The Montfort Group

Grudges And Learning To Let Them Go

Last year, as I prepared to welcome my first child, my mom and I had a disagreement. A MASSIVE one. Despite my attempts to reach an understanding before the baby’s arrival, seven months of complete silence between us began. During that time, I sent cards, letters, texts, and pictures in an attempt to break the ice and start a conversation but to no avail. I knew for sure my mom had a grudge. 

As the weeks went on, I began to feel angry and bitter at her lack of response. As the months floated by, I suddenly realized that my mom, someone whom I love dearly, had become my nemesis. How could she be so heartless and cruel to let our silly little disagreement keep her away from her grandson? 

Now I had a grudge. 

I began to contemplate the topic of grudges. I tried to understand them, why they exist, and why we allow them to continue even though they are so incredibly painful to maintain? Why do we keep these hurts open and alive by actively choosing to live and re-live past experiences of pain? What keeps us stuck in these old experiences when what we actually want is to move on and let go? Most importantly, how can we let go? 

After some research, I learned what we get out of a grudge, and the subsequent holding of a grudge, is a sense of identity, entitlement, a feeling of rightness, and a sense of strength in knowing who we are as “a person who was wronged.” This sense of solidness and purpose begins to define us, in victimhood and anger. Our grievance becomes a badge of honor, the proof of what we have endured, and evidence that we deserve to be treated with more kindness, compassion, and love. 

“In truth, our grudge, and the identity that accompanies it, is an attempt to get the comfort and compassion we didn’t get in the past, the empathy for what happened to us at the hands of this “other,” the experience that our suffering matters. Our indignation and anger is a cry to be cared about, treated differently—because of what we have endured.” Collier (2015)

Ultimately, the problem with a grudge is that it doesn’t serve the purpose that was intended. A grudge exists intending to make us feel better or to heal a hurt. At the end of the day, we are still just the proud owners of a grudge AND the original wound that still hurts MINUS the comfort and healing we initially craved. The grudge becomes a boulder and slowly separates us from the empathy we initially sought to obtain, disconnects us from ourselves, becomes a story of ‘what happened to us,’ and blocks us from the compassion we seek.

The following steps are some ways I worked to process my grudge and how I attempted to heal my hurt. 

Acknowledge your feelings

Give yourself ample time to understand your feelings and why they are there – fully. When you can verbalize your emotions, it helps you respond to the situation at hand rather than impulsively acting out. 

Share your feelings

Talking about our problems actually helps our brains to process what’s happened to us. Turn to loved ones, trusted sources, journal, write a letter to the person who has wronged you with all your raw, unedited feelings, and then burn it to release the emotional residue. 

Switch places 

Try to take the perspective of the other person. See what validity you can find in the other person’s version that you can empathize with. Every story has two sides with valid emotions associated with them. How can you try to understand the actions of the other person? You may be surprised how this exercise can morph the intensity of your feelings around the situation. 

Accept what is 

When the letters, texts, calls, and photos did not result in a response from my mom, I began to accept that I may never have her in my life. Still, something unexpected happened in the process: I felt free to move forward, knowing that this distance was of her choosing. After I had exhausted all possibilities, peace of mind came over me, and my heart felt at ease. I knew there was nothing more I could do. 

Don’t dwell on it 

I am guilty of ruminating when things go wrong. When afflicted by this habit, I use a cognitive-behavioral strategy called “Thought Stopping.” When intrusive thoughts begin to happen, I literally say to myself, “STOP! This train of thought gets me literally nowhere. I have done what I can, and it’s time to STOP beating myself up.” 

Take the positive 

No matter what, there’s always a silver lining in every crappy situation, all you have to do is look carefully for the positive. 

I began to place more value on the people who were willing to show up for me. I acknowledged my gratitude for their love and support mentally to myself and verbally to my loved ones. This resulted in stronger and more loving bonds in ways that I hadn’t anticipated. 

Let it go

At one point, I had to let it go. I had done my work. There was no way I could change her mind. The only thing to do now was LET IT GO. It sounds simple, but it took lots of practice and repeated reminders from myself and from the people closest to me. Eventually, I was able to get to a place where I both accepted the situation and released the pain of what would never be. 


As with many emotional wrongs we face as humans, the forgiveness part of this equation – that we often seek from the person who wronged us – may never be ours to have. We can learn to have forgiveness, not necessarily for the other person, but for ourselves through loving ourselves and holding a loving presence on the hurt that has turned into the grudge. 

The idea here is not to re-traumatize ourselves by delving deeply into the original pain but rather to tend to it with the compassion that we didn’t initially receive. To let go of a grudge we need to change our focus from of the person who “wronged” us, from the story of our suffering, to what we actually lived. 

In the process of refocusing our attention, we can find the healing kindness, empathy, and compassion that the grudge itself really truly desires. Only then can we be free of being the person who was “wronged” because when we do this, suddenly, this identity no longer serves us. When we can bring loving self-awareness to the grievance, suddenly, the grudge melts away because our own presence is now righting the wrong, and forgiving the person who caused us pain no longer matters so much. 


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