People can forgive toxic parents, but they should do it at the conclusion—not at the beginning—of their emotional housecleaning. People need to get angry about what happened to them. They need to grieve over the fact that they never had the parental love they yearned for. They need to stop diminishing or discounting the damage that was done to them. Too often, “forgive and forget” means “pretend it didn’t happen.”
I also believe that forgiveness is appropriate only when parents do something to earn it. Toxic parents, especially the more abusive ones, need to acknowledge what happened, take responsibility, and show a willingness to make amends. If you unilaterally absolve parents who continue to treat you badly, who deny much of your reality and feelings, and who continue to project blame onto you, you may seriously impede the emotional work you need to do. If one or both parents are dead, you can still heal the damage, by forgiving yourself and releasing much of the hold that they had over your emotional well-being.
At this point, you may be wondering, understandably, if you will remain bitter and angry for the rest of your life if you don’t forgive your parents. In fact, quite the opposite is true. What I have seen over the years is that emotional and mental peace comes as a result of releasing yourself from your toxic parents’ control, without necessarily having to forgive them. And that release can come only after you’ve worked through your intense feelings of outrage and grief and after you’ve put the responsibility on their shoulders, where it belongs."