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I was chatting with a family member when she stated, he took their life’s savings and left.

Though the world continued to glide seamlessly through space, it felt like Earth shifted ever so slightly. There was a drop where there was once firmness and things felt slightly askew.

As I continued to mine details, the ripples of emotional aftershock continued to ebb. I felt tears burn and my body ache for a run. I needed to replace the deep pain of heartache with the superficial pain of straining muscles. My mind craved endorphins as my emotions dipped.

A family member, who’d been caring for elderly relations for years, had decided to leave. He left with a quick goodbye. In his wake, the pieces of my reality shattered.

I’m the furthest relative, so my role in cleanup was nonexistent. Through distance, I’m insulated from the harshest effects but not all.

Before this event, this family member was someone I looked up to. He was kind, caring, and patient in ways I didn’t think I was capable of. He had grown up and out of his younger years, and I was lulled into thinking he was in control and things were going well.

Later, after having time to cry, heal, and reflect, I realized I didn’t want to hold anger, bitterness, and resentment. There seemed to be enough of that going around. I wanted something that didn’t include angry solitary confinement.

There was little I could change; I couldn’t return the thousands of dollars, replace the emotional damage, or fix the trust that had turned to dust.

The best I could do was forgive; it was the only thing I could do.

Instead of rejecting, I was accepting.

I couldn’t move straight into fostered forgiveness, even if I channeled every ounce of Dali Lama.

I’m not that strong.

Instead, I started small by trying to accept the situation, which was like trying to drink a cup of water with cotton in my mouth. My mind knew the facts, but my heart ached for what was true only moments before.

For a while, I let emotions ebb and flow.

Sometimes, I would feel the fire of Hades as I burned with anger. Other times, I was exhausted from being pounded by a waterfall of tears. I didn’t hold back or restrict the emotional uprising; I just let it gurgle and flow.

Two years ago, I participated in a weeklong silent meditation retreat. I realized containing my emotions made me feel sick, tired, and built into a raging migraine. My body and emotions respond better when I allow the feelings to wash over me like violent waves that crest and crash.

I took a mini break.

While dealing with the emotional fallout, I took a break from talking to that family member.

I was swirling with ups and downs, right and wrongs, and it took a while for me to find a place where I could talk about it without feeling a strong emotional pull.

I confided in my social support.

I’m fortunate to have a spouse and friends at work. I discussed what had happened in a safe environment where I was supported and cared for during my time of turmoil.

Along with concerns, they’d continue to gently ask if I needed additional support or distraction with sugar delights. Their offerings were simple and small, but I was cradled in kindness. Their hugs, kind words, and sugar helped turn a dark day into something a bit better. My emotions didn’t dissolve, but I felt less lonely while I working through my loss.

I cried, cried, and cried some more.

Tears are how my body tries to wash away woes. As long as I don’t hold back the deluge, I feel better, eventually.

Though everyone was alive and healthy, it felt like a life was lost. Grief swelled for a person that no longer existed. It took time to move through those intense feelings.

Finally, I fostered forgiveness.

Today, I spoke with the family member for the first time since the emotional crash.

The call was planned well in advance, though I was uncertain if he’d answer or if I’d get the answers I’d hoped for.

At the suggestion of my social support, I became curious and asked why. Why did you take someone’s life savings and leave?

I learned about his pain and mental health issues. I heard his perspective and downfalls. Though it didn’t transform wrongs into rights, I accepted the situation and my new reality.

By the end of the call, I told him I forgave him and I do.

I fostered forgiveness because he can’t change the past any more than I can.

If l hold onto bitterness, it will only turn me bitter.

I’m not interested in that fate. As my mentor says, don’t get bitter, get better.

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