This is my first posting on this site. My father, as I see with many others, was my abuser as well. I am in my 50's now but luckily I went through the hard therapy in my early 20's. The confront &/or forgive part of this process was separated by about 20 years.
In my 20's I confronted him about it during a long car drive. A truly empty experience that brought no satisfaction. I suppose my fantasy was that he would be repentant, shattered, or at least emotionally affected by the confrontation. But,Like most abusers I suppose, he under played his guilt. "I know I did some bad things but...I'm a sick person....etc., etc."he said and in the end he wanted me to somehow feel sorry for him!
In my mid 40's after years of shunning by my family I learned that my father was dying at a hospital in the mid-west. When I went to try to be there I discovered that he had given strict orders that no-one from the family was to get any information about his medical condition by his physicians or the hospital. This man who had exercised iron fisted control over us all was helpless to control his disease. I think in some pathetic way he feared having us confront him with the pain he inflicted on us and so he controlled what we could find out about his condition.
Strangely enough it was at that time that the forgiveness came. I no longer felt the need for justice, retribution, what have you. I felt nothing but pity and yes, forgiveness for this man who had abused me from age 5 -18. Here he was dying, and yet he was so filled with self hate that he could not envision that I actually might be there as a son wanting to be there for his dying father. For five days I sent letters and even a cassette recording stating that I was there not to blame but to heal the situation, to no avail.
I returned home and four days later got word that he had died. I came back to the Midwest, arranged the funeral, and said the goodbyes to a casket that he would not hear in person. I realized that the greatest gift I could give myself was the forgiveness I gave to him.
My favorite Buddhist Story
There was a young monk and an old monk who are walking across the country-side. As they proceed they come upon a young woman standing beside a wide, swift moving stream.
The woman asks the young monk to help her across the river. He replies "Our order says we must not touch women. I can not help you."
She then asks the old monk who replies, "Sure jump on my back and I will carry you across." True to his word he lifts her up and carries her across and sets her down on the other side and continues on his journey.
The young monk is shocked. How could the old monk do this? he broke the rule! Finally after wondering about it for 4 hours he finally asks the old monk "Knowing our vows how could you just pick up and carry that woman?"
The old monk replied " I set that woman down four hours ago. You are the one that is still holding on to her."
Forgiveness allows us to let go that which should have never been put upon us in the first place.