I’m struggling with the ability to forgive someone (medical professional) who played a substantial role in my infant son’s death last summer. I have talked to my priest about it, been to confession , but find I’m unable to move forward. The issue for me is not that it was a error in medical decision making, made in good faith, but extreme arrogance, outright lying to us about our son’s medical condition (confirmed by a review of medical records) and complete refusal to listen to our concerns as parents. As another physician who was there that day told us “she refused to listen to you as soon as you expressed an opinion that was different than hers. She never considered at all what you had to say”. And it had devastating results.

We have met with the hospital administration a few months after my son died, and they listened, had an appropriate response, took action and assurred us that what happened to us would never happen to another parent at their facility. But I will never hear an “I’m sorry” from the dr involved, which would help me tremendously.

I’m not sure what forgiveness in this situation would look like. I do not hate her. I have prayed for her. I do not obsess over it. But her actions still make me tremendously angry at times. The death of our son has been the most difficult, most excrutiating experience in our lives. Does it mean, after I forgive her, that I could be able socialize with her? Sit down to tea? Does forgiveness mean I would be saying that my son’s death doesn’t matter, what she did didn’t matter? That what happened would NOT matter to me anymore, if I truely forgave? This is the death of my child, it will ALWAYS matter. I cannot imagine ever being around this person where it wouldn’t cause me great pain.

My grief counselor is not concerned with my ability to forgive the person involved, she says it is not necessary from a physchological point of view. But my faith teaches me differently. How can forgiveness move from an act of the will ( I WANT to forgive) to real and genuine feeling (I completely forgive you and am at peace with what you did)? And what does it look like when you have forgiven?

I am so terribly sorry about the loss of your son. Forgiveness does NOT mean that you must socialize or ever even associate with the person who harmed you. It does not mean you must ever like the person. It doesn’t even mean that you ever have to think well of the person (or even think of them at all). It just means that you allow God’s forgiveness to flow through you, towards the other person. It is about letting go of the anger and the hatred you hold towards the person.
Whenever I hear stories such as yours, or even when I have a difficult time forgiving someone, I think of Corrie ten Boom. Please read her story of the time she found herself face to face with one of the guards who murdered her sister in Ravensbruck:

Corrie Ten Boom Story on Forgiving

“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him—a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.

“It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown. ‘When we confess our sins,’ I said, ‘God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. …’

“The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.

“And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!

[Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent.]

“Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: ‘A fine message, Fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!’

“And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?

“But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

“ ‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying, ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me.

“ ‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ again the hand came out—’will you forgive me?’

“And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

“For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’

“I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’

“And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“ ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’

“For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then”

(excerpted from “I’m Still Learning to Forgive” by Corrie ten Boom. Reprinted by permission from Guideposts Magazine. Copyright © 1972 by Guideposts Associates, Inc., Carmel, New York 10512>).

I’m so sorry for your loss. I agree with juno. Dr Rick Fitzgibbons (Catholic has been on EwTN) uses “Forgiveness therapy” if you want you could look into it more and maybe rent some of his books from the library.


he has been a guest on Women of Grace (ewtn show) about frogivness I’ll try to find it.

you may find confort by reading about St Rita (her husband was murdered) also I’m sure there are other Saints that are patrons of forgiveness.

I firmly believe that God does not expect the impossible from us. It’s perfectly natural for you to be angry. I’m sure, to some extent, you always will be. Forgiveness isn’t necessarily a feeling. It’s not a “warm fuzzy.” It’s a decision, and it seems you’ve already made that decision.

I feel like if I had truely forgiven her, I would feel no resentment towards her. I keep picturing Pope John Paul with the person who shot him. He seemed like he truely had peace over the situation. Peace, I do not have. Maybe that is expecting too much.

I am praying for you, I am so sorry for your loss and your pain.

You are a wonderful child of God to be so concerned about this, many in this world would be wallowing in bitterness and hatred. You are trying as best as you can to forgive, clearly Jesus is close to you and walking with you or else you would not be where you are.

I think complicating matters is the fact that the physician is not sorry, or, if she is has not expressed that sorrow to you. Juno shared a wonderful story of forgiveness but in that story the Nazi asked for forgiveness. You are good to pray. Keep praying and when you can, keep praying for her. Pray for a soul so gripped by Satan’s temptation to pride and arrogance that she caused the death of a little child. Anger at those that have hurt you deeply is natural, it is only when you act out in that anger in revenge that it is sinful.

I wish I had words of wisdom to help and make this better. This situation is devastating and beyond something where a short paragraph can even hope to help even a tiny bit. Again I am so sorry and will pray that Christ helps heal your broken heart. Please take care as best as you can.

This is very helpful for me, thank you. Part of the great difficulty for me is that this was completely preventable, not caused by lack of knowledge, or expertise, but extreme arrogance and pride. And that is painful beyond belief. The way you have stated it “pray for a soul so gripped by Satan’s temptation to pride and arrogance” will make it possible for me to pray in this way.

Dear etmom,

I hardly know what to say. But it has been less than a year since your son’s shocking death. Your family is still reeling from his absence. And under these circumstances…I think you are expecting an awful lot of yourself to immediately be forgiving of this doctor.

I do know that many parents who are placed in what seems an unbearable situation, with the loss of a child, take action to prevent others from having to go through what they have. They form an organization, they talk to their congressmen, they get public attention for the problem. Taking action in this way seems to help parents feel less victimized and more as though the death of their child, while still painful and tragic, has come to mean something and help others. I do not know what your situation is, and maybe you cannot do that or would not be interested. I know that taking action would help me find a sort of comfort and peace. Maybe it would even help me forgive that individual.

You will be in my prayers in adoration today.

That right there is forgiveness. That’s living up Christ’s call to bless those who spit on you.

That said, I hope you sued the hell out of him. You don’t want this guy to cause more heartache for others. I’m a big fan of tort reform because everyone makes mistakes in good faith and they don’t deserve to be greatly punished, but I’m a bigger fan of weeding out clownish doctors.

Thank you :slight_smile:

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