Four Steps to Emotional Freedom for Brokenhearted Parents

by | Jul 1, 2024 | Mental Illness | 10 comments

photo cred. Ray Hennessy on unsplash

Thursday is the 4th of July when we celebrate our freedom as Americans. However, some of us still live in bondage … emotional bondage. Brokenhearted parents are among them. Agonizing over their son or daughter’s struggle with alcohol, drugs, their sexuality, arrests leading to jail or prison sentences, mental illness, self-injury, pornography (and the list goes on), they are crushed by the burdens they bear.

Are you one of those parents? Do you want your life back?

I did.

After years of chaos and turmoil with my daughter, I made a discovery: the power of forgiveness could set me free. Forgiveness played a key role in the process of gaining back my emotional, mental, and spiritual health. Now that kind of freedom is something to celebrate.

These are the 4 steps of forgiveness I took to take my life back.

4 Steps to Emotional Freedom through Forgiveness:

1)  Forgive your child – for hurting you. You may be furious and resentful over how you’ve been treated. You don’t trust your own son or daughter — you can’t believe him; you don’t even know her anymore. You’re angry at what they have done to themselves too. You need to forgive even if you’re not asked to. Jesus set the example. He said, “forgive and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).

2)  Forgive yourself – for not being the perfect parent.

There isn’t one. Even though you did your best, you still tend to carry a heavy load of guilt over any part you may have played. If you can’t forgive yourself, you’ll continue to live in bondage, chained to the weight of blame, shame, and a host of other burdens God never intended. He gave your child a free will to make their own choices. Don’t forget what happened in the Garden of Eden to the only perfect parent (Genesis 2). Was their choice God’s fault? We don’t deserve any better than what He got.

3)  Forgive others – for hurting your child.

This includes those who influenced your daughter negatively; who encouraged your son to make destructive choices. The people who took advantage of them or didn’t help them when they could have. And don’t forget those who you thought were your friends who either disappeared when you needed them or made comments and offered advice that inflicted more wounds on your already pain-racked soul. It’s not their fault. They couldn’t understand. They didn’t intend to hurt you, but if you don’t forgive them, you only end up hurting yourself more.

4)  Forgive God – for allowing your child to go astray and for not answering your prayers.

Of course God doesn’t need to be forgiven. He didn’t do anything wrong. In reality, you are the one who needs to be forgiven if you’ve begun to blame Him, fanning the flames of resentment in your heart. What matters is to be honest with your feelings. If you’re mad at Him and don’t understand what He has allowed, tell Him. Be brutally honest. He’s God. He already knows what you think and feel. He can take it. He wants to help you.

The Powerful Key of Forgiveness

photo cred. Hennie Stander on Unsplash

  • Forgiveness isn’t just for the person who needs to be forgiven. Forgiveness is also for us, the “forgiver”.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t make the other person right, it makes you free. (Al-Anon)
  • Forgiveness isn’t to condone or excuse the actions or behaviors of others.
  • Forgiveness is the power of releasing the other person to their Maker to let Him deal with them, so that we can be set free.
  • Some of our children don’t know they need to be forgiven, or even remember their offenses toward us. Therefore, one reason to forgive is for our welfare — for the sake of our own soul.
  • Pause a few minutes to think about these statements. Which one do you need to work on?

“If we hold on to our anger, we stop growing and our souls begin to shrivel.”   – M. Scott Peck

There can be a lot to forgive … years of trauma and crushingl experiences. Our children intentionally or unintentionally inflicted deep wounds on our hearts. They cost us a lot of losses: our health, sleep, time from work, finances spent trying to help them or ourselves; damaged relationships—with them, our spouse, other children, other family members and friends; loss of our mental and emotional well-being. Countless numbers of people may have hurt them and us. Some we knew well while others were strangers—we refer to the unknown persons as them. Oh, the animosity and hatred we harbor toward the faceless, nameless ones. And most tragically, the end result may be that the flame of our faith has dimmed or gone out altogether. We may have even walked away from God in disappointment and confusion.

A Gift and a Long, Slow Process

photo cred. Julie Lamour on Unspalsh

Forgiveness. We need to offer this gift to others and to ourselves. If we don’t, the lack of forgiving can lead to bitterness and resentment, making us soul-sick and miserable.

How can we forgive? Look to Jesus. He is our role model. We forgive out of loving obedience to Him. He forgave us when we didn’t deserve it. How can we do anything less?

The Bibles tells us to “Be kind and compassionate to each other, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:32 NIV).

Dear struggling parent, let’s be honest. Forgiveness is a long, slow process, but if you choose this healing path, you can be set free from unnecessary burdens that crush your heart and hold you in bondage. Friend, there may not be much to celebrate on your journey toward emotional freedom today, but as you take baby steps forward, you can get there and that’s worth setting off fireworks about.

Not sure where to begin? Try using this prayer as a place to start:

Dear God, show me how to forgive my child, myself, others, and You. I want to follow the example of Jesus. Resentment and bitterness have shackled me long enough. Guilt has taken a toll. I want to be set free for the sake of my own soul. In my strength I can’t forgive, but with Your help, I’m willing to try. I think it just might be possible. Amen.

Who do you need to forgive? What would you add? I’d love to hear your comments.

Some of this content is from my book You Are Not Alone: Hope for Hurting Parents of Troubled Kids, in the chapter on Forgiveness.  Order your copy today through our website or wherever fine books are sold. And if you read it (or have read it), would you do me a big favor and write a review on Amazon? Reviews can help more brokenhearted parents find the encouragement, comfort and hope they need. Thank you!

** Next Monday, July 8, I will post the last in my series on Mental Illness. The topic: Major Depression.

  • from the archives (revised) 



  1. Kristin Swan

    Surely needed this today. I’m soul and heart sick lately. I need to begin to forgive in these 4 areas. Thank you for the reminder of the freedom that comes with forgiveness.

    • Tom and Dena Yohe

      Thank you for your comment, Krsitin. I’m so glad this reminder was what you needed. May God empower you to apply what you need to.
      In His strength, Dena.

      • Carol Miller

        Thank you! I needed this today. I’m mad, angry, sad, fearful,, anxious and more. I feel like we are back to square 1. I keep grasping for the past little glimmers of hope! They seem to have all dissipated! I have to forgive for me!

        • Tom and Dena Yohe

          Oh Carol, keep giving all the jumble of emotions to the Lord who made you and understands perfectly how you feel. I’m praying right now he gives you another glimmer of hope. And please do forgive yourself. We’re so hard on ourselves, but God is longsuffering and full of mercy. Lord, please meet Carol in her pain at this very moment. Comfort her and give her the gift of endurance. Without you she can’t, but with you she can keep going. In Jesus’ mighty name. Amen.

  2. Bill Spratt

    Forgiveness and Freedom are linked “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Gal 5:1 Without His forgiveness we are lost sheep. But with His forgiveness we have the Hope for a better tomorrow. Thank Him!

    • Tom and Dena Yohe

      Thanks for your comment Bill and that’s a perfect verse for freedom! No yoke of slavery was intended for God’s people. I’m hoping for a better tomorrow with His forgiveness!
      In Him, Dena.

  3. Camm

    This is such needed encouragement for my weary heart tonight.
    Lord, please help me to completely forgive as You do.

    • Tom and Dena Yohe

      Thank you for commenting, Cammie. May God daily encourage your weary heart as you see evidence of Him helping you forgive completely…I believe it’s a gradual process that grows and deepens as we continue to seek His divine help. I’ve come far, but I’m still growing in this.
      In His grace, Dena.

  4. Dianne Reichlin

    Thank you for your message. I do believe in forgiveness, but are we ever truly “set free”?

    • Tom and Dena Yohe

      Thank you for your comment, Dianne. Good question. Are we ever truly “set free”? Ask God what he thinks. He’s the only one who can answer you. For me, related to the topic of forgiveness, I believe when we forgive, we can be set free from being consumed with our child’s chaos. With God’s supernatural help we can forgive in the four areas I mentioned which can set us free from being angry, bitter, resentful people. In that sense, I think it’s possible for us to be “set free”. Maybe doing a study on forgiveness and the benefits for the “forgiver” would be a good idea. See how God speaks and how he moves in your heart.
      In Christ, Dena.


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