42: Happiness Through Forgiveness

42: Happiness Through Forgiveness

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness

Happiness Through Forgiveness

Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.

~Paul Boese

It was raining the day I found out. Not just a light sprinkle, but a heavy, foggy, cold February downpour. I had spent a lazy day at Color-Me-Mine painting a teddy bear with my friends. I was twelve years old. I was starting to fit in at school. I was happy. But little did I know that was all about to change.

I came home to my ten-year-old brother watching TV and playing a video game. Just past the television was a sliding glass door leading to our patio. My dad was standing outside on the phone with his back turned towards us.

“Dad’s mad,” my brother said, not even bothering to look up from his Game Boy. I was in such a good mood from spending the day with friends that I didn’t even care to know why. I went into my bedroom and sat down at my computer, ready to spend the rest of my Saturday online. Not even two minutes later, my dad walked into the bedroom my brother and I shared, sat down, and said, “Nicole, we need to have a family meeting.” He called for my brother to come into the bedroom, and as we waited for him, my mind raced, trying to think of anything I might have done to get in trouble. It was never a good sign when he called me Nicole. My brother finally shuffled in and sat down on the bed next to my father.

Without any warning at all, he looked at me and said, “Your mom’s gone.” I didn’t understand what he meant. I didn’t want to. Everything went silent. I could hear only my own breath echoing in my ears like a bad horror movie, and I watched my dad and my brother hold each other and cry.

“You’re lying,” I said, starting to laugh. Why was I laughing? I knew they weren’t lying. My father was sitting in front of me bawling his eyes out — a grown man crying like a toddler. But I couldn’t believe him. My mother was my best friend. He handed me his cell phone and told me to call my grandmother, and that she would tell me everything I wanted to know.

I ran outside and I stood in the rain and I listened as my grandma cried and told me that my mother, my role model, my favorite person in the world, had killed herself. I was devastated. I wanted to cry, but the tears just wouldn’t come. They built themselves up in my chest forming a heavy anchor, but they would not come. I hung up the phone and walked inside. My brother was back at the television; my father was outside on the phone again. Everything looked normal. It didn’t appear as if the world had just rolled over on its back. I returned to my bedroom, and did what any twelve-year-old girl would do in a situation like this: I updated my AIM status — “RIP Mom.”

And finally, the next day, I woke up crying. I cried for two weeks straight. I didn’t eat or go to school. I left the house once: for the funeral. I was guilty. I felt like I should have been a better daughter, gotten her a better birthday gift, done more chores around the house. I couldn’t stand to look at myself. Suddenly, every little thing I used to do seemed like another cause of her suicide. She killed herself because I never did what she asked. She did it because I wasn’t who she wanted me to be.

I beat myself up until there was nothing left to beat. I broke myself down so far that I could think of nothing else to do but hate myself. And that led to hating her. I hated her for leaving me. For making me feel worthless. For leaving me to take on the role of mother, of woman of the house. I was twelve years old. I needed her. How did she expect me to be raised by just my dad? Every girl needs her mother! She couldn’t just leave when things got hard! Isn’t the point of having children to be completely selfless and only think of them? I had endless thoughts, endless questions.

After two weeks, my father made me go back to school and promised me that everything would be fine. But he was wrong. Everyone knew what had happened. My friends could barely look at me. People I didn’t even know pointed at me when I walked through the halls. I couldn’t deal with the pain of everyone staring, asking questions I didn’t know how to answer. So I turned away from my friends and spent all of my time alone. I was miserable.

My mother had gone from being my best friend to my worst enemy. This was all her fault. I hated her and I hated myself.

But the problem with hatred is that it eats you up. It burrows inside every little pore in your body. It drains you of all your energy. Living with hatred is an incredibly difficult thing to do. So I started working at forgiving. Because when it comes to forgiveness, sometimes it helps you more than the person you are forgiving. My mom will never know that I forgave her. I will never be able to go up to her, look her in the eye, and say, “I forgive you.” But now, I can look myself in the mirror, and know that sometimes people are selfish. People are stupid and act without thinking. People are people and we all do things we regret, but if we are never forgiven and never forgive, we will never be able to move on in our own lives.

I took all the anger that I was feeling and I channeled it into forgiveness and understanding. Everyone deserves a second chance no matter how hard they have hurt you. I may never know the reason why she hurt me the way she did, but I don’t need to. I have forgiven her, and because of that, I can be happy.

~Nicole Guiltinan

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