We meet Laurie who wakes in G.R. dorm

On HBO’s The Leftovers, 2% of the world’s population vanished without a trace. It was not the Christian “Rapture.” There was no rhyme or reason to who was taken. Rich, poor, black, white, Christian, atheist, good, evil, gay, straight. They were just gone. The only thing that remained behind of them was the physical and emotional emptiness of those who were spared.

The show uses this “Departure” as a tool to examine depression.

The mystery of The Leftovers isn’t “what caused millions of people to disappear into thin air.” It’s “how are these characters expected to navigate the utter wreckage of their lives in a world where rational certainty has ceased to be.” Nothing in science can explain the Departure. And if something as catastrophically unexplainable as the Departure can occur, does anything have meaning or matter?

The Leftovers is a universe where every person on the planet is forced to ask themselves that question. And, on the surface, most folks are getting by. They tell themselves that they’re okay. They have things in their lives that center them… church, family, community. But they’re scared. They’re angry. The one thing they want more than anything else is to be able to just forget it. To just move on.

But a cult forms dedicated to never letting anyone forget what happened that October day.

Laurie Garvey is a member of the Guilty Remnant, a cult whose raison d’etre is to be a living reminder of the Departure. Members of the GR dress entirely in white, chainsmoke cigarettes, and take a permanent vow of silence. They show up at the homes of those affected directly by the Departure… those who lost family members or close friends or other loved ones. They target them and watch them. They write about them in little notebooks. And eventually some of those targeted individuals show up at the cul-de-sac of McMansions in the show’s town of Mapleton that the GR’s got rented asking for a place to stay. They think maybe these guys have the answers.

The thing about the Guilty Remnant is that they proudly don’t have answers unless you count nihilism as an answer. The Guilty Remnant’s solution to the Departure is to purge one’s self of all attachment and emotion. The members live in the communal homes and do communal chores, but they sever all ties to their old families and because they can’t speak to one another, they’re discouraged from forming emotional attachments amongst themselves. And by making themselves constant annoyances in the town with their vandalistic and mildly terroristic tactics for reminding folks about the Departure, they force themselves to live in constant mortal danger. And what do they care if they die? How could you look at life as anything other than a bullshit con after the Departure? At least they’d die trying to make others aware of what too many are willing to ignore. That’s what they’d say anyways.

Laurie joined the Guilty Remnant after her unborn child disappeared in her womb.

Laurie had gotten pregnant at an inconvenient time. Her marriage was on the rocks. Her husband, Kevin, was distant. She was pretty sure he was smoking again. She didn’t care that Kevin was smoking… just that he was lying to her about it. He’s becoming incapable of showing up and contributing to their kids’ lives. Kevin adopted her son, Tom, who she’d had with another man, and Kevin loved Tom as much as the daughter, Jill, they’d eventually have together, but when it comes time for him to be there as a dad, he can’t deliver.

Things aren’t much better with Tom either. He keeps showing up at his biological dad’s home. Tom can’t understand why this man wants nothing to do with him. His biological father assaults him after their last meeting. Is Laurie losing Tom and Kevin at the same time?

And there’s Laurie’s work. Laurie is a psychiatrist. She works with clinical depressives. Her most demanding patient, Patty, is suicidal. Patty suffers from paranoid delusions of constant impending catastrophe. Laurie has helped Patty work through her fears in the past. She knows the terror Patty is suffering through no fault of her own. But Laurie — having discovered she’s having a child she’s not so sure she should be having — finds herself believing for a brief moment the doom this woman preaches.

And then the world as she thought she knew it ends when she watches her child disappear before her eyes during an ultrasound.

And so Laurie joined the Guilty Remnant. She left her husband. Kevin thought it was his fault, but it wasn’t. Her discovery that he had an affair was the least of her concerns. She leaves behind her daughter who’s still in high school. Jill can’t understand why her mother would abandon her. Laurie can’t explain that leaving her whole life behind is easier than the thought of losing Jill or Kevin or Tom if something like the Departure happens again.

By the time Laurie joins the Guilty Remnant, its cell is led by Patty, the woman whose severe pre-Departure depression had triggered Laurie so deeply.  Laurie misses her family but pretends she doesn’t. She divorces her husband but still watches the family home at night when no one is awake.The Guilty Remnant’s tactics are getting more aggressive. They’re breaking into people’s homes and taking all of their photos of the Departed. Laurie’s only “friend” in the Remnant was brutally stoned to death. Laurie’s daughter gives her a christmas present, a lighter, and Laurie has to throw it in the sewer and continue to reject the trappings of her old life.

Laurie’s decision to join the Guilty Remnant turns even more tragic when Jill decides to join as well. Jill is tasked with navigating being a teenager as well as her own burgeoning sexuality without a mother or a world where any laws of causality are worth a damn. And she’s flailing. And, like her mother, she decides these people that think there is no meaning to the world are on the right track.

Jill joins the Guilty Remnant ranks just as the Remnant unleashes its cruelest reminder to Mapleton. The Remnant have ordered life-like dolls of all of the town’s Departed. They dress the dolls in the clothes the Departed were wearing at the time of their disappearance, and they leave the dolls where their real life counterparts had been at the time of the Departure.

This upsets the residents of Mapleton so much that a riot erupts. Every day citizens are assaulting members of the Guilty Remnant on the streets. The town burns the Guilty Remnant’s homes down while also erecting a bonfire of the dolls that had been left in their homes. Jill and Laurie are taken by angry rioters into one of the GR’s homes and left to die. Laurie is only able to save her daughter’s life because Kevin arrives and Laurie speaks for the first time in over a year to tell him that Jill’s life was in danger.

Laurie leaves the Guilty Remnant after the Mapleton Riots. Her estranged son returns to town, and she starts a recovery group for folks who had escaped the cult. But Laurie can’t return to her daughter or her husband’s life. She made him sign divorce papers, and now he’s living with another woman and helping her to raise an orphaned child. Laurie wouldn’t try to tear that apart. And Jill… well, Laurie had almost gotten Jill killed. Jill wants nothing to do with her, and Laurie doesn’t blame her.

This arc of the series comes to an emotional head when Tom tells Laurie that he’s meeting Jill for lunch. Tom can tell that Laurie wants to see his sister, but Tom also knows Jill isn’t ready for that. Laurie knows this as well. But Laurie offers to drive Tom to his lunch. She knows she can’t talk to Jill. She just wants to see her. Laurie can’t hurt Jill if Jill doesn’t know Laurie’s there.

Jill sees Laurie.

I tend to have overtly physical reactions to character moments in movies and television. I’ve never sat through the scene in Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s “The Body” — the one where Buffy finds her mother’s corpse after Joyce’s aneurysm —  where former demon Anya gives her speech about how she can’t understand the ways that humans accept death without ugly sobbing. It’s even worse if I watch Glee‘s “The Quarterback.” That’s the episode where the show deals with the death of actor Corey Monteith by the proxy of his character, Finn Hudson. Watching Lea Michele sing in tribute to the man she had been seeing romantically for months at the time of his death was one of the most uncomfortably intimate screen performances I’ve ever seen. It felt voyeuristic to watch her working through these most personal emotions and memories. And both times that I’ve seen the episode, I just sit there and bawl. There’s too much naked pain.

Less traumatizing examples are shows that rely on socially awkward incidents for their humor. My favorite sitcom (although Louie and Bojack Horseman are gunning for its spot) is Seinfeld, and it made that sort of humor its specialty. I can’t be in the room if the Breakfast at Tiffany’s episode is on.

George is in this book club that episode’s girlfriend made him join. George is real dumb. “Dumb” and “selfish” are George’s two defining traits. And George can’t find it in him to complete Truman Capote’s novel, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Instead, he goes to the local video store to rent the Audrey Hepburn film. The video rental place has loaned out its copy. George sneaks a look at their computer and shows up at the apartment of the family who has the film. George imposes himself into this family’s life in the worst ways by inviting himself into their home and then demanding luxuries in the house before ultimately spilling his drink all over this family’s furniture.

And during those scenes where George is in this family’s apartment, I can neither look at nor listen to the television. I can’t know for certainty what exactly George is doing in that scene. I get too angry. Watching him behave that way infuriates me but because I can’t do anything to stop it, the sequence becomes this constantly escalating horror show of social misbehavior. And my parents were so strict with me about ever being rude in someone else’s house that I feel a physical aversion to how George is behaving.

But no physical, empathetic episode like that ever compared to my body’s reaction to the scene in The Leftovers where Laurie and Tom tiptoe around whether or not Laurie even has a right to see her daughter again. At first, I stopped breathing. And then I started breathing too fast. I have an anxiety disorder. Mild to almost severe hyperventilation is something I’ve experienced during anxiety attacks in the past. But during that scene of The Leftovers, it came on faster and stronger than it ever had except during my worst full blown anxious breaks. Within two minutes, I was breathing so rapidly and so desperately that I nearly passed out.

My parents got divorced when I was in the seventh grade. My dad went to live in a one bedroom apartment above a ceramics shop his mother operated. And my mom kept the doublewide trailer where our family was living. It sat at the foot of the small tract of land her father owned on the rural outskirts of Barbour County, West Virginia.

My mother married my dad when she was 19 years old.

Her mother emotionally abused her, her siblings, and her father. My maternal grandmother was an alcoholic and spent what little money my maternal grandfather made off his military pension and his jobs driving buses in California and then working security at a grocery store later in West Virginia on booze. She had multiple affairs, and several of my aunts have biological fathers that aren’t my maternal grandfather.

Barbour County is disproportionately white as most Appalachian counties are, but it also has a deceptively large multi-racial community, that primarily resides in an area called Chestnut Ridge. This Caucasian/African-American community is tucked away in a remote part of the county, nestled in hollers and hills. There are other black people that live in Barbour County, but there’s less than a dozen at most that don’t live in Chestnut Ridge.

West Virginia had school segregation as explicit state policy, codified in the state Constitution until Brown v. Board, but there were plenty of counties like Barbour County that were too poor to open a school just for the handful of black kids that lived in the county. And so the black kids in these counties would become “Native Americans” and they wouldn’t have to be segregated from the white school (although anti-indigenous sentiment was just as prevalent in West Virginia at the time). Now, most of the families living up on the Ridge claim to be part-Cherokee instead of part-black cause of a rational and deep-rooted fear that embracing their blackness would permanently isolate them from the rest of their community.

I don’t know if it was one of the folks from the Ridge or one of the rare, other black men in Philippi, but my maternal grandfather’s youngest daughter, Monica, had a black father. My grandfather raised this child that wasn’t his own and said she was dark-skinned cause he had Native American blood far down the line. It’s a thing most West Virginians claim to be true, but there is rarely validity to those claims. Just cultural appropriation.

My Aunt Monica was a basketball prodigy. I’m fairly certain she still holds state records in Women’s High School Basketball and she’d gotten offers for athletic scholarships from a bunch of colleges. But my aunt got pregnant her senior year of high school. One of her older sisters had gotten pregnant in high school as well. That sister dropped out and never finished school. My aunt was also struggling with the realization that she was bisexual at the time of her pregnancy… a struggle that also coincided with an estranged homosexual brother of my maternal grandmother dying of AIDS.

To this day, Aunt Monica is the only one of her siblings to get a college degree. She eventually got a Master’s Degree in psychology and is almost finished pursuing her doctorate. But the price of her escape was giving up custody of her son to her parents. She made the right decision; she was too young to have a kid. But in order to get out of a life of poverty and abuse, she had to give up a child she wanted to raise as her own. It’s a decision I can’t imagine ever having to make.

Things weren’t much better for my mother in high school although she at least had the white privilege her sister lacked in our racist Appalachian town. She nearly got engaged to a boy who physically abused her. She was date raped by a man she had considered a close friend. When my maternal grandmother’s abuse and alcoholism reached its climax, my mother ran away and lived with the family of one of her friends from high school. And while my mother lived with this family, she found evangelical Christianity which would center her life for decades to come.

When my mom started dating my dad, he represented stability. He was 23 when they married. He had a college degree. He had a steady job that he had room to advance in. He was a genuinely decent man in a county where those were in short supply.

My mother has a very forceful personality. She knows what she wants in life, and when she’s given the freedom to pursue those goals, she tries. But she was also raised by parents who never encouraged her to believe there was more to look for in life than barely scraping by. When my mom wanted to go to college, her parents told her they wouldn’t  help her pay for it. When she said she wanted to join the military to pay for college, her Army veteran father told her she didn’t have what it takes. When she expressed interest in “masculine” activities like football, she was similarly discouraged or forbade from pursuing those interests.

And so she married my dad because marrying a man that can take care of you was the only model for life she had. She made this monumental decision when all she really wanted was self-fulfillment. She wanted to define herself and create her own achievements and give me and my little sister opportunities that she never had. And it breaks my heart that she only ever got the latter.

My mom entered her marriage with my dad thinking it would complete her. And, of course, it didn’t. She chafed as she reached her mid-30s and was still doing the same sort of secretarial work she’d been doing right after she graduated from high school. At one point, she got so tired of being a secretary that she got a job at a lumber factory doing hard manual labor. She felt like life was starting to hedge her in.

She looked at my dad who was genuinely content working in management in retail. He had a steady job, a college degree, and he hadn’t turned into a miserable old drunk like his father. He had two kids that he loved. He didn’t need anything more. And she resented that he’d been given the opportunity to redefine himself like that. She hadn’t.

When I was in the 5th grade, she started night classes at a local state college. She was looking into social work. We took care of foster kids at the time. I can’t ever remember her being happier than she was those months she was at Fairmont State. She had involved teachers that made her excited about the subjects she was studying. She’d come home and she’d be happy to study. My sister and I never really needed much help with our homework, and so it was my mom’s first real exposure to classwork since she’d graduated high school, and she loved every second of it.

But then she had to stop. 5th grade was tough for me. My first bout with depression was really beginning to manifest. A combination of severe social anxiety and years of trauma from emotional abuse from extended family members and schoolmates was turning me into a nightmare, and I was actively feuding with my teacher who had no patience or empathy for my bullshit. She hated me; I hated her, and all of my classmates were starting to hate me as well. I was an arrogant, petulant shithead. And my mom pulled me out of school and homeschooled me for the rest of the year. And in order to do that, she had to quit college.

She’d make stabs at college again down the years but she never attended an actual physical school like Fairmont State. She tried to get an accounting degree from online universities but she’d either get too busy for it or get too frustrated with it cause she didn’t have an active and involved teacher to learn from and she couldn’t learn math the way Phoenix was trying to teach it to her.

The straw that broke my parents’ marriage back was my mother having to have a hysterectomy.

Before her operation, she got really sick; she was terrified she might die. Her mother had died relatively young. Her dad had been battling emphysema for over a decade. She was becoming convinced health catastrophes ran in the family. And then she had her uterus taken out, and things weren’t the same.

She’d had a brush with death. She knew how fragile her mortality was. She could no longer have children. My dad had a vasectomy not long after my sister was born; my mom thought she’d gotten pregnant and there was no way she was having another baby so soon. And so my dad got snipped. But deep down, Mom understood that she could always have another kid. And now that option was gone.

She’d come close to dying, and, as far as my mom was concerned, the only things she’d accomplished in life was having me and my little sister as well as helping to raise foster children. She interpreted my dad’s unwillingness to improve himself as disinterest in her own self-improvement. And that combined with my dad’s constant reticence to discuss feelings led to her deciding to file for divorce.

My mother thought she was free. She thought she finally had the chance to do something great, to define herself, but the summer after the divorce was finalized, she became involved with a man I’ll call Roy.

Roy was a corrections officer. He coached Pop Warner football. And Mom met him while she was part of a community volleyball program in Philippi.

Circling back to Mom’s first marriage for a second, my parents should have never got married. They don’t have anything in common. I believe they both genuinely loved one another at one point, but their relationship was ultimately doomed to fail. And one of the reasons that it was doomed to fail is that they have wildly different temperaments.

My mother is a Type A personality. She’s a go-getter. She’s always doing something (and if she isn’t always doing something, she gets very bored, very quickly; I get this from her). My dad is the opposite. He’s relaxed. He’s content. He’s unambitious to a fault. My mother loves going outside and physical activities. My dad prefers to stay in and watch TV. He puts almost no thought into his physical well-being. The only time he goes outside for fun is either to golf (which is rare) or for hunting season which only comes around once a year.

And one of the reasons that Mom was drawn to Roy so quickly was that he was the complete opposite of my dad in this respect. He was an active member of his church community. He coached a sport as demanding as football and seemed to genuinely care about the kids he coached. He was in peak physical condition. And, like her, he was a divorced parent.

Not long into their relationship, they had sex.

When my mother’s abuse at the hands of her mother was at its worst and she ran off to live with that other family, their brand of Christianity was her only escape from the constant horror show that was her life. When Mom was feeling like nobody in her family loved her and that she wasn’t going anywhere, she found acceptance and affection from a church community. My mom doesn’t do things half-assed. She became a devoted and active member of Barbour County’s Evangelical community.

One of the things that Christianity forbids is pre-marital sex, and my mother took Christianity seriously. Because she took Christianity seriously, she took that commandment seriously. And she felt massive guilt that she’d slept with Roy outside of the bounds of marriage.

I never liked Roy. I’d told both of my parents after the divorce that I would be fine whenever they started dating. I meant it. I knew it would be awkward and weird to deal with at first, but I genuinely wanted both of my parents to be happy (although I blamed Mom for the divorce right out of the gates, I didn’t want her to be unhappy; I was significantly closer to her than I was my dad for the first thirteen years of my life). But, Roy immediately set my Spidey Sense off.

Growing up, I’d been viciously bullied by cousins and kids at school. My cousins would emotionally abuse me and physically harass me cause I was so much smaller than them and cause I wanted to read or play a video game instead of go huntin’ or four-wheelin’. I’d get pushed around at school for those same reasons plus cause of the additional reason that I was a top student and had to be brought down to everybody else’s level even if it meant tormenting me so much I’d cry in bed thinking about going back to school the next day.

Roy never out and out bullied me the way my cousins did or the kids did at school. Mom wouldn’t have tolerated that for a second. But he had a casual cruelty about him. He’d say things to me or my foster siblings and he’d say them with a smile on his face, and they’d maybe sound nice on the surface, but I could tell he had hate behind that facade. I told mom I didn’t like him. She told me I was imagining things and that I’d come around on Roy. And for the first time in thirteen years of my life, she and I were fighting.

Years later, Mom told me that even then she suspected the same things about Roy that I did. She suspected that he harbored racist prejudice towards the black foster kids that she was raising (he did). She suspected that he didn’t like the attention that she gave my sister and I (he didn’t). She suspected that he had temper issues (he really did). But she felt too guilty about having premarital sex with this man to accept that she was even experiencing these intuitions.

I started acting out. My sister and I got into what started out as a typical brother/sister fight, but in this particular (and final) physical confrontation between the two of us, I went too far. I’d yelled at Roy after he’d attempted to interfere in a conversation Mom and I were having the evening before. Using the fight as a pretext, my mother had my foster brother pack all of my clothes in garbage bags, and she had him drive me to my dad’s apartment. But we both knew this was really about Roy.

My mother had kicked me out of the house and then didn’t attempt to speak to me for two weeks.

I was already a terribly angry kid. I was severely depressed about school and the way I was treated by my extended family and the implosion of my parents’ marriage. I was getting stress migraines so bad I’d have to leave school early at least once a month. And, of course, I was hitting the peak confusions of puberty. And by the time Mom was ready to speak to me again after all the shit I’d started cause she wouldn’t listen to my concerns about Roy (and also because as a thirteen year old, I couldn’t articulate his psychology as precisely as I can today), I wanted nothing to do with her.

We didn’t speak from November of 2002 until March of 2008. Five and a half years, and the only words I said to my mother were the expletives I screamed at her if she dared to try and speak to me when Dad was picking up my little sister on the weekends he had her. She tried to get a court order to see me. I worked myself up into such a fit of fury at the family court that the judge (who was friendly with my mother and had told both my parents that she was very likely going to force me to interact with my mom) ruled in my favor. She could just tell how traumatized I was.

My actions feel silly now. I had been horribly out of line when my sister and I fought. But, a traumatized thirteen year old isn’t always thinking straight. My mother was my closest friend. She pushed me every second to be the best version of myself, and I wouldn’t be the (somewhat neurotic) overachiever that I am now if she hadn’t ridden my ass as a kid. She took me at 6 AM to the Meadowbrook Mall in Bridgeport so that we’d be the first in line for the first Harry Potter movie. She’d protected me when my cousins’ tormenting had gotten too bad. She cared more about the sports I played (even though I was uniformly terrible at every last one I tried) than any of the other moms or dads there.

And when she kicked me out of the house and acted like I didn’t exist for two weeks (or so I thought as a teen not understanding she was just giving us both time to cool off), I couldn’t forgive her. I hadn’t realized that betrayals like that were possible. And it took me til I was 20 years old to accept that she and I could ever have a relationship again.

During those five and a half years, my mother married Roy. I found out from some kid at school whose parents were part of the same volleyball program in which Mom and Roy participated.

During Mom’s first attempt to return to college, Roy made her quit. At first, he told her he supported her plans. But once he realized how much effort it was going to require from Mom and how much time she’d have to spend away from him, he manipulated her by saying she was taking too much time away from their marriage. He made her move to Preston County which was more than an hour away from dad’s place on the outskirts of Philippi. My sister, Nicole, and my mother had to leave the only real communities they’d ever had. He’d tell her how to dress and how to behave in public and how to spend her paychecks.

And Roy beat her.

My mom’s dad died in the fall of my freshman year of college. I’d grown up on land he owned, land he let us live on cause Mom was the only one of his children that were still around to take care of him. And although Mom blamed him deep down for the hell her mother had put them through, Mom also loved her father. And like her hysterectomy, her father’s death became a moment where my mother found herself forced to take stock of her life.

She realized that she had traded in existential dissatisfaction for emotional, physical, and psychological terror. She saw her daughter growing up into a woman like her. Nicole was a freshman in high school. Roy never hit Nicole but Nicole lived in fear of him nonetheless. It would eventually lead to clinical anxiety, depression, and PTSD for my sister. Mom hadn’t found the personal achievement she was looking for. Instead, she’d lost her son. She was losing her daughter. And she was more full of despair than she ever was.

A few months later, Mom divorced Roy. Not long after that, she and I had lunch and spoke for the first time since I’d been in middle school.

I didn’t talk to my mother for five and a half years to punish her. There’s no question that’s what I was doing. I needed her to hurt as badly as I did. But the honest truth is that if I’d ever stopped to think about how much pain she was really in, how much more she’d had to suffer in life than I could have ever imagined, I know I’d have swallowed my pride and let her back into my life in a heartbeat. Instead, I spent years acting like she was a monster so I wouldn’t have to face the fact that she was a broken human being just like me.

The Leftovers forced me to confront everything my Mom had dealt with in those five years we weren’t speaking. All of her guilt, all of her pain, and the role I played in perpetuating her suffering.

Laurie knew that she had no right to speak to Jill. She’d abandoned her family when they were hurting just as badly as she was. And because of the people she put her faith in after the Departure, her daughter was swept into the same whirlpool of agony and nihilism that Laurie had embraced. It nearly cost both of them their lives.

But that moment where Laurie almost lost everything with no chance to change her mind woke her up and out of that fugue state she’d been living in for years. But after all the hurt she’d caused, she believed that it was too late for her to ever ask others to forgive her.

My mother threw me, her only son, out of her home because I was saying things about a man that she wasn’t ready to accept herself. She forced my little sister to grow up in an environment where emotional abuse was an every day reality (and physical abuse was the norm for my mother).

And if I’d never spoken to her again, I’m not sure that I’d call the decision “justifiable” but it would have certainly been understandable.

The older I get, the more I think that the worst part of oppressive systems of power isn’t the individual harm that they do to us. That harm is awful, and it scars so many folks — women, people of color, the LGBT community, folks with disabilities, and so many others — but I think the worst thing oppressive power systems do is rob of us our ability to empathize with others that are suffering as much as we are. We live each day and each moment just looking to survive and when you live like that, you’re forced to think about yourself ahead of anyone else.

My mother spent her whole life pushed around by men. She felt the crush of West Virginia poverty and didn’t think it would ever be any better. She was told that unless she lived a pure Christian life that she’d go to hell. And it shaped the way she behaved. She has responsibility for her actions, but any normal person would begin to crumble under the weight of everything she carried inside her, and she did.

And I know now how guilty she felt for how she treated me… how much it was tearing her up inside that she and I weren’t speaking and how she’d treated me and everything my sister had gone through because of her decisions. And if I spend too much time thinking about how much my decision to not speak to her hurt her even further, I get overwhelmed with my own grief and rage.

My little sister forgave me the next day for the fight that was the nominal cause for my rift with my mother. Nicole forgave me so easily not just for that but for all of the other ways that I’d been cruel to her because she was the only person on the planet towards whom I could reflect back all of the misery the world was making me feel. She’s my best friend now despite the fact that I was evil to her as a kid, and “evil” isn’t a word I bandy around lightly. And even right now as I type these words, I’m not sure that I deserve her forgiveness.

No one owes you their forgiveness. It’s a choice any person you’ve hurt has to make for themselves. And it’s not fair to them if you pressure them to make this decision. But we’re also all fallible people. We all hurt someone at some point, and sometimes that hurt we inflict runs deep for the person we’ve hurt and for ourselves.

Eventually though, sometimes we realize what we did was wrong. We try to make amends. We feel all of the hurt we’ve transmitted into this world. And that’s not enough to get the person you’ve injured to forgive you.

And sometimes you just have to accept that things will never be the same… that there and should be consequences for the most grievous harms we inflict in life.

But if you’re on the other side of this grief and you don’t know whether or not you can forgive the person who hurt you, put yourselves in their shoes for at least one minute. You’re already considering forgiveness so engage with what that act would mean Think about what you know about them. Think about everything that you know they’ve gone through in life. Think about how badly this person hurt you and if there’s any coming back from that sort of hurt. Some times there isn’t. Think about whether or not you truly believe that this person has fully reckoned with what they’ve done to you and are committed to never doing it again. Think about whether or not they hurt you because of maliciousness or because they were hurting as much as you.

And if you find in your heart to put this beside you, maybe you should. But like I said, nobody can make this decision but you.