How to Forgive Someone Who Hurt You Emotionally (15 Tips)

We all face moments when someone’s words or actions cut deeply, leaving scars that seem too raw to heal. This pain can cling to us, shaping how we see the world and ourselves.

But how do you start forgiving when every part of you resists? What if the other person isn’t sorry? Can you truly move on and heal?

Let’s explore some steps and insights that might just change the way you view forgiveness and your path to emotional freedom.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or emotional wellbeing. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.

Acknowledge Your Pain

Often, when we’re emotionally wounded, our first instinct might be to push those feelings aside or pretend they don’t exist. But hey, acknowledging your pain is the first, brave step towards healing.

Think of it as saying out loud, “Yes, this happened, and yes, it really hurt.” This doesn’t make you weak; it makes you human.

Now, recognizing your pain is not about dwelling on it but rather giving yourself permission to feel whatever you’re feeling without judgment. You could start a journal, talk to a trusted friend, or even chat with a therapist. These are safe spaces where your feelings can be recognized and validated, which is super important.

Express Your Emotions Safely

Once you’ve acknowledged your pain, the next step is to express those feelings in a way that’s safe and constructive.

Here’s what it could look like:

  • Crying can be a real release. No shame in letting out tears; they’re like the poison leaving the body.
  • Physical activity like running or boxing can channel your energy into something positive.
  • Creative expression through art or music can capture your emotions beautifully.

Accept the Reality of What Happened

Now comes possibly one of the toughest parts—accepting what happened. It doesn’t mean you approve of it; it means you’re acknowledging the reality, not running from it.

Think about it like this: acceptance is that solid ground you need to stand on so you can start moving forward. Without it, you’re likely stuck in a loop of ‘what ifs‘ and ‘if onlys.’

Accepting doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process, sometimes a slow one, and that’s okay. Try breaking it down into smaller pieces. What is the one thing about the situation you might come to terms with today? Focus on that. Tomorrow, take the next little piece. Small steps, remember?

Separate the Act from the Person

People are complex, you know? We’re all capable of both good and bad, and sometimes people do hurtful things without malicious intent. Recognizing this doesn’t excuse what they did, but it does open a door to understanding and moving past the pain.

It’s about understanding that we all have our battles and sometimes fail others. It might not make what happened okay, but it does add a shade of grey to a situation we often see in black and white.

"Understand the reason behind the action. The suggestions I give on this topic come after helping the individual understand why people hurt us emotionally. It is important to realize that Hurt People, Hurt People. 

This could be from their own past issues of hurt, abuse, and learning within their own family system. It can really help to understand that although the person who hurt you was in control of their own actions, and although it feels personal, it may not be. A person may say and do things only because they learned the bad behavior in their own dysfunctional family."

— Dr. Irene Little, PsyD., MS, MA, LMFT-S, LCDC | Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist- Supervisor | CEO and Clinical Director, Access Counseling Group

Forgive for Self-Kindness

Deciding to forgive doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process, one where you wake up each day and choose kindness—kindness to yourself. By forgiving, you’re not declaring what happened as acceptable; rather, you’re saying you value your own peace and happiness more than holding onto the grudge. It’s giving yourself permission to move forward.

Here’s how to start:

  • Remember, forgiving is for you.
  • Think about how forgiveness can make your life happier and less stressful.
  • You don’t have to forget what happened, but easing the emotional load can really improve your day-to-day mood.
"Forgiveness can also serve as a beautiful act of self-love. Think about it. When you forgive, you release anger, resentment, pain, grief, and depression – just to name a few. By forgiving you gain peace, understanding, validation, self-respect, and self-love. You’re able to say, 'Yes, this happened to me, but I’ve learned some incredible lessons and I’ve turned lemons into lemonade.' You’re stronger, wiser, more confident, and most importantly, free."

— Dr. Debi Silber | Founder, Post Betrayal Transformation Institute | Holistic Psychologist | Personal Development Mentor | TEDx Speaker

Give Yourself Time to Heal

Time heals all wounds, or so the saying goes. But let’s get real—it takes a bit more than just time. It’s what you do with that time that counts. Giving yourself space and permission to feel all the feelings—the good, the bad, and the very ugly—is part of the process.

Steps to help you on this journey:

  • Be patient with yourself. Healing takes as long as it needs to, and that’s perfectly okay.
  • Recognize small victories. Some days, just getting out of bed will be a win—and that’s enough.
  • Don’t compare your healing to others. Your story is yours alone, and it’s every bit as valid.

Get Mad, Feel Hurt, and Grieve

When someone’s hurt you, your emotions might be a mix of anger, sadness, and loss. It’s all part of the package, and it’s completely okay to feel this way. Getting mad? It’s a natural response. Feeling hurt? It’s a sign you cared. And grieve? Well, it’s necessary.

Each of these emotions is a valid response to being hurt emotionally. Getting mad can be a catalyst for change, feeling hurt can deepen our sense of empathy, and grieving is our way of honoring what we’ve lost. So, rather than shying away from these feelings, embrace them as part of your journey.

Practice Letting Go of Negative Thoughts

After you’ve allowed yourself to grieve, the next step is to practice letting go of those negative thoughts.  Letting go of these thoughts is not about ignoring them but rather choosing not to let them control your life.

  • Catch yourself in the act. Notice when a negative thought pops up.
  • Challenge it. Ask yourself, “Is this thought helping me, or is it just causing more pain?
  • Change the narrative. Flip the script to something positive or at least neutral.

Engage in Self-Compassion

Just like you wouldn’t criticize a small child for stumbling while they learn to walk, don’t be hard on yourself for finding this process challenging. Forgiveness and healing are journeys, and like any journey, there will be easy stretches and challenging climbs.

Embrace them all with kindness, and remember to take care of yourself just as you would someone else you love. Each step of self-compassion you take is a step towards a freer, happier you.

Learn from the Experience

Life’s tough experiences often come with hidden lessons. Choosing to seek out those lessons can transform a negative event into a stepping stone for personal growth. It’s not about thanking someone for hurting you; rather, it’s about asking yourself what you can take away from the experience.

Here’s how you could do this:

  • Ask yourself: What did this experience teach me about my boundaries?
  • Consider: How has this made me more empathetic to others’ struggles?
  • Reflect: What insights have I gained about what I truly value in relationships?

Find Strength in the Hurt

It’s often said what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right? Well, there’s truth to that. With every hurt, there’s potential for growth. It often takes looking back to see how far you’ve come and what strengths you’ve gained.

What this looks like in real life is varied: perhaps you’re more assertive now, or maybe you can spot red flags in relationships earlier. These strengths? They’re your silver linings. They’re the resilient part of your story that can inspire others, and they serve as a reminder of your capacity to adapt and grow.

Rebuild Trust at Your Own Pace

Rebuilding trust isn’t just about the other person; it’s also about trusting yourself again. Trust your judgment, trust in your ability to set boundaries, and, above all, trust in the personal growth you’ve experienced from the pain.

Steps to consider:

  1. Start with small, low-stakes situations where trust can be tested and built gradually.
  2. Communicate openly about your feelings and expectations.
  3. Allow yourself to set and reset boundaries as needed.

Practice Stress-Reduction Techniques

When you’re dealing with emotional hurt, it’s quite normal to feel stressed. This can be tough not just on your emotions but on your body too. 

You could try:

  • Deep breathing exercises: They’re like a mini vacation for your mind.
  • A brief walk outdoors: Fresh air and a change of scenery can do wonders.
  • Yoga or meditation: Talk about hitting the refresh button on your soul!

Recall Why You Value the Relationship

Sometimes, in the thick of hurt and anger, it’s easy to forget why you valued someone’s presence in your life in the first place. Taking a moment to remember the good parts, the happy memories, or the support they’ve offered in the past can change your perspective. This doesn’t erase the hurt but balances the scales a bit, doesn’t it?

"Think about who you are forgiving. More likely than not, this is a person who matters to you. It is not surprising that the people who can hurt you the most are the ones who you value the most in your life. Ask yourself, does the person I am forgiving add value to my life? Does this value outweigh the hurt this person has caused me? If the answer is yes to both of those questions, then this will bring you a sense of peace and validate even more so your initial decision to forgive."

— Dr. Lindsay Israel | Board Certified Psychiatrist | Chief Medical Officer, Success TMS

Consider Professional Help if Needed

Sometimes the hurt runs deep—so deep that it feels larger than anything you’ve ever faced. In those times, there’s absolutely no shame in seeking professional help. A therapist or counselor can offer you the tools and support you need to move forward.

Here’s what reaching out for help might look like:

  • Exploring therapy options, like individual or group sessions.
  • Speaking to your doctor about a referral or using trusted online resources to find a professional.
  • Checking in with your insurance provider to understand what services are covered.

More Insights from the Experts:

“Forgiveness is easier when one accepts the fundamental truth that the perpetrator is doing the ‘best’ he/she can within the confines of his/her world. In order to truly forgive one must accept that the other did whatever it was that was hurtful because that was the best he/she could do at that moment in time given that person’s life circumstances and experience.”

— Dr. Steven M. Sultanoff | Clinical Psychologist | Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist | Professor, Pepperdine University | Professional Speaker, Humor Matters

“…For me, the bottom line is that until I’m willing to forgive myself for everything I mistakenly believed I’ve done wrong until I am willing to forgive others for what I mistakenly believed that they’ve done wrong to me, I will stay stuck in suffering. Today I choose to forgive and be freed from the bondage of suffering.”

Dr. Stephen F. Grinstead, LMFT, ACRPS | Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist | Owner, Grinstead Consultation and Training

“Talk to the person about what went wrong. It’s really hard to forgive someone who hurt you emotionally if they don’t understand the hurt they caused. Before you can really forgive, it’s important to try to talk with the person about what went wrong. Take the time to confront them in a caring way. If they really value you and the relationship, they will want to make things right with you.”

Dr. Jennifer Thomas, Ph.D. | Psychologist | Business Consultant | TEDx Speaker | Author, When Sorry Isn’t Enough: Making Things Right with Those You Love

“Search for perspective. There are multiple sides to every story, and no matter how much you may think you understand the other side(s), you really don’t. There is no way for you to know someone else’s feelings, emotional makeup, or private experiences that have colored how they respond to things emotionally, or why they react the way they do.

Everyone interprets things differently because of that. Try to look at situations from multiple angles, and appreciate the fact that those different perspectives often play a huge role in any strife.”

— Dr. Bradley Nelson (D.C., ret.) | Physician, Discover Healing | Author, The Emotion Code

“If the person is not able to take responsibility and shift to avoid creating emotional harm in the future, you can then choose your next course of action. You might limit contact with the person or discontinue the relationship.

Part of the healing process is to create stronger boundaries to avoid further emotional harm. Another part of the healing process is to let the person know what your new boundaries are (e.g., reducing contact, ending the relationship, etc.).”

Dr. Carla Marie Manly | Clinical Psychologist

Final Thoughts

Forgiving someone who has hurt you emotionally is a journey toward healing yourself, not just mending a relationship. It’s about making the choice not to let past wounds control your present and your happiness. This journey is deeply personal, and how you navigate it is entirely up to you.

Remember, forgiving doesn’t mean you erase what happened or that it didn’t matter. It means you are choosing to rise above the pain. You are choosing to embrace peace and happiness. As you move forward, know that every step towards forgiveness is a step towards freedom.

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Bea is an editor and writer with a passion for literature and self-improvement. Her ability to combine these two interests enables her to write informative and thought-provoking articles that positively impact society. She enjoys reading stories and listening to music in her spare time.