Never do those feelings torment a person more than when a loved one has died. Words left unspoken. Gratitude unexpressed. Forgiveness withheld. Hurt that festers. The pile of regrets often growing deeper and more painful with each passing year.
What do you do with all of those emotions when a loved one is gone? Many of us try stuffing them away, but the emotions eventually erupt. Sometimes our pain spews onto someone else in the form of anger. Or we might inflate like a life raft as a result of using food for comfort or slowly disintegrate from a bottomless glass of wine.
Unfortunately, all forms of “Novocain” eventually wear off, and the pain returns.
I am an evangelist for writing letters of affirmation and encouragement to the living. Having seen their life giving impact, I’m passionate about the difference that these simple letters can make.
But there’s another type of letter that I can strongly recommend for it’s healing power. It’s a letter to the person who has already died.
WHAT? Yes, a letter to someone who is gone. Even when there are numbers on both sides of a person’s “dash,” writing a letter to them can be very helpful FOR YOU!
This technique was suggested to me by a therapist a few years ago as I sought to process some lingering hurt after my husband’s death. I later used it to write letters to both of my parents after they were “promoted.” Each relationship was vastly different, but the letter writing process was consistently therapeutic.
Here are a few suggestions on writing a letter “to” someone who is gone:
Do I believe that the dearly departed can actually hear you? No, probably not. (But who really knows? Nothing is impossible with God!) But I know from personal experience that hearing one’s own words, and not just reading them, will help with the healing process.
Remember that it takes time to recover from deep hurt. Be gentle with yourself. You might want to file this letter away and reread it again when your emotions are churning. Or you might just want to burn it!
Even if your relationship with the deceased was very positive, this letter writing process can be helpful. Rereading the letter on a person’s birthday or on the anniversary of their death can be a beautiful way to remember the lasting impact of a life well lived.
Leave nothing unsaid. Even to someone who is already gone. You’ll be amazed at how much you will gain from this simple, healing exercise.
PS: My prayer is that this post will bring hope and healing to someone walking through a difficult season of life. This process can also be very useful in cases of abandonment or divorce. Although the subject of the letter isn’t “dead,” your relationship might be.
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