View from the Pew
"I hadn't spoken about anything for three years. I was filled with shame. I was in a bad depression. I thought about suicide, fantasized about being with my mother."
Her father killed her mother and married his wife's sister
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Professional actress Brenda Adelman will lead a workshop on forgiveness at 7 p.m. Aug. 7 at Unity Church of Hawaii and will present her one-woman play "My Brooklyn Hamlet."
Domestic violence that destroys or damages people in a family, where they should be safest, is more frightening and distressing than stories from the battlefield or the criminal world.
It seems all too common fare in the news, the story of a horrendous act, the reactions from family and neighbors, perhaps more chapters as parties pass through the criminal justice system. We don't hear so much of the long-term aftermath -- anger, separation, grief, depression, desperation, retribution, all the psychological scars that people often don't recognize, treat or heal.
3 STEPS TO FORGIVENESS
Brenda Adelman teaches that there are three steps on "The Path to Forgiveness."
"First, acknowledge that you feel hurt, betrayed, angry. Even if you were not actually physically hurt, the hurt is real because you felt it.
"The second stage is to give up your need to be right. Realize that the need to be right, to feel righteous, is for you; it is not for the other person.
"Third, send love and light and prayers to those who hurt you. It is not necessary to have contact with the person who hurt you. Don't do that unless you can set healthy boundaries."
"You can't forgive until you love yourself."
Brenda Adelman has not only moved on from her family tragedy, she's turned her journey into a resource for healing other emotionally stricken people. Her one-woman play "My Brooklyn Hamlet" dramatizes the story: Her father killed her mother and married his wife's sister soon afterward. He spent two years in prison for involuntary manslaughter under a plea bargain. Although Adelman and her brother later won a wrongful death lawsuit, the killer ducked paying the $2 million judgment.
The professional actress borrows soliloquies by the author of the original "Hamlet" and mixes ironic humor and the positive attitude stimulated by her spiritual path to tell her story of anger, grief and emotional growth.
It's not giving away the plot to reveal that Adelman developed profound belief in forgiveness. After earning a master's degree in spiritual psychology at the University of Santa Monica, she began a second career as a motivational speaker and coach. She has given the play in numerous settings, including a Jewish theater festival in Vienna. She gives workshops on forgiveness as the path to freedom and creative ways to release anger. She offers a free e-mail course on "Five Top Reasons Never to Forgive and Why You Must" on her Web page, www.forgivenessandfreedom.com.
HAWAII INTERNATIONAL FORGIVENESS DAY
Time: 1 to 5 p.m. Aug. 3
Where: East-West Center, University of Hawaii
What: "A Family Festival of Forgiveness"
Moderators: Gerald Jampolsky and Diane Cirincione
"Hero of Forgiveness" honorees:
» Holocaust survivor Henri Landwirth, founder of "Give Kids the World" project
» Actress Brenda Adelman, creator of "My Brooklyn Hamlet" one-woman play
» Fay Uyeda and Communities in Schools Waipahu Ohana will show their film on foster child Andrew Sato's "Forgiveness Journey."
» "The F-Word" art exhibition from London
» Songs by Traci Toguchi, former Miss Hawaii and executive director of Hawaii Center for Attitudinal Healing
The vivacious actress will be honored as a "hero of forgiveness" at the annual Hawaii International Forgiveness Day program sponsored by the Hawaii Forgiveness Project. The Aug. 3 program at the East-West Center is free and open to the public.
She will lead a workshop on forgiveness at 7 p.m. Aug. 7 at Unity Church of Hawaii and will present "My Brooklyn Hamlet" at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 9 at the church. Admission is $20 for each.
The play began as an exercise in a Los Angeles acting class. "I hadn't spoken about anything for three years. I was filled with shame," she said. "I was in a bad depression. I thought about suicide, fantasized about being with my mother.
"I was in denial about my dad for so long, that he couldn't have done it.
"My brother and I didn't talk for six years, I as so angry that he agreed to the plea bargain."
The acting class gave her a standing ovation for her brief act, and then several other people chimed in with their own tales of hurt. That has become a recurring reaction from audiences, leading Adelman to add a question-and-answer session after each performance.
"In the beginning it was cathartic for me, but I was still too enmeshed with it psychologically. After doing the show, I was feeling spent, like I wasn't completely healed or didn't have enough distance." It led her to return to college for the psychology course which, she said, "was really intensive therapy for myself while learning how to help others. I could start to wake up and learn why this happened to me, not from a victim place."
"When I took my father to court for the wrongful death of my mom, it was like I grew up. I started being awake and making a stand to let my father know I no longer believed him."
One poignant moment that she re-enacts in the show was a solitary ritual inspired by a course she took at the Church of Religious Science in Los Angeles. "The principle of oneness ... that he was one with me and how could I hate him without hating a part of me ... was really the beginning of forgiveness, of getting it as part of my body," she said.
"I took one of his fedora hats, typical Brooklyn. I went to the top of a mountain, read a forgiveness poem and threw his hat over. It was such an amazing release. Something opened for me, and I closed what needed to be closed. So when he died a few years later, I didn't go through the guilt a lot of my clients do. I had already kind of made peace and sent him off with loving.
"So many people I have dealt with over the years feel abandoned, but there is no ceremony. A father or mother took off, they feel lost. It is important to have the ceremony."
As for her spiritual resources, "I kind of follow whatever works," Adelman said. "I am Jewish and I feel Jewish, but I wasn't brought up to be religious." She has been connected with the Church of Religious Science -- "one good God that moves through everything" and Unity Church in Sedona, Ariz., where she trained as a prayer chaplain and taught about "taking responsibility and being awake.
"I am a big believer in the power of prayer and having faith that something good will come," said the forgiveness counselor. "That is one of my biggest messages. I have been to the darkest places and got through them. I hope to help others, to inspire them to find the courage within themselves."