How Do I Forgive A Loved One For Their Mental Illness?








We learn that mental illness is not a choice. Coping with the many emotions and behavioral urges of mental health disorders do present many choices. What a loved one goes through as their mental health disorder develops and slowly takes over their mind, until they learn how to deal with it, is beyond their control. Unfortunately, it is beyond our control as well. We cannot make them stop hurting us, stop hurting themselves, or change they way they feel. A loved one’s mental health disorder is beyond our jurisdiction, which is challenging, because it can intimately affect our lives.

One of the ways we try to cope with a loved one’s mental illness is through resentment. A form of passive aggression, resentment is often described as drinking a poison meant for others, or withholding love from others but instead withholding love from ourselves. To settle resentment, we have to find room for two emotional and spiritual principles: acceptance and forgiveness. First, we have to accept that our loved one has a mental illness which is beyond our control. Second, we have to learn to forgive them for how they might behave and how that behavior might affect us. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. Acceptance does not mean condoning. Both can be healing and educations. Learning to set healthy boundaries, create healthy responses, and communicate in healthy ways are part of the process.

Recognize Their Work In Recovery

The effects of a loved one’s mental health disorder can be traumatizing. Self-harm, verbal abuse, physical abuse, substance abuse- all of the ways they act out can take a toll. As they work on themselves in their recovery by attending treatment and working with a therapist, you have the opportunity to witness their growth and development. How they are changing has to be enough. Letting go of the fear that they may revert into the old version of themselves is a practice in vulnerability. Resentment can feel like a form of protection against future harm. Unfortunately, it only creates harm in the present. Forgiveness sometimes means giving up all hope of a better past. That doesn’t mean relinquishing hope for a better future- as your loved one is already demonstrating the possibilities for what lies ahead in the work they are doing now. It means realizing that no resentment, bitterness, or fear can change what happened in the past or even what will happen in the future. Instead, it encourages letting go and celebrating what is happening now while preparing yourself for what might come in the future.


Family healing is part of the program at Avalon By The Sea. For mental health and substance use disorders, our residential treatment programs provide family and relationship therapy as well as family programming. For a confidential assessment and more information, call 888-958-7511.

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