Do you remember the movie Alien by Ridley Scott? In the infamous chest-busting scene, the Alien rips itself out of a man impregnated with the parasite.
If you’ve seen it, you’ll know it’s not for the squeamish. Now, it might be less dramatic in our case, but if we let the Alien of grief grow inside ourselves, it will find a nice, dark place to nest and dry out our vital juices.
That’s why we need to cut it out.
But instead of using a scalpel, grab pen and paper and extricate the grief with the power of therapeutic letters.
How Do Therapeutic Letters Work, And Why?
In a nutshell, the emotions we feel during the process of writing are real. If we cry because we must say goodbye to something, the farewell is real. Even though we are ‘just writing,’ the feelings are real.
Therefore, the symbolic act of saying goodbye has a real impact on our lives; it feels real and it is real.
Sometimes, a symbolic act of farewell is the only way we can express what we carry inside. Sometimes, a goodbye is no longer possible.
Or, closer to home, we don’t want a face-to-face confrontation with the person who hurt us. It wouldn’t end well, and we know it.
Therapeutic letters help end relations that weren’t closed properly. They let us say things we never would have otherwise – because of stress, fear of dropping our guard, distrust, or simply good manners.
Therapeutic letters are our most intimate creations. Filled with secrets, regrets, guilt, blame, and even a few F-bombs or other curse words if that’s your style and it feels right.
Our human nature drives us to reach closure. We need to experience closure to prevent the situation or relationship from draining our energy.
Without closure, a parasite settles in. Goodbyes are always hard, but avoiding closure is like feeding the Alien.
Do not feed the Alien!
The power of these letters is as great as a sincere confrontation…
Only it’s much safer. And constructive.
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To Whom Should You Write Therapeutic Letters?
Most often – to another person:
- an ex
- a family member or friend who has died
- your mother, who you don’t want to discuss something with; or for many other reasons
- people who bullied you in the past, and so on
But you may also write to your emotions:
- anger that is raging in you
- grief that absorbs everything
- depression that cuts you off from life
- fear that restrains you
- or any other emotion
As you write, think about the emotion as if it was a separate being. Like an Alien.
This creature does something to you – most probably hurts you, but perhaps also helps you in some way at the same time.
Such personification of an emotion makes it easier to address, to get angry at it and to say goodbye.
Last but not least, you can write to different parts of yourself:
- you from the past, for example, to support yourself when you were a small child
- to the part of yourself who gives up easily
- to the part of yourself who doesn’t want to let go off the past
You know each part of yourself very well. You know your motives and what is behind them. You know whether part of you is driven by fear, guilt, or something else.
Try to awaken a decent dose of understanding toward yourself. In every part of who you are there is a little you, scared and unsupported. Cuddle this little child before you say goodbye.
But what if you hesitate?
We don’t always know when we get impregnated with our Aliens. Sometimes we co-exist with them for decades. It’s no wonder, then, that saying goodbye to a long-time companion encounters resistance. Maybe it’s an Alien, but it’s almost like a part of you by now!
And that’s okay.
We need to ripen up for goodbyes. Sometimes we have no energy available for such a big step. So as I always say – take all the time you need. But do not wait longer than you really need. Do not procrastinate away your life.
How To Do It And What To Avoid?
The recipient will never receive a therapeutic letter. So don’t hold back. Remember, if cursing is your thing, now’s the perfect time to really let rip. And if it’s not, that’s okay too.
Write everything that comes to your mind, good and bad, thanks and blame, sentiments and regrets.
In order to do it the best way possible, choose a moment when you feel these emotions and thoughts are ready to come out. Like a pimple ready to pop (ugh!).
You may need to sleep on it for some time, to think about it and gather energy. Once ready, choose a moment to write, and ensure you have as much time as you might need. Even if you cry afterwards or feel exhausted.
Trust your intuition, let it lead the way. Write what comes to your mind and don’t edit too much.
When writing, find a place you can reflect on the thing you’re saying goodbye to:
- What has this experience given you… and what has it taken away?
- How has it changed you?
- What is one good thing that came from it?
- What will you take away from it as part of your intrinsic wisdom?
Once the letter is ready, you may want to tear it up, burn it, or flush it down the loo. Or keep it, of course.
But never ever send it out!
If you threw everything into your letter, the recipient would literally have to be an enlightened person to stay unaffected. And if you send it out to hurt or provoke this person on purpose, then it doesn’t have much to do with a goodbye.
Difficult goodbyes take place in ourselves. Never in the spotlight.
And this last farewell has nothing to do with the real person. But it does have everything to do with what this person meant TO YOU. So deal with YOUR grief, YOUR resentment and YOUR anger.