Self-Forgiveness and PTSD: Healing Shame

June 25, 2020 Beth Avery

Self-forgiveness in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) recovery is a valuable, yet often ignored, aspect of trauma healing. While we hear a lot about the importance of forgiving people that have hurt us, learning how to forgive ourselves is something that is not regularly discussed. However, self-forgiveness is crucial to our wellbeing, especially for people with PTSD.

When you survive something traumatic, especially such as a near-death or perceived near-death experience, it can bring a lot of complicated emotions to the table--including shame and guilt. Learning how to let go of that shame and guilt is an important step in trauma healing.

Why Self-Forgiveness Is So Hard for People with PTSD

Having personally suffered through 18 years of physical abuse at the hands of my older brothers and mother, I carry a great deal of shame and guilt. Though I know it wasn't my fault, I can't help but wonder if there was something I could have done to stop it. If I had told a friend or a teacher earlier, maybe it would have stopped. If I had stood up for myself and fought back, maybe it would have stopped. It's natural to have these thoughts after surviving something so horrible. 

Once someone has developed PTSD, the trauma recovery process can be messy. Before I entered into serious PTSD treatment, I made a lot of mistakes. My emotional pain at the time was so strong that it seemed to swallow those around me, and it caused me to hurt people that didn't deserve to be hurt. Learning to forgive myself for the mistakes I made during that time has been a difficult process.

Why Self-Forgiveness in PTSD Recovery Is Important

Self-forgiveness in PTSD recovery means letting go of any anger or resentment you hold towards yourself for mistakes you've made. It means accepting what was done in the past is done, and deciding not to cling to things you cannot change. Because PTSD causes people to ruminate on past memories, learning self-forgiveness can help people with PTSD find healing. 

Though it's difficult to let go, holding on to shame and guilt will only serve as an obstacle in your PTSD recovery. Making mistakes is a natural part of life, and it's a normal part of trauma healing as well. Nobody is perfect--not even you. Accepting that fact about yourself can be a hard pill to swallow, but it's a valuable tool for growth.

If you're struggling with self-forgiveness, take the first step and speak to a therapist or a close friend about what's weighing you down. Opening up about past mistakes can feel scary and embarrassing, but the first step is the hardest part. With time, you can find the love and self-forgiveness you deserve in your PTSD recovery.

APA Reference
Avery, B. (2020, June 25). Self-Forgiveness and PTSD: Healing Shame, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 24 from

Author: Beth Avery

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June, 29 2021 at 4:13 pm

you make it sound so easy. but it is not

March, 20 2021 at 10:30 am

Thank you for sharing. Am in this place now. Hardest time of my life. Almost identical pain you went through. I suffer from guilt & shame from the blasting I gave to my mother after a lot of trauma & emotional abuse during the time of my dads dying and death. A lot of family dysfunction and I was a scapegoat who was gaslighted. I said things I regret and now have deep depression from the shame of that verbal outburst.
So important to share our story- so others can be set free.
Now the journey begins.

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