I find it much easier to forgive Karl and myself than friends and family members who act in inappropriate ways, especially during the first year of my mourning. I am full of judgment and distress about them. I remain estranged from two family members. My close friendship with Heather is in tatters, as I explained in Chapter 8.
Thus, I am relieved to read that my grieving experiences of shattered relationships are pretty much par for the course, as Moody and Arcangel (Life after Loss, 2002: 89) explain:
“Insensitive statements can be so offensive that mourners retaliate in anger. If sympathizers try to explain or defend themselves, matters usually escalate. As a result, relationships are often damaged or shattered beyond repair.”
As our communication draws to a close
In the final months of my regular journaling communication with Karl, I sense a softening on both sides. Our words resonate with warmth, humor, and acceptance.
In late March 2017, Karl remarks that we did try to heal our differences:
Hearing you reading our letters into the voice-activated software yesterday was powerful for me, too. We didn’t necessarily shirk our emotional work on Earth. I feel we did try. And we did have a lot on our plates. We did try to deal with our items [his word for issues], our inner ‘guys’ [another word for issues]. And we are honestly and sincerely completing that work here and now.
Karl’s final advice before I move to Canada in May 2016 is a gentle but salutary warning about the possibilities of love with another man:
You have a sacred trust now because you know that love can be abruptly snatched away. So tread gently and accept that something precious and sacred is happening in your life. Be careful not to be manipulative.
A gift of grace
Later, reflecting on this poignant message, I see that Karl’s forgiveness is a gift of grace. Karl is not the only one to point out that forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Writing in Psychology Today, Ryan Howes explains that reconciliation is much more complicated than forgiveness. It includes — but moves beyond — forgiveness. “Forgiveness is solo, reconciliation is a joint venture” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-therapy/201303/forgiveness-vs-reconciliation).
But, as Robert Enright explains, forgiveness is one step in the process toward reconciliation (Forgiveness is a Choice: 30).
A change of heart
During our twenty months of daily communications, I follow Karl into uncharted territory, as we discover and reveal our true identities through our new and expanded connection. Dwelling in the spiritual dimension in all of our relating helps us to learn more about who we are. I learn from Jack Kornfield (The Art of Forgiveness: 40) that arriving at genuine forgiveness and facing and passing through the Forgiveness Gateway always involves a change of heart. Whenever we forgive or are forgiven, our heart is released, even in the most painful circumstances.
I am healing my broken heart by speaking and listening to my great love. And that nourishes my courage to move in the direction of my open heart. Journeying on our healing path, Karl and I share lessons about forgiveness that I will carry forward into a new realm, Engagement, and into my new life.