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There’s an exercise that apparently is quite commonly assigned by grief counselors as part of individual and group therapy sessions. It involves writing a letter to your deceased spouse to say all the things you’re holding inside. You’re suppose to get all your emotions out on paper, all the “woulda’s, shoulda’s and coulda’s” and then you’re suppose to tear the letter into little pieces and throw it away. No more guilt, no more regrets. Wow, life is so simple when you follow the class curriculum, isn’t it. So here goes my widow letter:

Dear Don,

I hate to break it to you but you weren’t perfect like so many other husbands tend to be after they die. I’m not going to use this letter to build you a shrine of flowery words and tell you how I can’t possibly go on without you. I am going to tell you that if I have any regrets it’s the fact that I have to write this damn letter in the first place, that I can’t just look at you across the table and say the words none of us say when we still have the chance. Why the hell don’t the curriculums on living well assign this letter writing project when we can still share those letters with our loved ones ahead of death?

I’m also going to tell you that you sure kept life interesting. Between the two of us, we came up with all sorts of lame brain ideas. We talked half of them to death and acted on the other half. And it was fun. It was interesting. It was a life well lived. And I'll miss going down road after road with you, me and the dog singing our theme song, that old Harry Woods number that’s been around since 1925:

Oh, we ain't got a barrel of money,

Maybe we're ragged and funny

But we'll travel along

Singing a song

Side by side.

I will miss so many things about you. Your smile, your laugh, the twinkle in your baby-blue eyes when something amused you like it did the day you wore the Red Hat Society gear, and I will miss your determination (which at times could be labeled stubbornness depending on the goal you were trying to achieve and whether or not I agreed with that goal). Like I said you weren’t perfect. But I will say you were perfect for imperfect me. You understood me like no other person on earth ever did or ever will and I will miss that most of all.

Don't know what's comin' tomorrow

Maybe it's trouble and sorrow

But we'll travel the road

Sharing our load

Side by side.

Gosh, we’d been through a lot of tough times in our forty-two years. Those early years when you fought and won against the demons inside, then there was your mother’s long good-bye which took a toll, and letting go of the farm. Then it was my turn and you were there to share the grief and heartache of my mom’s passing due to a secession of human errors. That was so hard for me to make peace with! Next came the five years of me share-caring for my Dad closely followed by your stroke. We supported each other every step of the way through all the bad times in our lives, big and small. And somehow I know that you are still supporting me now, still telling me, “It’s going to be all right.”

Through all kinds of weather

What if the sky should fall?

Just as long as we're together,

It doesn't matter at all.

But I promise you this, Don. I won’t dwell on the bad times we had together when there are so many good times to out weigh the bad. When I think of the good times vacations top the list. You were always at your best when you were on the road, leaving all your cares behind as you wheeled-and-dealed your way down the back roads of America. Remember the time we were in Utah, on our way home, and you stopped at so many garage sales we only made it eleven miles from morning to night? Remember the time you went into a gas station and didn’t come back out for four hours? And people wondered why I had a mini library in the motor home. Remember all the times at midnight you’d want to go to Lake Michigan to sleep on the beach? I’m taking some of your ashes back to the beach this summer.

Oh, and remember how you always reminded me to put my wedding band on when we’d leave the house? Well, I haven’t taken it off since your service. I still hate wearing jewelry but the annoyance of wearing that band now is a reminder of how much our marriage meant to you. It’s funny how something could be both annoying and comforting at the same time. You could be both annoying and comforting at the same time, too, and that irony has not gone unnoticed. I told you when I began this letter I wasn’t going to enshrine you with flowery words. When it came to annoying things you did, telling long-winded stories I’d heard a thousand times sometime fell in that department. And how I wish I could hear one of them one last time.

When they've all had their quarrels and parted

We'll be the same as we started

Just a-traveling along

Singing a song

Side by side.

I’m so glad we got to say our ‘I loves you’ in your last days at the hospital. I will never, ever forget you, Don. That seems like a hollow promise considering how old I am and how little time I have left to remember. And that’s assuming I won’t get Alzheimer’s. Sorry, I just had to end this letter with a joke.

Love, Jean

P.S. This letter writing to your deceased spouse really is a good exercise!

My other blog is here.

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Comment by MYLOU on February 18, 2012 at 1:20am

Jean, such a beautiful letter your wrote to your Don :)

He heard every word and was smiling at you :)

Thank you so much for sharing !!!

Comment by smit09 on February 17, 2012 at 8:12pm

loved the phrase "but you were perfect for imperfect me"

like this idea.

loved your letter. and I am betting he did too.

Comment by Blue Snow on February 17, 2012 at 7:51pm

Thank you all for the wonderful comments! They mean a lot.

Comment by Wincy'sMom on February 17, 2012 at 4:40pm

I'm going to try this, I'm willing to try anything that gets me a little further done this grief highway, it's much bigger than a road.  My husband died on January 18th as well, last year though. I thought what you wrote was really beautiful, I imagined you sitting across the table from him, reading it. Thank you.

Comment by kimkirt (KK) on February 17, 2012 at 4:24am

Jean, I loved your letter. And I truly loved that you did not put him up on a pedestal. It makes me love my husband all the more, knowing he wasn't perfect but I loved him despite of that. I'm glad the letter helped you! Hugs.

Comment by Marsha on February 16, 2012 at 7:36pm

Jean what a wonderful letter. Thank you for sharing with us.

Comment by Joyce on February 16, 2012 at 4:31pm

Jean, wheat a great letter, maybe I will try to write one too.  Thanks for sharing

Comment by Booworks on February 16, 2012 at 3:21pm
What a beautiful letter
Comment by bad ass widow on February 16, 2012 at 3:12pm

I really like this.  I have not been brave enough to do this yet.  Good for you

Comment by Blue Snow on February 16, 2012 at 2:21pm

Donna, I really do think it helped to write that letter. It took me all morning and I did cry and sob while writing it which is something I haven't done a lot of since Don's passing January 18th. Many were happy tears as I sorted through my memories, trying to figure out what to write. But I think the biggest way it helped me was to it took away the power of all those “woulda’s, shoulda’s, coulda’s” that all of us probably go through to one degree or another regarding our last days with our loved one. I mean what’s one surly mood the week before my husband died or one unsaid “I’m sorry” compared to our entire shared history, a history that included a lot of saying and hearing the right words at the right time? We have to let all the “woulda’s, shoulda’s, coulda’s” go to help ourselves start down the path to healing. We have to forgive ourselves for being human. Writing the letter was cathartic for me.

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