Grief Recovery Letter Outline
Feel lighter From The Weight Of Grief, Trauma And Negative Circular Imaginary conversations
A step by step process helps complete unfinished emotional conversations from situations of loss and trauma.
(NOTE: Those who finish this process feel lighter, calmer and more complete with their loss. However, it is common to resist staying with this process so be compassionate with yourself and pace yourself in the way it works with you. Resistance is not wrong, it is just a testimony to the depth and meaning the experience and people have for you. So, bring whatever you have accomplished, even it if is nothing written, to the next session. We all work our way through to the completion of the process. Also, the letter is to be written AS A LETTER. So this outline is to gather the information for you to write and express an emotionally honest and real letter.)
1. Allow for at least 30 mins to an hour to start, come and go as you need, and take them time that you need.
You can continue the process by coming and going from it. Some people have reported the whole process took them four hours in one sitting, some have spent an hour a day for a week, and others report many spans of time and patterns. Find the way that works for you. The more specific and time you spend, deepens and brings more value to this project. You can stop and come back to it later until you are finished, but good to give yourself time to get into it. Note you most probably will have emotion about what you are writing and that is the point. Just take care of yourself when you do the writing so you are not in places where you don't feel safe and in places that are private and comfortable.
2. Do a Relationship Graph.
Put the things that are significant hurts and losses below the line, with positive experiences above the line. You don't have to use every event in your life with the person or the situation, just the ones that come to your attention. Start with your earliest memory of the person or situation, and make the timeline extend to today. Mark the time segments with your age (or can include the year if you want to). This part of the process opens up your emotional memory and gives the content for the next step, the three lists.
3. I suggest four lists to help gather your memory nuggets and structure them to be healing:
Write resent sentences, then follow each with acceptance and forgiveness statements.
example: "I resent than you embarrassed me when you . . . I accept that this happened, and, I forgive you."
NOTE: If you just can't write that you can forgive the person for what happened, here in the first draft write what is true for you right then. For example: I accept that this happened, and I wish I could forgive. Or, I don't know if I can ever forgive you. And so on. You will be working with this letter for several sessions. See it as an alive document. It is important to be accurate in how you feel and what you think. The letter's intent is to move to a felt experience of lighter and complete with that person the best degree possible.
Remember, this is moving to be a conversational letter to be read outloud. These lists are to help gather and construct that letter.
Write regret sentences, then follow each with acceptance and apology statements.
example: "I regret that I never . . . I accept that this happened, and I am sorry for that."
NOTE: If you just can't write that you can feel sorrow or apology toward the person for what happened, here in the first draft write what is true for you right then. For example: I accept that this happened, and I wish I could express sorrow but I can't right now. Or, I don't know if I can ever express sorrow or apology. And so on. You will be working with this letter for several sessions. See it as an alive document and an alive process that deepens as you work it forward. It is important to be accurate in how you feel and what you think. The letter's intent is to move to a felt experience of lighter and complete with that person the best degree possible.
c. Significant Emotional Statements
There are emotions about things and events that need saying from your heart, out loud, good and bad. Please remember to include the positive emotional statements also in this category.
"I felt (or feel) hurt when you (or I) . . . "
"I felt (or feel) happy that you (or I) "
"I felt (or feel) sad when you (or I ) "
"I felt (or feel) resigned to the fact that you (or I ) "
d. Express Appreciations/Gratitude/ThankYous
These are things that need saying from your heart that you are truly grateful for that are independent of your hurts and troubles toward yourself or others.
"I love you (myself) for . . . "
"I appreciate you (or myself) for . . . "
"I am grateful that you (or that I ). . . "
e. Self Forgiveness
These are things that you blame yourself for. Things that you resent yourself for. Things that you feel guilty about. Things that you feel shame over.
"It was my fault that I . . . I accept that I did this and I forgive myself for this and can learn from it."
"I feel guilty that I . . . I accept that I did this and I forgive myself for this and can learn from it."
"I resent myself for . . . I accept that I did this and I forgive myself for this and can learn from it."
"I feel ashamed that I . . . I accept that I did this and forgive myself for this and can learn from it."
NOTES ON THE FIVE LISTS:
Take you time with each category. Make each category as long at it needs to be.
4. Now write The Letter, at least 3-5-10-20 or more pages, more if you like.
Start letter with: “Dear XXXX, I want to review some things about our relationship that I want to let go of and want you to know about.”
Write the letter to the person or situation as if it is a real letter, not bullet points. Write it from your emotional heart, as raw and real as you can. Write it as a narrative. Don’t cover over with nice or pleasantwith muted tones. Let the “hate/hurt/pain" as well as the "love/closeness" be fully described and expressed. Give words and voice to your deepest feelings and thoughts. This is a private letter and reading and not for the person nor others. This is for you and the person you choose to listen with their emotional heart, without judgement, with compassion and to keep it private for you.
a. Start with the Resentments.
"I resent that you embarrassed me when you . . . ", t
then add "I accept that this happened,"
then add"I (forgive—wish I could forgive—don’t forgive—can’t forgive—won’ forgive—I forgive you for that as much as can---- choose one or more that feels emotionally honest now) you
now for . . . "
Do each item this way but in the context of a letter-writing style and very personal. As if you are telling them and they are simply listening and not interrupting.
b. Next the Regrets. This step moves the regrets toward Apology.
"I regret I never said . . . "
add, "I accept that this happened,”
then add, "I apologize (or I am so sorry) for not saying . . ."
Do each item until you are complete. You can add more as you go with each category as your emotional memory opens more and more.
NOTE: If you just cannot write or say out loud, "I forgive you for . . .", you can write/say "I wish I could forgive you for . . . but I can't right now." or "I accept that this happened and I want to let it go." You don't have to feel that you can forgive the person to include it in your letter, by including this in the letter many find they forgiveness statement helps them let go, even in the beginning where they don't feel it. But if you just can't, that is okay, the acceptance statement helps move you along in the letting go process of grief.
5. Lastly, the Significant Emotional Statements. Write them as they are listed and add or change them to match how you really fee now that you are writing the letter. After the Forgive and Apology sections sometimes the Significant Emotional Statements get more intense and more of them come to you. You can include here all the positive mentions that are on the Relationship Timeline here. Do each item til you are complete.
6. Sign the letter,
(For example)"Goodbye xxxxx,
(Your name here) ____"
NOTE: You are not saying goodbye to the person. You are saying good bye to the unfinished emotional conversations that cause the PAIN that you have inside of your head that are about the person. Forgiveness is a byproduct of this process. One finds they are no longer holding onto shoulda, coulda, woulda of the past and more in the present moment of the way things were and the way they are now.
Bring the letter, or however much you get done to next session. Suggest you wait and read it here for the fuller effect of the release.
Most people avoid doing this til the last minute. That is okay too. This is hard stuff to do and face and release, so he easy on yourself.
Okay, any questions PLEASE ask. This process comes from The Grief Recovery Handbook. Great book if you want to deepen things even more. Here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/Grief-Recovery-Handbook-Anniversary-Expanded/dp/0061686077/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1321406435&sr=8-1
Good, honest hard work!
Don Elium, MA MFT