On Friday I wrote this post which got an incredible response. It was like nothing I have ever received before. I was called "inspiring", "brave" and other adjectives that I don't usually think of as referring to me. To be honest, that still hasn't really sunk in.
As hard as it was to write that post and press that submit button, being told you have inspired someone to work harder at letting go of their past or to try to share their experience with just one person after many years of bottling it up, has made it all worth it.
Something that may surprise some people is that I felt in order to move on, I had to forgive.
This person didn't ask for my forgiveness. I have no idea if he ever truly realised what he did to me, how much he completely and utterly turned my life upside down. I never spoke to him again despite being in his presence several times over the following 18 months.
I was brought up as a Christian and as such forgiveness was often spoken about, whether it be in the sense of God forgiving or people needing to find it in their hearts to forgive misdemeanours against them, often asking for guidance from God to forgive. I am no longer sure of my own beliefs, truth be told but perhaps it was this upbringing that lead me to the conclusion I came to after meeting D.
We met as two broken young people, recently having left different hostels, living next door to each other in supported housing. We both had a key worker who was based at another site and visited on a monthly basis (mainly for us to pay the rent and service charge but their for pastoral guidance if needed).
Our relationship started very casually, a sort of friends with benefits scenario if you will but I quickly realised I was falling in love and I ran away from it. Literally, I booked a week off work, packed a bag and jumped on a train to see my family and left my phone behind, telling my flat mate I just needed some head-space and would return within a week.
I was in a place where I was too frightened to fall in love.
In my teens I had felt abandoned and let down by my father.
When I was 19 I was raped by a young man I thought I could trust.
A year after that my mum died.
I met D three months after my mum died, having never truly grieved. Being the eldest sibling I had been desperate to keep strong, to prove to my family and the authorities that I was capable of bringing up my sisters and how DARE anyone take them away from me? I would show them and one day, soon, my sisters could come back to Bournemouth and I would bring them up. That was my oh so simple plan.
So, when I realised I was starting to fall, very quickly, in love with D, I panicked. I would go so far as to say I was in love after that first night of just talking, all night and comforting each other over our own demons. However, there was no way on this earth I was going to let someone hurt me again. Not happening. Ever. I had resolved that I couldn't trust anyone, not really. After all, those that I had trusted so far in my life had either let me down bitterly, or had abandoned me. No siree, I was not going through that again.
I spent a few days with family in Bristol, my Aunt and Uncle who had generously taken my sisters into their home as their own children. I spent time with them as a family and a lot of time reflecting. I was asked if I wanted to go through life without being loved in that head-spinning crazy way that most young girls dream of? Did I really want to go through life never trusting anyone ever again? Did I want to end up like a real life Miss Havisham?
It seemed to me that if I wanted to go forward and have the happy and fulfilling life that my family wanted of me (hence my sisters being placed with them) and my mum would have wanted, I needed to let go of the past. But how? Really? How could I let go of so much hurt and pain and anger, knowing that I would experience more at many points in the future, assuming I lived a full life and wasn't struck down dead tomorrow?
So, after 5 days away, I went home. I can't have been back in my flat for an hour before the buzzer went and D was stood at the door, brandishing a single pink rose with a card. He passed it to me then turned his back and walked out, simply asking me to come to him when I was ready.
I was surprised by this touch; he'd remembered our conversation that first night where I told him I thought a single favourite flower was a more thoughtful gesture than a random bunch. I had also told him my preference would be pink roses or stargazer lilies. In the card he had written that he really cared for me, he apologised for not realising how special I was before and that, if I felt able to, could I give him the chance to make it up to me and pop by his flat an hour later.
I sat and thought for about 45 minutes. I so wanted to take this opportunity yet I was still so scared. What would I regret more though? Remaining committed to protecting myself, avoiding love at all costs? Or letting go and let someone care for me? Someone who had already helped me more than he knew?
The fact that I am sat here, writing this, married to D with a son probably tells you what I decided to.
For me, forgiving was more about me. I realised that I personally couldn't possibly give myself to D, to my future without forgiving those that had hurt me, whether they realised they had or not, whether they had intended to or not.
That is by no means to say I have forgotten. I don't believe anyone truly can forget hurt caused to them.
And I have to say, forgiving isn't an easy process at all but for me at least, I truly believe it was (and remains) an essential process to enable me to live my life rather than just exist. It remains an essential process because there are times when the hurt and anger come flooding back and those are emotions I don't want to hold onto in my life.
Maybe it makes me a weak person? Maybe I forgive too easily, at least to other people?
I asked my twitter followers earlier what forgiveness meant to them and got, as you'd expect, various responses. Some ranging from "Sometimes it is impossible to forgive but you can still move on" from @cherriemayhem, "it's harder if u can't talk to or challenge the person who did it to u aswell or if they're not sorry" from @ladyemsy and "I think both help.I'm also of view that if you can't forgive then you can't possibly expect to be forgiven for your own wrongs" from @cupcakemumma11.
So, I am interested to see what you think.
Is forgiving a person who wrongs you essential to you in order to be able to move on? Do you hold a grudge, anger or bitterness for a long time? How easy do you find it to forgive? Does someone have to ask for your forgiveness in order to receive it?
Here is a lovely post I read recently on this subject from @eliza_do_lots.