“If only I’d known that was the last time I would see them, there’s so much I would have said.” “There was so much left unsaid – I thought we had more time.”
“I hope they know how much they meant to me.”
“If only I’d told them how much I loved them.” “If only I could see them one more time, there is so much I would say.”
Living with regrets, with things unsaid can feel like torture. To have “unfinished business” or “unresolved issues” with someone when they’re gone is not something you can undo. We all are so wrapped up in “to do’s,” the next thing on our list, getting to the next event, the next meeting, getting off the phone or out the door, that sometimes we rush along mindlessly without stopping to acknowledge those closest to us. It’s so easy to take them for granted – certain that we’ll have more time, or the right time, to express how we feel or to apologize for our failings or misunderstandings.
It’s easy to get caught up in the year-end frenzy, but it’s also the perfect time to stop and really tune in to the people in our lives. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and decided to stop thinking and do something about it…
I remember back a few years ago, when as a gift for Christmas, my husband, our two sons and I wrote letters to each other. Heartfelt and genuine – notes of thanks, appreciation, fond memories and funny stories.
We exchanged them on Christmas morning – best gifts ever!
We found ways to keep connected as a family. (Photo credit: Tracy Hargen)
Drawing on that, I’ve been writing letters to the people closest to me and telling them all the things I want them to know, so that when I’m gone, they’ll have something to look back on. Starting at the beginning of our relationship and including funny memories, telling them what I’ve learned from them and what I admire about them – and how much I love them.
Writing these letters has been a wonderful trip down memory lane – birth stories, how we met stories, “remember the time” stories, etc. It’s also made me get really clear and expressive about how I feel about them – not leaving anything unsaid. Reading these letters with them has been brought up all kinds of emotions – really good ones, deep ones – nothing left unsaid. Because I’ve found, when you really open up to someone and let yourself be vulnerable, people feel safe to do the same.
We all crave connection with the ones we love, and sometimes it’s hard for this to come naturally – especially when you no longer live under the same roof. Finding interesting ways to open up and share how you feel and being open to hearing how your family feels, is deeply gratifying and sometimes life changing.
Maybe this year, in addition to gifts and well wishes, we stop and tell people how we really feel about them, write it down and give them something they can hold onto and read and reread.
How comforting to know that nothing was left unsaid – no regrets or “if only”s, just real, heartfelt feelings that will live on long after we do!
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