Heal and Forgive

Forgiveness in the Face of Abuse

Nancy Richards

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ISBN: 1-57733-158-3, 144 pp., 5 x 8, paperback, $13.00

Also by Nancy Richards: Heal and Forgive II

Heal and Forgive presents a first-hand description of child abuse and navigates the reader through the distinctive stumbling blocks encountered by adult survivors of abuse who are attempting to forgive.

This thought-provoking illustration offers new hope to those who have given up at the prospect of forgiving. Many survivors of abuse long to forgive their abusers; however, many common approaches to forgiveness are not appropriate for situations involving abuse. This work demonstrates to the survivor the additional steps necessary to achieve forgiveness in the face of abuse.

Surprisingly, it is often the very process of not forgiving, of acknowledging the pain, and taking the steps to heal that frees the abused to forgive. This book clearly points to the need to validate their story with a sympathetic listener, express their anger in appropriate ways, mourn for their losses, and protect themselves and others from re-injury. Further, this work explains to the individual that forgiveness does not mean excusing. No one needs to forgive the acts perpetrated against them in order to let go of resentment and forgive the being who harmed them.

Forgiveness is not an event of immediacy. It's not a bolt of lightning that brightens the soul and burns the pain to ashes. Forgiveness is a process that is transformational. When all is said and done, the final process is an act of love.

Review by Mark Welch, Ph.D., May 13th 2008 (Volume 12, Issue 20)


“I left Mom’s house stripped, whipped, naked, and destroyed.” Heal & Forgive is the author’s potent account of the raw abusive underbelly of human nature and the triumph over it.

Thinking about child abuse puts most people in an uncomfortable zone yet many people are abusive without realizing it. Telltale signs of abuse are being uncovered daily. Healing from abuse is walking a complicated grief path of multiples losses. Working through the trauma takes on a power. The power of healing is the ability to reshape your life.

The author courageously rips through the barriers of denial, leaving the crude truth exposed. Richards’ gutsy mission of cleaning out the wounds of abuse and setting new boundaries is humbling. As the author searches through the rearview mirror of her life, she learns that healing first is the foundation for true forgiveness.

The perfect punctuation mark to her lessons is the purging of the patterns of abuse. By shedding her layers of pain, anger and confusion, she transforms her life and the life of those she touches.

This is an excellent book for abuse survivors and for those dealing with or helping abuse survivors.

Sherry Russell, Grief Management Specialist, Midwest Book Review

This grab-you-in-the-gut first-hand account of growing up in an abusive household should be read by anyone who has ever wondered: Is what I experienced abusive? Is what I experienced as a child abusive? Is what I am permitting abusive? Or, Is what I am doing abusive?

Written with refreshing clarity, objectivity and frank matter-of factness, many readers will recognize themselves and be touched by Nancy's straightforward voice of validation. This author leads the reader deftly into the still largely uncharted controversial and confusing arena of forgiveness: What is it? When is it appropriate? How does it or doesn't it link with my healing? She offers wonderful signposts and resources along the way for the person wending their way through the wilderness of recovery from the silent inner pain abusive families inflict.

This is a powerful contribution to the field of recovery from abuse. I will recommend it to many of my clients.

Chris Richards, M.S.W.

Heal and Forgive is an eloquent examination of survival and ultimately, spiritual prosperity that holds promise for abuse survivors seeking the next level in healing and for anyone who wishes to further understand the tragedy of abuse.

Mark Hardy, Attorney

Heal and Forgive is a sensitive and perceptive book that would be very helpful for anyone who has been abused. This is a very personal odyssey of self-discovery, pain, revelations, discouragement, hope, healing and forgiving. The author offers perceptive and knowledgeable insights and reveals much about the difficult and often baffling process of healing that can occur as a result of facing abuse. This helpful and compassionate book is a blueprint for surviving the pain of abuse and reconstructing a healthy life.

Judy M. Harris, M.A., Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Heal and Forgive is compelling, essential reading for the adult survivor of childhood abuse. Like the author, I also found forgiveness to be fleeting, difficult and unfulfilling. Ms. Richards, through her life experiences has been able to lay out a concise blueprint that will promote personal healing. I now have renewed faith that forgiveness, inner-peace and happiness are truly possible.

Daryl Frank, Adult Survivor

Powerful ... compelling ... Heal and Forgive clearly outlines the steps necessary to forgive an abuser. This is an excellent read for anyone looking for direction with his or her own recovery from abuse or with the struggle to forgive.

Janice Selander

Table of Contents


1. Father, Where Are You?
2. Continued Reign of Terror
3. Whirlpool of Injustice and Betrayal
4. New Beginnings
5. Struggling to Forgive
6. Mother, I Am Angry
7. Mother, I Don't Forgive You
8. My Father's Eyes
9. Setting the Foundation
10. Mourning
11. Forgiveness Is a Process
12. And Then There Is Forgiveness




This story is painful to read. How can a parent abuse or allow the other parent to abuse children in the myriad of ways described here? Perhaps this "why?" has no answer. An answer would be helpful because part of what we humans long for in the midst of pain and chaos is to make some sense of it all. Answering "why?" there is such suffering in the world at least gives us a handle on it. Yet these answers are hard to come by. Suffering is a part of life. So is joy. But this is little solace to a child whose world is constructed by abuse.

Richards tells her story and unravels the process of healing that can lead to forgiveness. Along the way she breaks the silence of her family and is determined to tell the truth about her childhood. In spite of the denial by other family members, she is heard, believed and acknowledged by others in her life. She goes through the anger and grief of coming to terms with her childhood. She resists the temptation to "forgive and forget" because she knows it would only heal the wound lightly, saying "peace, peace," when there is no peace (Jeremiah 6:14). She puts her energy into protecting and caring for herself and in raising her children in a healthy, nurturing environment. All of this contributes to her healing; all of this is part of experiencing justice. All of this is what finally frees her to forgive and get on with her life.

She chose the path of healing and it took her to forgiveness. Forgiveness is not an obligation on the part of someone who has been harmed. It is not a solo act but rather takes place in community where we can find some sense of justice. It is not saying magic words and hoping that healing will come from that. It is hard work for the individual. It is God's grace carrying us the whole way. It is possible but never easy. This story is a testament to the possibility of healing and forgiveness. No cheap grace here. No pretense of keeping family secrets and denial. Just hard work and a great reward.

Rev. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute, Seattle

Blue Dolphin Publishing, 2005

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