The following essay is by our friend Elizabeth Coplan, subject matter expert and curator of the website and films, Grief Dialogues
Writing a letter to a deceased love one offers important therapy to heal grief.
Your grief is palpable. You think of your deceased loved one and you can not imagine your days without him/her. Perhaps you make an appointment with a therapist or MD. You take the prescribed meds and follow your doctor’s advice to the letter.
In fact, one of the best activities for healing is writing a letter. I’ve practiced this method of grief therapy myself over the years. No other form of therapy offers (at least to me) the immediate helpful, healing experience as crafting that letter.
Want to try it? Okay, let’s go.
- Find yourself a quiet place where you are comfortable. Choose your preferred medium, notebook, journal, iPad, smartphone, or even the back side of recycled piece of paper.
- Release all judgment. There is no right way or wrong way to write about your emotions.
- Tell the person whatever you felt you could not say before, whether it’s profound: I know you didn’t die happy, and yet, I know you died satisfied, or simply: I love you. Or the hardest of all: I’m sorry.
- Take time for introspective honesty and reflection.This letter is often your first step in gaining acceptance
- Think about the questions rolling around in your head. Why do you think your loved one is gone? Why now?
- Write about:
- Experiences you have been through since your loved one’s death
- A favorite memory
- Anything and everything that has happened since their death
- How you’ve grown and changed
- The ways you continue to honor their memory
- Anything you miss or regret since they died
- Issues in your relationship that remain unresolved
- Your moments of appreciation
- New revelations about yourself or your loved one
So now what? You’ve written the letter, but since the letter isn’t written for a living human being, consider one of the following:
- Destroy the letter
- Seal it in an envelope and keep it somewhere private
- Save it somewhere on your computer, perhaps in a file with some special photos
- Consider sharing it on Grief Dialogues or AfterTalk
- Keep it close to you in your wallet or beside table
- Send it to someone who might appreciate it
- Share it with others who miss the person via e-mail, Facebook or personal blog
- Share it anonymously or in a forum.
My sister and I helped with the final week of our dear cousin’s life. Myra was more than just a cousin; she was a sister. After Myra died, we stayed to clean out her home. We took car loads of clothes and home items to a shelter for battered women. I also scooped up the office supplies, a passion of mine since grade school (yes, I’m one of those students who loved back-to-school shopping).
I shipped those supplies, including 16 spiral notebooks, lined and unlined, used and unused, to my home.
One day I decided it was time to thin out the drawer full of unused journals and notebooks. Many found their way into the donation pile. I made certain I scoured each notebook, not wanting to unwittingly share private information.
The last notebook in the last drawer appeared unused. Except one the very last page I found a hand-written letter (in pencil) that Myra wrote to her first husband, Carl, who had died in 2001.
Thank you Myra for the gift of a letter so clearly sharing your undying love of Carl.
Now I plan to write Myra a letter.
NOTE: to see Myra’s letter to Carl, click THIS LINK
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