Adverse Childhood Experiences and the path towards healing. You are not alone.
I share my trials, my victories, and my stories with you in hopes that if any of you were ever touched by childhood abuse or neglect, as I was, you will see yourselves in my experiences and feel strengthened to voice what you had not been able to before. I hope we can learn together why we respond to life through a particular lens, and that there are ways to climb out of this prison of pain, silence, and shame.
My name is Bess Hilpert

Forgiveness Through Grace

Releasing the All-Consuming Pain of the Past…

Reflecting on those who hurt me, I recognized that the ability to forgive came in waves. I believe grace interceded in the forgiving of my father, as I will share with you this week. Forgiveness of those that sexually abused me throughout my life came with time and age, help and awareness that trauma is not the event, but the wound left behind. I will address this path towards forgiveness next week.

My book, “finding I,” chronicles the events that led to my “grace-filled” moments of forgiveness for my father, the man who terrorized me most of my life.

“In 2003, I had gone eight years without any communication with my father. Despite the lack of communication with my parents, I learned from one of my sisters that my father had flown to the Mayo Clinic that day for a routine heart exam. During the exam they discovered a significant number of blockages. He had to have emergency quintuple heart bypass surgery. My parents had gone just for the test and intended to return home the next day. No one in my family planned to go and lend emotional support. I kept thinking of my mother there alone.

Surprising myself, I asked Ed if I could go. His answer, “yes.”

Another step that brought me further down the path.

A big step.

One made without fear.

One I knew would put me face to face with the man who could make me feel so “small.”

Maybe the day when he exclaimed our disassociation and my accepting it, began the shift towards accepting who I am. On that day, I did not beg for forgiveness from him, change my plans or get angry. I simply accepted that the time had come. My days of not having a voice were gone.

Another crack in my armor. Because of this, eight years later, I could fly without fear to Minnesota.

I met my mother at the hospital. With dad still in surgery, I knew she would be in the hospital waiting area.

I remember seeing her across the way bathed in the atrium’s light.

My heart nearly exploded.

I walked to her and wrapped my arms around her. We held each other, not wanting to let go or let the moment pass. I held her hand while we waited and traced my fingers across the veins in her hands.

My hands mirror my mother’s hands now.

After his surgery, they moved dad to the ICU. Only one person could go in and see him at a time, so I went and checked into the hotel, located on the hospital campus. For a week, while in ICU, my mother and I went back and forth caring for my father before they moved him to a regular floor. Once on the regular floor, I would witness how my father ordered my mother around. How he yelled at her making her feel like she could not do anything right. My father’s pain did not give him a right to behave in this way. His behavior made my heart hurt.

The stress and my father’s demanding demeanor left my mother exhausted. One day I sent my mother back to the hotel to take a nap. When I went into my father’s room, he presented his angry, ugly self and started ordering me around. I remember staring at my father in his hospital gown and seeing HIM for the first time. I did not see my father. I did not see the monster who terrorized me most of my life.

I saw a man in pain in a hospital gown with his ass hanging out… and it made me laugh. The stranglehold my father held on me my whole life lifted in that simple laugh. A laugh that forgave. A laugh that released me of the bondage of resentment. A laugh that allowed me to see the man as a person just like everyone else. A laugh that freed me and opened my closed heart. Every time he became surly, something in me just laughed. Over the days, something in my father also began to change. He softened and became appreciative for anything my mother, or I did for him.

Dr. Brene Brown quotes Archbishop Desmond Tutu in her book Rising Strong: “When I talk of forgiveness, I mean the belief that you can come out the other side a better person. A better person than one being consumed by anger and hatred. Remaining in that state locks you in a state of victimhood, making you almost dependent on the perpetrator. If you can find it in yourself to forgive then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator. You can move on and you can even help the perpetrator to become a better person, too.”

I enjoyed our time together walking the halls of the hospital, playing cards, telling stories, and, of course, laughing. It also made my heart sing when I could do something to ease his terrible pain.

The time came when I needed to head back to Texas. We were all filled with great emotion. I remember exiting the hospital to catch a cab to the airport and turned to look up the side of the building to where I thought my father’s room would be. There they both stood at the window.

We waved.

On the drive to the airport, I cried such a cleansing cry.

The cleansing came from complete forgiveness. The years of bondage, filled with such fear and anger, were washing away.

Dr. Brown goes on to explain: “So, forgiveness is not forgetting or walking away from accountability or condoning a hurtful act; it is the process of taking back and healing our lives so we can truly live. Forgiveness validates not just the importance of naming our experiences and owning our stories, but also how rumbling with a process can lead to clarity, wisdom, and self-love.”

“I had new eyes.”

finding I Bess Hilpert

My prayer is that we can all heal. We can all find ways to forgive (whether grace-filled or through hard self-work) and release the all-consuming pain of the past moving us evermore into the present. May we all be given “new eyes.”

Once again, touch and feel forgiveness awaiting you in your vibrant green toolbox.

Until next time, friends.

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