When you get a serious, life changing diagnosis, it often leaves you angry. Angry that things are the way they are. Angry at yourself for anything you did (or imagine you did) to cause the problem. It just shouldn’t be this way! It’s not fair! Your expectations for how things would be are crushed. You move through the world carrying the load of that anger and disappointment on top of the stress of medical appointments and treatments.

There is a way to work through the feelings and let go of the load. It’s called forgiveness.

Mary Hayes Grieco is the author of “Unconditional Forgiveness: A Simple and Proven Method to Forgive Everyone and Everything” and the director of The Midwest Institute for Forgiveness Training in Minneapolis.   

“Forgiveness,” she says, “is the profound and refreshing relief that comes when you release an expectation that has been causing you to suffer.” She has divided Forgiveness – and self-forgiveness – into clear, achievable steps. The forgiveness process can be greatly supported with journal writing.

Since a serious diagnosis. It is nobody’s fault, you are forgiving not a person, but the situation. Next week, I will describe Grieco’s recommendations for self-forgiveness.

The eight steps of forgiveness (with journaling prompts)

Step One: State your will to make a change. You are choosing to forgive. You’re ready to let go of the load. In your journal: “I’m willing to…”

Step Two: Express your feelings exactly as they are inside you. Grieco suggests that you sit across from an empty chair and get it all out. Swear and shout if you need to. Cry and stamp your feet. Tell that empty chair exactly how unfair, disgusting, and awful it is that you have received this crappy diagnosis. In your journal: “I feel…” Crayons or paint can be great for expressing anger. No words necessary, just use the energy anger gives you to make marks.

Step Three: Release expectations from your mind, one by one. This may be an ongoing process as you uncover more expectations as time goes by. In your journal: make a list of the expectations you need to let go of. After each one you can take a breath and say “I release that expectation.” You can make slips of paper with your expectations on them and burn them or shred them. If the expectation arises again, you can say “go away. I released you already.” Or create another writing/releasing ritual.

Step Four: Restore your boundaries. You did not cause your illness. You can let go of any guilt you feel for past behavior. That’s behind you now. Your responsibility is to make space for healing. In your journal: “I’m giving myself a fresh start. What would best support my healing is…”

Grieco uses different phrases to indicate a power greater than a limited human being (Universe, Spirit, etc.). Use what works for you.

Step Five: Open up to the Universe to get your needs met in a different way. Did those expectations express unmet needs? If so, unearth what those needs might’ve been and imagine how they might be fulfilled. In your journal: “I need…” Or “I long for…” Make a list of ways you might address those needs or longings.

Step Six: Receive healing energy from Spirit into your personality. Imagine light and love filling you completely and healing any debris left by anger or disappointment. In your journal: “Healing energy is…” Or draw a picture of healing energy around you.

Step Seven: Send unconditional love to the situation and release it. You could say out loud “May this situation – just as it is – be one of healing and love. I release my need to control it.” In your journal: “This situation is… I release…”

Step Eight: See the good in the situation. It’s likely that being ill has led you to feel more compassion for yourself and others, value those who support you, appreciate your body and brought you other gifts. In your journal: write a love letter to the situation.

Through this process, you can let go of the weight of wanting things to be different. You can claim more energy, practice a valuable skill, and release stress.

May this moment be one of love and healing for you.

Visit forgivenesstraining.com to learn more.