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  • Lori K Walters

If you're breaking generational cycles, you've got to forgive your parents.

person hang-gliding over mountains

This winter was the 20th anniversary of my mom’s death, an event that had a profound effect on my healing journey. She was driving down through the Fraser Canyon at night in a heavy snowstorm and lost control of her car. It was the shock of my life.

My husband and I had moved back home from Bolivia and our second child was just four months old. I was settling into motherhood, my heart expanding exponentially. I was starting to realize the pressures my mom had felt. After decades of hurting and rejecting each other, I could feel that there was finally potential for understanding and forgiveness between us.

But it was not to be.

Instead, I was left to find my own ways of comprehending, accepting and releasing the pain of our rocky relationship... and it’s been a confusing road to travel.

At the same time, navigating intricate twists and turns is what it takes to fully forgive our parents. It is brave and tender work and, I believe, essential to breaking generational parenting patterns. Whether your parents inflicted abuse, withheld their love, teased, blamed or ignored you, forgiving them is one of the steps in freeing yourself from the hurt and being able to do things differently with your own kids.

In my own pattern-breaking work, and in the work of many of my clients, I've come to know two things about forgiving one's parents: 

       1. It happens in little unexpected moments.

       2. It's an ongoing process.


Moments of Forgiveness

In my twenties, I knew that the damage caused by my relationship with my mom was holding me captive. My rebellion against her still had me in self-sabotage mode. I wanted to move on, but I didn’t know how.

I immersed myself in self-exploration workshops and new age rituals. I guess I imagined that I would eventually stand on a mountain, look up at the vast night sky and somehow 'forgive'. That all the anger and pain would be taken from me and I would be free to live my adult life. Maybe I was hoping for a free pass to not feel the hard feelings. Maybe the Fates had other plans for me.

As I look back now, I can say that those explorations included many powerful moments of forgiveness - not complete erasure of my resentment and self-pity, but important strides toward acceptance. Some were on mountaintops. Others were in candlelit circles or on tear-stained pages in my journal.

A moment that comes to mind was when I was working with a First Nations hereditary chief, hosting weekend gatherings to build understanding between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. On this particular night, many people had gone off to bed but a handful of us remained around the fire, the sound of the ocean and Great Spirit so powerfully present.

Something lifted me from my comfy seat and I started dancing slowly around the fire. A drum was beating softly in my head and I began to feel a presence dancing with me. I actually looked around because I thought someone had joined me, but no one was visible.

I felt supported and uplifted; my steps became lighter. An energy was shimmering with me, then through me, and then up and out of me into the starry sky. I had been feeling such agony about my mom and I immediately knew it was a layer of that pain being alchemized.

I was instantly filled with gratitude toward my mom, a wave of fresh, warm light filling my body, cell by cell. I could see crystal-clearly how the anxiety and powerlessness of my childhood had pointed me in the direction to discover the serenity I have now.

I laid down on the ground and my heart felt different in my body, like it was finally beating its natural rhythm.

What about you?

In what moments have you felt the magic of forgiveness?

Where have you witnessed the release of your suffering? 

When have lingering pieces of your relationship with a parent been alchemized? 

When have you experienced such grace breaking generational cycles?


Forgiveness Is an Ongoing Process 

My experience of forgiving my mom over these 20 years looks like a clump of tangled wool. I pull back some fibers and then I come to a knot. I hear a mother threatening her child or am reminded of being humiliated at my graduation, and I feel lost and powerless again. I twist it gently between my fingers, move it through my body, open my heart, write, dance, talk it through and something releases – anger, fear, shame, confusion – and I go forward for a while, more untangling.

In the spiral of your life path, you will repeatedly encounter people and situations that reignite the parenting pattern you’re breaking. It will offer you another serving of your bitterness or grief and invite you to take it to your mountaintop, altar or quiet place within to explore anew, feel what needs to be felt and allow the release of whatever is ready to be released, the next little bit.


You forgive and continue forgiving.

Forgiveness isn't for the other person. You already know that. It's for you as you evolve as a human, as your heart expands to include everyone, and as you grow ever closer to the Light.

I’ll leave you with words from Clarissa Pinkola Estes:

“Heal the wounds completely, to the very best of your ability, and let go of the rest. You have suffered long enough. To be an elder is to be able to speak of the wounds, and to have let them go. Not sit in them reliving them but let them go.

Let go of everything that has hurt you. Say, I understand; it was for my learning. Or I don’t understand and I’ll never understand it but I know that I learnt something from it and now I let it go. The prayer is to let go so one can be a competent elder for the ones who come after us, without dragging the detritus with us, to make it as clean and clear and beautiful as possible…”

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Photo by Raimond Klavins on Unsplash



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