When a spouse or romantic partner dies, it can feel like half of you has gone missing. When you’re planning to spend your life with someone, their death can really shake your core. You may find that you long to say things to them that you never got around to.
One way to keep yourself from dwelling on these thoughts is to write your deceased partner a letter. This can be a cathartic part of the healing process. It’s also a creative way to honor someone you cared for deeply. Here, we break down the steps on writing a letter to a departed partner. We’ve also included some samples of what those letters might look like.
Step 1: Take Your Time Getting Started
If you’re early in the grieving process, you probably aren’t ready to write a letter to your deceased loved one. Writing a letter like this is emotionally draining.
If you’re already wrung out from planning a funeral or you’re still in shock from a death, you won’t be in the right headspace. Wait until you’ve gotten some distance from your partner’s death.
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Step 2: Set Up a Comfortable Writing Environment
Because this kind of letter-writing is so emotionally taxing, it’s important to create a safe and soothing space. Set up a workspace where you can channel your creativity.
Keep plenty of comforting items nearby. This could include a cup of tea, scented candles, or a sensory toy. Anything that grounds you and helps relax you is a good thing to have in your space.
Step 3: Pick Your Writing Medium
When you’re writing an emotionally-fraught letter, typing it up may seem too informal. A handwritten letter on nice stationery may seem more personal.
But not everyone can put a pen to paper easily. If you have arthritis or your hand cramps easily, using a computer is completely appropriate.
Step 4: Brainstorm
If you don’t write often, a letter can seem kind of overwhelming. This is especially true when you’re writing something emotionally challenging.
You don’t have to sit down and churn out an entire letter. Start by just jotting down notes and fragments of ideas. Keeping track of the topics you want to cover can help you down the line.
Step 5: Let Yourself Take Breaks
When people sit down to write a letter, they generally write it all in one fell swoop. But writing a letter to a deceased loved one can bring up painful memories. Don’t feel like you need to tackle it all in one sitting.
You can even just write a line or two a day if that’s all you can do. Take as many breaks as you need. Writing a letter to a deceased partner can help with healing. But pushing through the pain may end up traumatizing you further.
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Step 6: Make the Letter As Long or As Short As You Want
Writing a letter to a deceased loved one is not like writing a college term paper. There’s no minimum word count you have to hit.
It’s okay if your letter is short and sweet. It’s equally okay if it’s lengthy, No one will judge you for either brevity or longwindedness.
Step 7: Don’t Agonize Over Your Word Choices
You may think that a letter to a deceased loved one should be perfect. After all, it’s a kind of tribute to a beloved partner.
But you don’t need to fret over flawlessly expressing yourself. The words you choose aren’t as important as your intent. If you understand what you’re trying to say, that’s good enough. After all, your partner loved you, imperfections and all.
Step 8: Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself
A lot of people choose to write letters to a deceased spouse as a way of resolving conflict within themselves. When you write a letter like this, you may find yourself lamenting any number of things.
Maybe you had a fight with your partner and then they died suddenly before you could reconcile. Perhaps a spouse succumbed after a long illness, and it’s a relief not seeing them in pain anymore. Whatever the issue, it’s easy to let regrets take over and sour you. But you don’t have to beat yourself up.
Step 9: Decide What Your Intent Is For Writing a Letter
When writing a letter to your late partner, it’s good to have a goal in mind. Are you expressing to your partner that you miss them? Are you feeling ready to move on to a new relationship? Are you having difficulty coping with your grief?
Honing in on the purpose of your letter makes it much easier to sit down and write.
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Step 10: Include Moments of Levity
In life, we have to take the bitter with the sweet, Even if your letter is highly emotional, you can still include moments of levity. If you want to reference an inside joke you and your spouse shared, you absolutely can.
You can even use morbid gallows humor. This letter is ultimately for your eyes only, so you’re allowed some irreverence without worrying about judgment.
Step 11: Figure Out What To Do With the Letter When You’re Done
Now that you’ve written your letter, you may wonder - what’s next? The answer to that question really depends on you. Some people recommend reading letters written to the deceased out loud. It helps bring your words to life and helps them resonate. Other people might opt to bundle handwritten letters together and keep them in a memory box.
If you type your letters, you might keep them saved in their own folder on the cloud. Some people might want to leave it or read it at a grave. However, you should probably avoid leaving letters at your partner’s grave. Many cemeteries have groundskeepers who clean up anything that’s left on a grave besides flowers.
If you want to be really creative, you can write your letter on seed paper. This eco-friendly paper is made from post-consumer material and has seeds embedded in it. Once you’ve written your letter, plant the seed paper in your garden or backyard. You can select a paper that has herb, vegetable, or wildflower seeds incorporated into it. Over time, new life will spring from the soil as a result of your words.
Step 12: Remember That a Letter Won’t End Your Grief
As we’ve stated, writing a letter to a deceased partner can help with your healing process. But when you sign your name to the end of the letter, that doesn’t end your story.
You will still have days that are hard. But you can keep on writing letters, and over time, you’ll find more joy and less pain in the memory of your partner.
Sample Letter to a Deceased Partner
It’s been six months now since you died. In some ways, it feels like only days have passed. In other ways, it seems as though I’ve spent an eternity without you. We spent the first three years of our relationship long-distance. When I wake up without you now, for a split-second I can forget that you’re gone forever. When I run my hand over the cold sheets on your bed, I can pretend that you’re still in grad school, just a phone call away.
I have to say, our friends and family members have been so supportive of me. But there are so many things I feel like I can’t say to them. You always were the only one who really got me. After spending 15 years together, our in-jokes had basically morphed into their own language. Now I feel like a code that no one has the key to.
Another thing I can’t really share with anyone is how angry I am that you’re gone. My mom keeps talking about the 5 Stages of Grief like they’re some linear thing. Like it’s a checklist, and I can just compartmentalize each emotion and check it off as soon as I’ve experienced it. One of our stupid inside-jokes was about my mother secretly being a robot. After this, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that’s actually true.
I’m honestly also still mad at you. I told you so many times that most car accidents happen close to home. I told you not to wait until the car was in motion to buckle your seatbelt. I honestly feel like you only kept leaving your seatbelt unbuckled to needle me.
But more than anything else, I just miss you. I miss your morning breath and your mismatched socks. I miss your smile and the laugh lines around your eyes. I miss your compassion and joy. I even miss the fact that you would eat all the ice cream and out the empty carton back in the freezer. Who even does that?
If there is a heaven and you’re looking down on me, I hope you’re proud of me. I’ve felt like half of me was missing since the moment I was notified that you had died. But I’m still going through my life even though I’m only half a person. I’m going to keep on living for both of us, even though it makes me indescribably sad to do so.
Say Goodbye to a Departed Partner With a Letter
One of the most important things in life is finding a partner you can share that life with. If your partner dies, it is easy to feel unmoored and disconnected.
One way to combat that is to write a letter to your deceased partner. It can be a cathartic act that helps you deal with unresolved feelings. Or it can just help you feel closer to your loved one. It’s a way of saying to them “thank you for being there”, even if they can no longer be with you.