The power of forgiveness – a letter of forgiveness from a victim of FGM

Forgiveness is associated with lower levels of anxiety and depression, reduced substance misuse and increased self-esteem and better life satisfaction.

Remember this story from just over a year ago.  After years of therapy, the woman featured in that story forgave those who hurt her. 

Some of the narratives have been changed to incorporate the stages of grief leading to forgiveness.  To maintain anonymity and to ensure confidentiality, names and places will not be mentioned.


When interviewing her, it became apparent that she went through the 5 stages of grief before realising the only way forward was through forgiveness.

According to Dr Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, most people go through 5 stages of grief after a loss before reaching acceptance and gaining the ability to forgive.   Denial, anger, sorrow or despair, bargaining and finally acceptance.  According to researchers and authors in this area, there’s no order in which one goes through these stages.  It is possible to be stuck in one or more stages or revisit a stage.  However, it is important to remember this process is natural and healthy with a final goal of acceptance.

Most people associate grief with the loss of loved ones, but people can grieve for all sorts of things – loss of a job, end of a relationship, loss of money, loss of identity, etc, and in this story, the woman was grieving the loss of a vital body part.

For her, forgiveness was the only way to accept herself as she is.  Observations studies suggest that forgiveness is associated with lower levels of anxiety and depression, reduced substance misuse and increased self-esteem and self-worth leading to better life satisfaction.


To my dear grandmother, my parents, and your co-conspirators.

Forgiveness liberates the soul. 

Nelson Mandela

After years of therapy, I’ve come to the realisation that hating you for what you did to me is only affecting my life.  So, I’ve decided to forgive you.  It has taken me decades to forgive you, but believe it or not, I have.

To reach the space of total forgiveness, I went through different stages of grief.  Yes, grief.  I grieved the loss of my identity as a woman.  I grieved the loss of my ability to enjoy sex without thinking I’m not a full woman.  I grieved, I grieved, I grieved.

For many years, I was in denial.  I didn’t want to believe this thing happened to me.  I embarked on a journey of self-sabotage, self-loathing, and self-disrespect through promiscuity just to prove you wrong.  Cutting off bits of me didn’t stop me from having premature sex, it started it.  Despite what you believed, I was a virgin before this awful thing happened, and you know it because one of the women exclaimed in feigned surprise, “she’s still a virgin!”  You all pretended not to hear and did the did anyway. 

One day, after sex with yet another man, he started interrogating me.  He said, and I quote, “I’ve never had sex with a cut woman!  Where are you really from?” I asked him what was different from uncut women, and he said, “…they scream!” It was then I knew I couldn’t deny reality anymore.  I expected to get a sense of relief, instead, I was filled with rage and anger.  I fantasized about killing you all.   Other times, I contemplated suicide.  I did not see the point of living anymore.  I started drinking excessive alcohol to forget myself, and it was the only way I could have sex with men after Mr interrogation dumped me.  I knew he dumped me because sex with me was a chore – his words.

The alcoholism led to depression.  I was depressed for most of my life.  I was stuck in a never-ending cycle of alcohol, sex and then depression.  The first thing I did every morning was cry.  They say tears are the best way to express sorrow and a form of cleansing and healing.  At the time, it didn’t feel that way.  I cried tears of anger and frustration as I couldn’t change reality.  I even searched online for procedures to reverse the ritual.  I found something which I can’t divulge to you because you are judgemental and uneducated (at this point, I am allowed to be judgemental).

This discovery has given me hope.  I can be in control of my life.  I may not have the ability to change the past, but I can change the trajectory of my life and future.  Although I’m now in my late fifties and some of you are one foot in the grave, it has given me a new lease on life.  I now know there are things I can control and can have a full life.  I now know, that holding on to anger chips away at my soul until there will be nothing left, so it is futile.

I can now accept that this awful thing happened to me.  I can now accept that I was powerless – literally and figuratively.  I don’t have to hate my body anymore, or even you. 

I forgive you because though you were misinformed and ignorant, you did what you thought was best for me.  I realise you also went through it and have your own issues to deal with. 

I forgive you because I can’t change reality, and blaming you for how my life turned out, is only keeping me in bondage. 

I forgive you because it is the right thing to do and for once in my life, I feel at peace.

I forgive you wholeheartedly.

I forgive you to liberate my soul from bondage.

Forgiving you doesn’t mean I will forget or condone what you did and the harm you caused, I am forgiving you because forgiving you brings me peace and a desire to get on with my life.

Your ignorance and actions taught me very important lessons – the power of forgiveness and the importance of self-acceptance.

I leave you in peace.

Your granddaughter and daughter

Update:  A few weeks after this letter was translated to the grandmother, she died peacefully in her bed.  Apparently, she’d been praying for years for forgiveness because she believed it was her fault the granddaughter cut all ties with the family.


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