The final stage of grief is the forgiveness phase. Forgiveness of the abuser and/or the family members/care workers who failed to protect your sibling. Self forgiveness for not preventing their pain and abuse.
This stage occurs after you have been through all of the other phases and have learnt about yourself and how the abuse has affected you. You’ll learn how to trust again, you’ll be able to acknowledge your own feelings and those of the victim and you will be able to work on the more positive aspects of your lives.
Generally, the victim stops blaming themselves for the abuse during their forgiveness phase and in time you will be able to forgive yourself too. The bottom line is that the abuse will become a scar and not an open wound.
Some people have a problem with forgiveness because they see it as acceptance that the abusive behaviour was acceptable or it didn’t really hurt them or their family. Abuse is always wrong and always hurtful. Forgiveness does not mean you condone the abuser’s actions. Forgiveness allows the hurt to be in the past and doesn’t allow it into the future. You don’t have to forgive the abuser in order to heal the wounds.
Forgiveness and grief are processes and not events. You will find that you may be in one stage for what your child has lost as an innocent infant but be in the another stage for what you feel as an adult.
You may find it useful to write a forgiveness letter to the people who abused your child. Do not send it though – remember you are writing the letter to help you not them. You can also write a letter forgiving yourself for the things you did or didn’t do. Try writing a letter to your child, you don’t have to send it if you don’t want, but it might help you understand how you feel about the abuse.
When you find yourself in the acceptance or forgiveness phase you will find a true peace. You will realise that you no longer live your life around the childhood abuse but rather you live in the knowledge that you are able to help your sibling survive.