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Why Trauma Survivors Don’t Always Need To Forgive

Trauma Survivors Dont Need To Forgive

2. Remember that you have a right to love and happiness. 

Religious or conservative upbringings might have taught LGBTQ individuals to believe that existing within this community of love is a “sin” worthy of its due punishment. Many of my patients have expressed such thoughts that their abuse was punishment for being gay, queer, trans, or other places on the love spectrum outside of where society says they “should” exist.

This guilt stays with them unless it can be resolved at the source. Their mourning will often start with accepting who they are and the fact that they have a right to love—that their love is not a sin and that in no way do they deserve to be punished for it.

3. Keep a journal. 

I recommend this at every stage of the recovery process. In the beginning stages, journaling is a safe way to get the feelings out, so they do not stay bottled up inside of you. Make it a goal to write 5 minutes in the morning, and another 5 at night, at least for the first month.

When we look back at our writing long after experiencing the trauma firsthand, we can see our growth written in our words. The signs of growth are visible rewards for a survivor to celebrate. Once you can feel safe enough to express your feelings and mourn in a supportive environment, this natural progression will happen inside of you.

Keeping a journal will provide you with this tangible evidence of how far you have made it from the fear and pain of your abuse.

Related: 50 Best Journaling Prompts You Will Ever Read Or Need

4. Remember that healing from trauma is like riding a wave: It ebbs and flows. 

This is a frequent statement that I make when talking to survivors, even going as far as making the wave motion with my hands for dramatic effect. You will have good days and bad days. Pleasant weeks may be followed by a bad week.

It is important to understand that healing is not linear. It is normal and natural to have different emotional reactions with varying degrees of severity as you move forward.

Why Trauma Survivors Don't Always Need To Forgive
Why Trauma Survivors Don't Always Need To Forgive

So many people return to therapy after a few months or even years believing they were okay, thinking that they “forgave” the person who hurt them but arriving at the same pain and grief as before. I believe this is because they never fully allowed themself to acknowledge, mourn, and heal from their grief.

After mourning, there are many survivors who make the decision to forgive as part of their continued healing. I urge you to do whatever makes you feel most at peace.

Copyright by Kaytlyn “Kaytee” Gillis.

Excerpted in part from my book Invisible Bruises.


Berezin, R.(2016) Mourning? Yes; Forgiveness? No. Healing from Trauma.…. (Accessed January 1st, 2022.)

Written By Kaytlyn Gillis  
Originally Appeared On Psychology Today  
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Why Trauma Survivors Don't Always Need To Forgive
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Kaytlyn Gillis LCSW-BACS

Kaytee Gillis, LCSW-BACS, is a psychotherapist, advocate, and author with a passion for working with survivors of family trauma. She received her BA in psychology from Clark University, and her Master's from Tulane. Her work focuses on assisting survivors of family and intimate partner abuse and assisting survivors with navigating the legal system to receive protection. Her recent book, Invisible Bruises: How a Better Understanding of the Patterns of Domestic Violence Can Help Survivors Navigate the Legal System, sheds light on the ways that the legal system can perpetuate the cycle of domestic violence by failing to recognize patterns that would otherwise hold perpetrators accountable and protect survivors. Gillis provides training on recognizing patterns of domestic violence, treating the aftermath of abuse, and helping survivors move forward.View Author posts