Not that kind of “Dear John” letter


Last weekend was three months since John died. Three months?! That is simultaneously an eternity and a breath.

It occurred to me that we passed the longest point me or the boys had gone without seeing their dad. We passed it a long time ago but I didn’t realize it. The longest was probably two weeks.

I switched counselors to a wonderful, wonderful Christian woman who’s husband died at about the same point in their marriage that John did. So she can relate from several places, which I like. She doesn’t look at me funny and isn’t condemning, which I really like. She is encouraging and weaves in the spiritual message that God was and is in control, He has me (and the boys) in His hands, and He knows what He’s doing, even when we have no clue. She also hugs me when I arrive and when I leave and that’s very reassuring.

She recommended last week that I write a goodbye letter since I never had a chance to say goodbye, either before he died or at the funeral.

In my letter I was to say all the things I wish he knew about how I felt before and since, all the things I’m mad about or sad about or that I miss or that I wish he knew. And then draw it to close, so I can have some closure.

I went on for 5 pages (typed, single spaced). 2,785 words. I used the word “mad” 20 times.

I didn’t say goodbye though. I don’t say “goodbye” because it seems so final to me and when I leave someone’s company it’s not “final.” I say “see you later” or “talk to you later.” So I told John “see you later,” because I will see him later in memories and in pictures I will share with the boys throughout their life. I will talk to him in my head — at times now angry words because I’m mad he left — but at times also “wish you were here for this.” I suspect there will be a lot of those moments as the boys grow up. I will also see him someday in heaven, so my “goodbye” was I won’t see you again on this Earth but I will see you other places and in other times.

The point of the letter was a step toward closure, which I will never have completely. I need closure on the events and hurts that led up to this — I’ll eventually need to forgive John (I told him that in the letter) — but I will never “close the door” on John. I want and need to keep his memory alive for his sons. They will need to hear stories and mentions of their father, need to see pictures. What memories they do have will need to try to be safe-guarded. They’re so young; I don’t want them to forget even though I know a lot of things they will.

I’ve been saying for a while now that I need to pick a night after the boys are in bed and listen to all the songs I’ve been avoiding lately and have it out with him, let it all out. Writing the letter kinda was that. When I wrote most of it, I felt cold and numb, with a few exceptions. I went back and read it a few days later though and had a much greater emotional reaction. I think I cried more on the re-read because my own words were speaking to me and revealing to me how I feel. I was getting a glimpse of what’s really going on with me, and I need to know that. Getting it out the first time was just that — “getting it out.” Reading it later was exposing and understanding my own feelings.

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