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By February 17, 2007 7 Comments Read More →

Creating healing with the ones you’ve hurt after the sociopath is gone

During the final 3 months of the sociopathic relationship, my daughters, then 15 and 16, did not know where I was or if I was alive or dead. Every day they waited for the police to arrive at the front door with the news that my body had been found. I had disappeared when the sociopath fled the province in an attempt to evade capture by the police. He’d promised to let me go once he reached the States. I didn’t care what he did. I wanted the pain and suffering and horror of my life to end. I wanted to die. And then one day the police walked in and arrested him and I was set free.

One of my first thoughts in freedom was, “I will never forgive myself for what I did to my daughters”. That was my victim speaking. To ask for my daughters’ forgiveness, I had to forgive myself, otherwise I was lying when I asked for their forgiveness. And so I began the process of forgiveness.

Last week, my eldest daughter was sharing her experience with a counselor at college. “They couldn’t believe what happened to me,” she said.

Within me, my fear awoke. “What did they say?” I asked, keeping my voice calm as inside I felt my anger and pain and shame start to writhe.

“They were just shocked. Had trouble believing it.”

“What did you tell them about me?” I asked. No matter how hard I tried to push it back, my pain and anger leaked out.

“It wasn’t about you,” she said. “I was telling them about what happened to me.”

“I hear you,” I stiffly replied. “So, what did they say?”

My daughter is very wise and insightful. She knew I was digging for her to absolve me of what I’d done without my spelling it out. “See, I can’t talk to you about this stuff. You just get angry,” she threw at me.

“I’m not angry,” I lied. “I’m just asking questions.”

She gave me a look that only a twenty-year old daughter can throw at her mother and stormed from the room.

I was hurt. Of course she can talk to me about it, my inner voice cried. I’m caring, and open to hearing what she has to say. Why does she always have to be so dramatic?

Insight comes in unexpected places

A few days later I was coaching at a personal development seminar and the facilitator was interacting with one of the participants. “You may have to ask for forgiveness for the next five or ten or fifteen years before your wife truly trusts you again,” she told a man who was struggling with his relationship.

I stood in the back of the room and listened and learned and felt the sorrow of having missed an opportunity to get more of what I want in my life with my daughter. When she started to tell me about her session with her counselor I had an opportunity to listen with an open heart and mind. I had the opportunity to step into her circle, to wrap my arms around her and apologize for what I did to hurt her so badly.

Instead, I wrapped my mind around my pain and closed my heart off to her suffering because I let the pain of knowing what I’d done back then overwhelm my love for her in the moment.

But, says the little voice of self-defeating games inside me, When is enough, enough? I’ve apologized lots. It’s not like I haven’t asked for their forgiveness. I wrote an entire book about that experience so they could understand what I went through. What more do they want?

I put the voice gently aside and lovingly ask myself, When am I going to be willing to listen to what they went through? When am I going to be willing to hear them? To not judge myself because they felt pain through that relationship? When am I going to let go of my guilt?

I choose to apologize

Forgiveness is a decision. It is a gift. In asking my daughters for forgiveness, I am not doing it only for me. I’m doing it because I love them and know that forgiveness is necessary for all of us to live loving, full and peaceful lives. They need to hear from me that I acknowledge their pain. That I recognize my actions caused enormous upheaval in their lives and that I betrayed their trust. I don’t know how long it will take for them to trust me again, but as long as I scurry away from opportunities to create more closeness between us, trust will not be built.

Once upon a time, I deserted my daughters and caused enormous pain in their lives. It is possible that it will take a lifetime for them to truly forgive me. It is possible it will take a lifetime for me to truly forgive myself. If I want be open and vulnerable to create closeness with them, if I want them to heal, if I want their lives to be rich and full and loving, and our lives to be filled with joy and laughter, making a commitment to ask for forgiveness in those moments when they find the courage to speak of their pain is worth it. Every time I ask for forgiveness, we all have an opportunity to heal.

Rebuilding trust takes time. It is not something I control. It is not something I can will into being. If I continue to run away from opportunities to hear them because I feel such fear when they speak of their pain, then I will never find true healing, for myself and for them. If I am willing to apologize only when I feel ready and prepared, then I am meeting my needs, not theirs. Ultimately, who am I to decide when my daughters have healed? Who I am I say, “I’ve apologized to you enough. Forgive me now.” Asking for forgiveness does not hurt me. It heals me and creates an opportunity for my daughters to heal as well.

Stepping back to move forward

That night, I came home from the seminar and went into my daughter’s room. She sat in her bed reading.

“Can I have a moment?” I asked.

She looked at me warily and put her book aside. “Okay, but I’m studying for an exam, I don’t have long.”

I sat down on the edge of the bed, looked deeply into her beautiful brown eyes that were trying to avoid looking at me and said, “I acknowledge that the relationship with the sociopath and my disappearing caused you great pain. I apologize. I will always love you and I commit to listening with an open heart and mind when you choose to share your experience with me.”

My daughter started to cry. “Thank you,” she said. “I don’t know if I can ever forgive you.”

I wrapped my arms around her as she started to sob. “I pray one day you will. I pray you step joyously into forgiveness so that you can live the beautiful life you deserve. I love you. Always have. Always will.”

“I love you too,” she whispered through her tears.

Connecting the circle of love

Most days my daughters and I live in harmony – or as relative a harmony as three women can get living in a home with one bathroom! Somedays, they use the past as a weapon to keep from feeling their pain. When I apologize, when I lovingly open my heart to their pain and ask for their forgiveness, we all have an opportunity to let go of some of the deep hurt that lives in each of us. And when we stretch beyond that pain, when we move through our fear into our courage, we fall into the love that sustains us. When I am willing to be open to hearing them speak of their sorrow, I grow beyond my fear and anger and the little voice in my head that likes to whisper, ‘you’re a bad mother’ transforms itself into the voice of love that accepts me in all my beauty, pain and laughter, warts and all.

Once upon a time I did something that caused my daughters great pain. Having the courage to lovingly apologize opens us all to the limitless possibilities of forgiveness and the joy of life lived in love.



7 Comments on "Creating healing with the ones you’ve hurt after the sociopath is gone"

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  1. Buttons says:

    Though this was written over 3 years ago, it’s so applicable to the spath’s swath of devastation. There is so much collateral damage and I feel that M.L. Gallagher’s choice to acknowlege the collateral damage to the daughters was courageous, at the very least.

    What an excellent article.



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  2. OxDrover says:

    Dear Louise,

    I can’t believe this wonderful article has been posted for 3 years and I have not seen it or that it has not been brought up before! I have tried so hard to read ALL the articles here, and I am so glad that Buttons brought this article up!

    As always, Louise, you cut to the heart of the matter with us all. We allow our most prescious relationships to be damaged by the psychopathic person in our lives.

    Regaining trust from others is a difficult journey when we have done things that we know were insensitive or neglectful to others to whom we had an obligation of love to not betray.

    Regaining trust in ourselves is also difficult and forgiving ourselves just as difficult. Even when we do forgive ourselves, it is difficult to hear a recitation of our less than stellar acts, especially when we hear it from the lips of those we hurt. We don’t want to be reminded by others that we did hurt them in a deeply painful way.

    I read the story of Joseph in the Bible, with his forgiveness of his brothers who sold him into slavery coming long before he saw them again, but when they presented themselves before him in Egypt to buy grain, they did not recognize this official as their brother, but he recognized them.

    He had forgiven them, but had NOT regained any trust for them along with his forgiveness. I realized then that someone can forgive you, or you can forgive them (get the bitterness out of the heart) and yet, still not trust that person at all.

    Before he revealed himself to his brothers, he tested them to a great degree to see what kind of men they had become, and only after they had shown that they had grown, and no longer were willing to hurt their father any more, and were now actually willing to put themselves in slavery to protect their younger brother from unjust charges, and to not send their father to his grave sorrowing for his youngest son.

    Frederic Nietzche said “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”

    Learning that “forgiveness” is not just “pretending it never happened” and that TRUST and forgiveness are not the same, I am now able to see that people who have injured me are not necessarily worthy of trust, even if I forgive them. I also know that those people I have injured in the past may forgive me and yet not entirely trust me, no matter how often I say “I’m truly sorry for what I did.”

    We learn to trust others slowly as children, to trust that _____ will never let us down. When that important person does let us down and we are hurt, injured, insecure, either “on purpose” or “by accident,” we learn that maybe trusting is not safe in general and/or that trusting that person is not safe. If the injury is “huge” it may always remain somewhat less than 100% of trust restored. While I would like to think that Those I love that I have hurt will 100% trust me, 100% forgive me, expecting that level of healing from others, others that I have hurt is not necessarily realistic, and certainally not in the SHORT TERM. Maybe not ever.

    If my maternal DNA donor came to me today “apologizing” to me and saying “sorry” for all she had done, I know that there is still no way I would believe a word she said. I no longer accept just the “words” for an apology, and since there are decades of hurt and betrayal behind that distrust of her, it would not happen. Or, with my P-son, there have been too many betrayals. While I have gotten rid, I think, of most of the bitterness I felt for them, I realize that there is no corresponding feeling of love that has replaced it or desire to be with them.

    I hope for you that in the three years since you wrote this very insightful article that the breech between you and your daughters has further healed. That you are able to listen and talk to them, and they you. God bless you, Louise.



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  3. Buttons says:

    So, this article still speaks to me just as clearly as it did the first time I read it.

    Time is short, now. The younger son will be up here at this time, next week. He has, according to his school counselors and everyone else involved in his life, swung around from accepting his role as a victim to wanting to be a Survivor. The more that I speak with the gal whose family opened their home to him, the more confident I am that this kid has a fighting chance.

    Am I scared? Yeah – I am. I’m afraid of the triggers and I have to be very careful about guarding my emotions. My boundaries have been under construction for a while, and with the help of this site and the insight of my fellow Survivors, I’ve been able to use some good mortar to lay that foundation.

    With the spath son – I don’t want to know about him for the rest of my life. It’s pathetic, but it’s true. I love what he should have been and what he could have been. But, he is not the infant that I gave birth to. He is a monster, and there’s nothing that I can do to change that.

    This is where it will be a dicey place on my healing path – if my younger son wants to talk about his brother, I know that I need to allow him to vent, speak, etc. I believe that, in due time, he will recognize what his brother did to him and others.

    I don’t even know if I want to answer any questions if the younger son asks any. I don’t know how to be truthful without being brutal.

    Whatever happens, I’m so grateful for this site and the courageous Survivors who have helped me so much. For all of you, and Donna (especially), thank you from my heart.

    Brighest blessings to one and all.



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  4. Inquirente says:

    Wow, this article i just happened upon is very integral to me and my husband now. I have not been on lovefraud for a long time. In 2007 we uncovered our nieces fiance to be runnung a fake hedge fund business. We were the whistle blowers on his business to the CTFC and SEC as well as trying hard to convince her and her immediate family of his lies and manipulaion of her. Long story short she and her family continued to trust and believe in him, she married him, within a few months they moved in with her parents. We and other friends and family were kicked out and thye no lomger spoke to us or them. Clients of his found the truth and also went to authorities after not recieving their money back upon request. Bounced checks, excuses, lies, delays etc. the FBI interviewed numerous victims bgan to establish a case.
    Finally he was arrested in 2010 after our niece kicked him out and he began another scam using an alias name on Facebook and Web site. He has pleaded quilty and will hopefully be sentenced next week. 15 victims came forward, many of them women he manipulated, swore his love for and promised the world. All that he did was take their money and deystroy them emotionally and financially.
    Since his arrest and public knowledge of his criminal and emotional abuse our niece has yet to speak to us nor many of the family. This has been very painful for us. Throughout this ordeal things were said by my husbands sister and niece that were very hurtful to my husband and I.
    And vice versa, from us to them in our frustration to get them to believe us. We never blamed her for anything we know that she is a victim and so is her family however we were hurt that she completely kicked us out of her life. We had a very strong and loving relationship.

    Reading the above makes me realize that until she can forgive herself for what has transpired she will not be able to see how others were affected by the evil this individual brought on to so many.

    We continue to wish her all the happiness in the world and will await patiently and hope some day this can be remedied. have others seen this phenomenon occur woth very close relatives? The whistle blower is the one austrazised?
    Thanks LF has always helped put perspective on all of this craziness!



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  5. Ox Drover says:

    Dear Inquirente,

    Yes, that is the case, the whistleblower is the one punished, and in the case of your niece, she may be angry at herself, or she may be ashamed, or she may also be dysfunctional. It is difficult to tell from your brief description, but though it is hurtful to you and your husband, the ball is in her court.

    My own egg donor (maternal DNA donor) protected my psychopathic son who tried to ahve me killed and the man he sent to kill me, until eventually the hired killer was discovered and arrested along with my daughter in law after they had stolen money from my egg donor, and even though I had tried to warn her, she expected me to just “pretend nothing happened” and that she had not been a party to them trying to drive me out of my home and discredit me in the community.

    I came to realize that the “relationship” I had with my egg donor wasn’t as “loving” as I had fantasized it was, and in fact, she is very abusive and dysfunctional. I am now NO CONTACT with her as well.

    So you might want to reevaluate the entire family situation in light of the things that were done to you for trying to protect them from their own fantasy of the psychopath.



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  6. blossom4th says:

    This article meant alot to me as I read it.I’ve often wondered if I could EVER make up for what our spath put us through.As their mother,I should have defended them,but I was so caught up in being the victim,and wondering how this could be happening,that I didn’t believe in my ability to be able to take care of us without him-I was living like a zombie on a steady diet of confusion and haze!To think of the pain they went through all those years without their mother defending them,makes me want to vomit!Someday I will be able to forgive myself.Atleast the healing has started.We do love each other….even though we don’t have the perfect mother/daughter relationship.



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  7. Ox Drover says:

    Blossom4th,

    Forgiving yourself is one of the hardest things to do I think. It was for me at least.

    Healing relationships after the trauma is also difficult, but if there is anything there worth saving, you can do it. Hang in there. God bless.



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