Forgiving the Unforgivable

How does a person forgive the unforgiveable? Almost four years ago, my Phil was assassinated in the very worst way possible by someone he liked and trusted. He did not die when the first shots hit and nobody knows just how long he lived before the more than 10 bullet wounds killed him. He had time to know fear and to stare down his executor. With the death of Phil, I lost everything I had built my life and future on. I had assumed that we would grow old together, welcome grandchildren together, and even bury parents together. I never thought that I would be a widow at 49. I never thought that I wouldn’t have time to say goodbye or that I wouldn’t see him again. Forgiveness of a crime so unfair and egregious that the mind cannot wrap itself around the true magnitude of the events or impact of those events seems far beyond the human capacity to render–far beyond my capabilities.

Forgiveness isn’t something I can see happening in one decision or that there is one thing I can do to fully forgive. It is simply a process. Some days I am further along the process than I was yesterday and sometimes it feels like I will never be able to say that I have the hang of forgiving. There are no magic wands, but I figured out early on that it was too easy to fall into anger and pity parties that didn’t give me back what I really wanted. The more I stood steeped in anger that was often misplaced, the longer I found hatred and bitterness creeping in a putrefying my heart robbing me of joy and of life. I want life. I don’t want the assassin to take my joy, my life, or my hope . If I relinquish my heart to anger, bitterness and living in the past, the assassin got my soul that day too.

There are days when it feels like the burden of the loss of Phil, the loss of my dreams of growing old with someone, the loss of my innocence and laughter is too much to bear. There are days when my heart is crushed with wanting and with missing the man that was once larger than life. Sometimes the feelings of what has been lost with the death of Phil–sometimes I feel that the best of me if forever missing. I do not laugh as often, nor do I have that sense of security, and my youth withered with his death because I was too young to have buried a husband and I was not prepared to be single before I was 50.

My faith has changed too. I prayed each and every day for Phil to come home safely. Many other people prayed with me. When Phil’s broken body came home, I had a choice. I could be angry with God, or I could shift my paradigms of faith understanding. Essentially, people have a choice. It is my belief that the assassin had a choice and he chose evil. I believe, and yes, I really believe that Phil was received into heaven on that horrible day. I hope that the angels were there in that room ministering to Phil and the other 8 as evil played out that day.

Archbishop Tutu once said that “Without forgiveness there is no hope. Forgiving is giving up that the past can be any different.” Powerful words. There is no amount of grieving or anger that will bring back my Phil. Many trauma survivors get stuck in the wanting of revenge and unforgiveness. The heart is consumed by a blackness and a cloud. A person is changed. Forgiveness is not about restoring trust or forgetting, it is about the decision to not live in the purgatory of doubt and anger over what cannot be fixed no matter how much I want it. I do not have the answers, but I do know that I want my life to stand for more than anger, bitterness, and darkness. I want my life to shine and matter for those whose lives ended that day—far too soon. Forgiveness is something that I cannot say that I am fully there with, some days I am further along than others, but it is something that I continue to work toward one small step at a time.


  1. Such powerful words Linda. They resonate with me and I understand. “Without forgiveness there is no hope. Forgiving is giving up that the past can be any different”. This speaks to my pain and it frees my heart in a way that was not before. Thank you for being brave enough to post this. I am grateful.


  1. […] Forgiving the Unforgivable. […]

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