Death by Violence Forgive and Forget…is it really possible ?


In grieving the loss of a loved one, often many things are spoken that are reactionary, spouted most often by rote and not by reason. People may say “I am sorry” for nothing they had any real control over, as in someone else’s loss. We tend to recite some embedded aphorism in a weak attempt to provide consolation to the inconsolable or we throw out a religious quote or two that is expected to provide some modicum of comfort. Most do not. In grief we often find that so many things that we took for granted are completely back-assward. We are thrust into an unknown multi-dimensional world of chaos accompanied by very real but often non-recognizable neuropathic responses beyond our conscious awareness.

Our foray into madness is fueled by the body’s own autonomic reaction to survive and we find that we are at war with our intellect. In a vain attempt to restore order to a system undone and attempt to make a reality out of surrealality we find we are caught in the web of cognitive dissonance; believe/deny? revenge/reconcile? comply/retaliate ? hyperventilate/hibernate ? flight or fight/rest and digest ? anger/apathy ? compassion/collaboration? defensive/defeated? self-care/or self-absorbed? running from/running with? On and on ad nauseum…our psyche is traumatized. How is it possible to forgive and forget? How does one move beyond the hatred and the horror and forgive? With the intensity and sustainability of these emotions, is it even possible? In the case of death from murder and assault this is never more evident. Can we forgive and forget?

Your child goes to school one day, never to return, shot in the head point blank while coloring in her Dora the Explorer coloring book at her kindergarten desk.   A madman shooter ended her life and forever changed her circle of influence.

A terrorist sets a backpack down in a crowd of people, it explodes, and shrapnel sheers the head from your husband’s body, you wake up from a coma a month later and hear both your children are dead.

Following his testimony on clergy abuse for several priests who had sexually abused him as a young boy, this 42-year-old father of two hangs himself in a cheap motel.

Almost 3,000 people died on 9/11 in 2001, just as many orphans left behind. Almost 20 years later the number of 9/11 fallout exposure related deaths of first-responders, firefighters, residents and clean-up workers/volunteers has exceeded that number.

You husband is a Rabbi and is convicted by a group of nefarious zealots for being a Jew and shot to death in the synagogue with other worshipers that were attending service. Your brother was dragged behind a truck and lynched by a mob for smiling at a white woman. Your son is innocently shot in the front yard by a zealous police officer.

Four students on their way to prom killed are instantly killed by a 3-time convicted drunk driver who survived. Bullied for years for being gay your best friend is beaten to death in the school locker room.

Your 9-year-old son never comes home; his bike haplessly left on the side of road, never to be heard of again. Almost 30 years later his body is found, the sexual predator/murderer is forensically tracked down, found and convicted.

Forgive and Forget?

Yeah right. That’s really going to fly.

Almost everywhere in the world linguistically two negatives equal a positive but nowhere in the world does a double positive equal a negative until recently. “Yeah Right” is a double positive.   Yeah right as used here means… highly unlikely. Forgive and forget in many cases is highly unlikely. For one thing neurologically it is impossible to forget especially when you add your own modifier to it as “this is something I need to forget” as it is compartmentalized and placed in a safe spot within the brain for use as a selective quantifier for future survival needs.

Nothing is forgotten. We may lose the keys, our password and cannot gain access but nothing we have experienced is ever forgotten.  We have unlimited storage like RAM on a supercomputer, but we may have emotionally shitty software; our brain is a junk drawer; many things get lost…but not truly forgotten.

It’s easy to say the words “Forgive and Forget” without realizing how ridiculous it really sounds.  It comes out more like goodnight and God bless.  Read the first few paragraphs again and say you could say “I forgive you, and I will forget this ever happened”. This is singularly the biggest crock to come down the pike since the Flat Earth Society was born. It has been propagated, nurtured, promulgated and blindly espoused to since God was a small child. This is pure gastric emulsion of a very large bovine. This is not even a religious construct or unsolicited propaganda, but an autonomic by rote neuropathic response we say from the brain wrinkles that were created our whole life. Forgive, and forget. What does that really mean? Why do we say it?

We have already determined that with our brain it is impossible to forget, granted it can almost be impossible to retrieve much of that data. For example, trying to remember our own birth experience or someone’s phone number from grade school, we cannot recall it, but does not mean the information is not on file. This may happen as well in trauma, and incidences that are emotionally charged with graphic horrific visual/visceral data. Dependent on an individual’s age, physical wounds, resiliency skills, their intellectual ability, their experiential comprehension, and trauma response/ training preparation these memories are stored in different areas of the brain.

We don’t forget it, we de-energize it and put it on a shelf until we can address and process. In cases of heavy trauma and extreme pain the memories of often covered with a veil of forgetfulness. We can remember having a horrific toothache but not the actual intensity of the “just please let me die pain” that we were experiencing. We have trauma receptors to negotiate and store painful memories.

Now let’s move on to the biggest misnomer the verb “Forgive”:    for·give    /fərˈɡiv/

Verb: stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.

Again, please read the first few paragraphs and say you have stopped feeling resentful towards evil doers. They deserve our anger, they hurt us forever and changed our lives. We are a victim. Let them absorb our anger, let them carry it, it’s not gone, give it up to them to carry. We did not choose to become a victim, it chose us. We become either a victim who is a survivor, or a victim who is a casualty. We will always be a victim when a someone takes our loved one’s life or has assaulted ours. What we do with that victimization is our choice; how we store the trauma is not. It’s a synaptic algorithm based on our personal experiences.

As a victim of a horrible crime, how do we forgive those who assaulted us? In many cases the perpetrator has died with his victims, do we offer them a posthumous reconciliation? Do we pray for their soul’s salvation?   I don’t think so.  For the most part we hope they rot in hell.  A clerical quote states “To err is human to forgive is divine”.  Dahhh.  That is so right on. It is not our job to offer forgiveness for their diabolical acts. That is relegated to a divine responsibility. Our propensity is to err, we are human. People make mistakes easily and most reconcile them. Some humans have no conscious, feel no remorse and will recidivate. Do they deserve forgiveness?

Forgiveness is not meant for assholes, rapists and murderers but is reserved for when someone inadvertently steps on your toes, hurts your feelings or tells a white lie.  Do we let someone off the hook who blatantly took the life of our loved one?

Forgiveness is very complicated; complicated as we are. Language is complicated, words have the power to adequately define and differentiate a feeling or interpretation of events. Forgiveness is a double entendre with two different meanings. One is bestowed by a higher power (on this earth or off earth) known as Charizomai which cancels all debts, wipes the slate clean. This is akin to filing chapter 13 in finances where all debts are forgiven through the power of grace, i.e. a grace period or debt forgiven.  The other is Aphiemi or liberation, a release from bondage, to give up, let go, let free, release its hold. This is where human choice comes in when discerning if or when to provide forgiveness to another human being.

In this case it’s not providing absolution from a victim’s standpoint, as much as it is to release the victim from the clutch of hatred that may keep a victim tethered to the past. It is not forgiveness as much as finding resolution that there is no possible vindication for our loss. Nothing will make it right. Active loathing will destroy us, and we become collateral damage.

We reserve the right not to provide grace and absolution but merely to compartmentalize its angst and anxiety for safe keeping. I am not saying we must bury and fetter our emotions/memories deep within our psyche but conversely to process them fully. To experience, legitimately label, file, and allow them to be stored in areas of the brain to provide us with liberation from the all-consuming hatred, but not necessarily provide forgiveness.

I respect, love and have faith in a higher power, a divinity beyond my comprehension who I know exists because I do. We can forgive others for being ignorant, medicated, stupid, angry, impetuous, mean, greedy, evil, on and on ad infinitum for our own liberation but not for their absolution. That is a job for a higher power, on terra firma or a celestial judge. We have a choice to provide forgiveness or not. You are not a bad person for not forgiving evil and forgiving evil does not make you divine. We have no control over an evil doer’s soul, only our own.

Why is it we are urged to forgive and forget or that we the assume role either as victim or martyr? If we are assaulted, we don’t have to play victim here, we have been victimized, we don’t play martyr, we have been hurt, we suffer. We recognize not pathologize that a shift happens; we remember, we do not forget. We release, but not necessarily provide forgiveness. We rally, or we wither. We are resilient by nature and can rally.  Be your nature. Survival is innate, to thrive is a choice. Experience is our only teacher; living is learning. Ignorance is also a choice; choice is our destiny.

Forgive and Forget? Forgetting is impossible; Forgiveness a choice.

In the case of assault, victim and martyr are both human conditions as a result of malaise and evil intent. This is not a role one takes on; we have been victimized and we suffer.

Post-Traumatic Stress or Post -Traumatic Growth?  Both are possible.

Shift happens regardless.

Peace, love n light

Mitch  Carmody