The final stage of grief is the acceptance phase closely linked to forgiveness. Forgiveness of the abuser and/or the family members/care workers who failed to protect you.
This stage occurs after the victim has been through all of the other phases and has learnt about themselves in more detail. They know how to trust, they know how to believe their own feelings and they can start to work on the more positive aspects of their lives.
Generally, the victim stops blaming themselves for the abuse. They stop seeing themselves as worthless, vulnerable and helpless. They will start to respect themselves and start to show affection. 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. 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.
Forgiveness and grief are processes and not events. You will find that you may be in one stage for what you have lost as a child but be in the another stage for what you have lost as an adult.
You may find it useful to write a forgiveness letter to the people who abused you. 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 to survive the abuse. See our section on approaching your abuser.
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 have survived.
This question is always raised during the recovery process. In my opinion the only necessity as far as healing is concerned is forgiving yourself. Developing compassion and forgiveness for your abuser, or for the members of family that did not protect you, is not a required part of the healing process. It is not something to shoot for or to aim at. It is not the final goal.
This does not escape the fact that eventually you will have to reach some kind of resolution, to make peace with your past and move on, whether or not this resolution encompasses forgiveness is a personal matter. You may never reach an attitude of forgiveness, and that’s perfectly alright.