Our loved ones die and we are left to pick up the pieces. We may try hard to create a picture-perfect vision of our loved one, but some of us have unfinished business with the deceased: regrets, anger, or pain. Grief can be complicated due to unresolved conflict, regret, or negative history with the person who has died.
Forgiveness does not mean condoning hurtful or ignorant behavior, but it does involve letting go of the past. Resentment literally means to re-feel or feel again. It saps our energy and allows us to be controlled by another – alive or dead. Our unwillingness to forgive attaches us all the more to the pain of grief.
The act of forgiveness offers the freedom to grieve and heal in the present. Giving forgiveness will not change the past, but it will change us, and the possible future, forever.
Is there anything we can do to make peace with less-than-perfect relationships after someone dies? I believe that writing unsent letters to people who have hurt us – alive or dead – can be liberating. By knowing we are not going to post the letter, we have complete freedom to say anything we want.
Writing letters that we do not mail is a safe expression for the raw emotions of grief. We can become physically and emotionally unwell if we do not give voice to our powerful emotions. Venting the anger and/or resentments we have towards them will free us from our negative emotions.
The whole idea of letter writing is to fully express any negative emotion that you harbor so you can move towards forgiveness. We do not forgive others because it is the right thing to do. We forgive because it is the loving thing to do for ourselves.
In the letter to them, write what happened, why it hurt you and how you felt about it at the time. Describe the way this has had a lasting effect on your life. Use your words to say everything you need to say to this person.
When you have written this letter, read it out loud to yourself as though you were actually addressing the person face-to-face. You may also want to read it to a picture of this person, or at their graveside. Allow yourself to feel the emotions, whether sadness, anger or fear. I suggest shredding the letter or burning it after you have read it out loud. You may need to read it more than once before you sense completion.