Children are often free to say, “I love you.” As we get older sometimes those words become harder to say. Many of us find it hard to be truly open with those whom we have had close relationships. Perhaps it is difficult because the person has not lived up to our expectations or we feel we have not lived up to his or her expectations. There may be many resentments and disappointments that have built up over the years.
Stephanie Ericsson, an author on grief, states:
If I can tell anyone anything…
I would say to make sure that the people you love know it.
The rest is trivial, biodegradable.
It’s not important, the fights, the spats, the disagreements.
They are all so minuscule in the
What is important is that I loved you. And you knew it.
The unspoken words you wish you had expressed to the person that died can keep you from continuing your grief journey. Fortunately, it is never too late to say them.
If this has been a troubling aspect for you, you may want to try the following exercise. Awkwardness is not unusual when something is tried for the first time. You may do it alone or with someone who will listen. The listener can be a bereavement social worker or a friend.
Begin with imagining the person who died is seated across from you. Sometimes it is helpful to be looking at a picture of your loved one or to be at the grave site. Express aloud your appreciation to the person. Some examples of appreciation might be:
You could always make me laugh.
You were my partner but also my best friend.
You always knew how to fix everything.
Next you may want to express your resentments:
I wish you had told me that you loved me.
I wish you had been there for me.
I wish you had stopped smoking.
You may experience physical reactions during the conversation such as tears or feeling hot or cold. Allow your body to have these reactions, as they will disappear after you have finished your conversation. Continue with the dialogue until you feel you have nothing more to say. When you feel you have finished, try saying, “I’m ready to say good-bye” or “I’m ready to say good-bye for now.”
Make the unspoken words be heard. They may be a turning point in the transformation of your life.