Writing As Grief Therapy–A Healing Process

Chaplain JTC, III with AllCare Hospice in Tulsa, Oklahoma ministers to those in their last days of life.  He allowed me to share this article about writing to heal with you.  It talks about guilt, regret, forgiveness, gratitude and acceptance.  Here’s a link to the Chaplain’s story:

Photo by Zion and courtesy of MorgueFile.

Photo by Zion and courtesy of MorgueFile.

Starting the writing process isn’t hard–just decide to begin.

Should you choose to write a letter and would like to share it with others in order to help them, please feel free to submit it to:  Letters@LastGoodbyeLetters.com.




How To Write A Goodbye Letter To Your Dying Father

Praying Hands photo courtesy of Katie Tegtmeyer

Praying Hands photo courtesy of Katie Tegtmeyer

I’m having a hard time writing a letter to my dying father. My step father raised me and my step father passed several years ago. I don’t know what to say to my father. My step mother refuses to let me see him for any closure. I am just lost for words.  

This inquiry came to me a while ago and I thought my response might help others in a similar situation:

1. Open the letter with why you feel you want to write to your father even though your relationship hasn’t been that close. Tell him why it’s important for you to tell him these things and that you are hoping he sees the letter as an expression of love, not of blame or guilt (assuming that is true).

2. Do you have any memories of your father? Since your step-father raised you, you may not. If you do, then sit quietly and make a list of the memories you have. If you don’t have memories, make a list of things/times/emotions you would like to share with a father.

3. Look over your list and pick a couple of items. Then, write a couple of sentences about how thinking about those memories you have/wish you had make you feel. Closer to him as a father? Did it impact you in some way going forward in life? Something that you have never shared with any one else? Make you feel nurtured?

4. Close your letter with anything that you feel has been left unsaid. You might want to mention that you know he may never read the letter because of your step-mother’s protectiveness. If you want… add a list of adjectives that come to mind when you think of your father.

Finally, I think that it’s most important for YOU to write the letter. Do you have someone that can read the letter to your father for you since your step-mother is keeping you from seeing him? If you have no choice left, I would send it to your step-mother and hope that she will read it to your father. Sometimes you just don’t know the impact of your actions, and you have to trust that you did the best you could in a given situation and trust that the Universe will figure a way for your father to know your feelings.

I’ll say a prayer for you and your father. If you would like to share your letter with me, I would be honored!




How To Write Your Own Last Goodbye Letter

It can be very daunting trying to put your thoughts into words and onto paper for your loved one to read.  But at least you are trying!  Any words you write will be very special to those who read them.  There are no clear cut ‘rules’ for writing any letter, except for one:  make sure it’s from your heart.

Here are some suggestions on how to get started:

1. Think of the person you are writing to and remember a specific incident that comes to mind.  Write it down.  For example:  “I remember when I was fifteen and you took me taught me how to…”  or  “It wasn’t a big deal to you, but it was a big deal to me that summer we spent in Wisconsin and we sat out on the pier one night and talked about…”  or “You always shared your secrets with me.”

2. Take a minute to think about how you felt then and how you feel now about this incident.  For example:  “You gave me the confidence to try hard at something for the first time in my life.”  Or, “That was the beginning of my love for the outdoors and it set my life on a course that it wouldn’t have taken without you.”  Or, “You made me feel important and grown up and that what I had to say really mattered to you.”

3. Repeat as necessary.  This can be long or short—whatever feels best to you at the time of writing.

4. Don’t think that a letter has to be written words.  Maybe it’s a drawing, a word collage, a poem  (rhyming or otherwise), a song or something else entirely.

5. Don’t worry if you don’t say everythingYou can’t possibly write down everything you want to express about a relationship in one letter.  But writing your letter says a lot more than what is simply written on the page.  Your letter brings back memories to the reader.  It reminds him/her of your love.  It surprises, it honors, it warms the heart, it brings a tear, it brings a smile to your reader.  Your loved one will be able to read all the unwritten sentiments that you were unable to put onto paper.  Your letter will bring joy to both your and the recipient.

6. Close your letter with a few short words that you feel describe the recipient.  For example, you could say, “you are special to me because you are beautiful inside and out, your laugh makes me smile, you always make me feel safe” etc.

7. Give it to your loved one.  This is an important step for you.  If you can’t give it in person, then mail it, e-mail it, give it to a friend to deliver for you, read it over the telephone or in a voice message.  One caveat here:  The recipient may not act the way you have scripted the response to be.  He/she may want to read it in private and may never want to discuss it with you because it is so emotional.  Let the reader react in the way that fits him/her best.

If you would like to share your letter and/or writing experience with others, please send us your letter along with the Release Agreement that can be downloaded from this website.

All our best wishes in your writing endeavors—may they be healing to yourself and others.