parents, forgiveness wasn’t even necessary. All that was needed was what I felt–love for us all.

Next: Feeling the Healing; Becoming the New You