I don't know if "forgive" is the right word... or the right goal.
I think the object is to get to the point where the abuser's actions cannot continue to hurt you -- to get to the point where you no longer have to carry around the scars (e.g., low self-esteem and negative self-image issues, depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc.) and no longer have to sturuggle with the burden of anger -- basically, to find peace with yourself so that whatever happened doesn't continue to victimize you further.
That doesn't necessarily require that you forgive or forget - just that you eventually find a way to accept that it happened, lay the burden of responsibility where it properly belongs, and move out into the sunlight again.
I agree: acceptance is the goal to work for, not forgiveness. Although I've learned to use my personal history to my advantage (better understanding of my career goal), I have never, and will never forgive my abusers. I do not intend on associating with them any time, ever.
Would you say it is possible to re-establish a relationship with a former abuser? Either a friendship, parent-child or romantic relationship?
I think some people are able to do that, at least with parent-child relationships, and a few with marital or romantic relationships. It may depend on whether the abuser acknowledges and takes responsibility for the abuse. it probably also depends on how badly damaged the victim was by the abuse.
Even if the person takes responsibility, do you think the relationship will ever go back to how it was before the abuse began? I know personally I would always doubt the person, as to whether or not they truly felt sorry, and if they really want to not only accept responsibility, but change the abusive behaviour permanently.
I was abused by my brother as a child. He was 12-16, high and in with the wrong crowd. I was 5 when it started though it wasn't a big problem till I hit 7 and I was 9 by the time it ended. It wasn't very often of a particularly traumatic nature and as I grew up I felt that it was the adults making a big deal out of it. I idolised my brother and always found excuses as to why it occured, I would reassure my parents that I didn't think he would do it again. In fact up until this year at the age of twenty three, I had always prided myself on how I had completely forgiven him and what a well rounded person I was. But this year it suddenly clicked that actually I'm bloody pissed off about it. I have loads of other problems which I have now realised are connected to what he did. But what triggered it for me was the fact that because of what he did he moved out in to a council flat, got married had two kids,got a bigger council house, bought it, waited four years sold it. Now at 30 he is looking at buying Â£400,000 houses, while my husband baby and I are stuck with my mum because we can't afford a house and the council won't find us one until we are homeless. It pissed me off that through subjecting me to a lifetime of issues he has come out so far on top it is absurd. I who have never hurt anyone gets nothing. Life is strange and No I don't think you do ever really forgive.
I think you can eventually get to a poiint where the abuser no longer owns a portion of your life. I think of it almost as I would the kitchen table I banged my shin against. I was angry about getting hurt. I even felt a bit of anger at the table. But eventually I was able to see that the table was not able to hurt me anymore because I would not let it. I am not trying to play down abuse. I was abused by a collection of people from the time I was almost 3 years old to the time I finally stopped abusing myself about ten years ago when I was in my late 20's. The abusers owned a large part of my psyche. And I was convinced that all of the abuse had been my fault somehow. It has taken me almost ten years to finally come to the understanding that the abusers were not unlike that kitchen table. They did not choose me for any reason except convenience, and are now unable to ever hurt me again. I don't have to forgive the kitchen table because it wouldn't make any difference, and the abusers no longer own such a large part of me.
I hope my blathering makes sense. Others may not be able to look at their situations as I do, but I find this kind of thinking helpful at least to me.