Now, from the title, you may be thinking traditional handwritten letters or ones that are actually sent to your desired recipient/s. These are all fine approaches that you may very well want to consider in your healing process and therapeutic journey. Or, like me, you may want to get on your computer and pour your soul into your keyboard as you attempt to sort through your many different emotions. You may have no intention of ever sending these letters. That’s ok too. Either approach will work just fine.
The title for this piece came to me as I was driving in my car on Independence day thinking about my recent letter writing practice and its therapeutic effects on me. I thought about sharing this useful tool with others and suddenly had an inspired idea to call it ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’. Almost immediately, my mind went straight to Stevie Wonder’s song with the same title, and I began dancing while singing the lyrics to his song. It was catchy, for sure, and perfect for my title. But, I digress. Onto my letter writing experience.
I began writing letters recently as a means to cope with overwhelming emotions I had been experiencing with regards to certain individuals in my life. I was sorting through many different feelings: frustration, disappointment, anger, confusion. I felt at times as though I was grieving things that no longer were or never came to be. I found myself in a very depressed state but did not want to externalize these emotions by expressing them to these said individuals. I also didn’t want to disclose these feelings to anyone else. So, I decided I would get on my computer and act ‘as if’ I was speaking to these individuals. I began writing to them as if they were in front of me and I was talking to them. I gave voice to all my grievances, frustrations, and disappointments. I reflected and spoke candidly about my relationship with them. I acknowledged my feelings, processed them, and gradually worked through them. It felt so cathartic. I imagined this process as something similar to being in a therapist’s office and engaging in a kind of ‘role play’ where the client is encouraged to be present in the moment and to act out what an imagined discussion with a certain individual might look and sound like.
Writing these letters gave me that safe space to express these emotions in a time and place I felt comfortable in. It gave me the opportunity to take these raw feelings and creatively sculpt them into a work of art. Writing afforded me the chance to process these thoughts and feelings more mindfully, to assess where they originated and how they would be received. As the words flowed out of my mind and onto my computer screen, I became more keenly aware of the power words carry- the power to heal and the power to wound. In our day to day life, we may speak to people in very heightened emotional states without being mindful of how we come across or how our words are being received. Taking the time to write out my letters gave me an outlet to vent in a safer way, and I felt more at peace afterwards. It also gave me a sense of closure- not from someone else- but from within myself. I found equanimity within myself without ever having to look outwardly for it. I may send these letters at some point or I may just save them for myself. What matters most is not the outcome but the process, and in this process, I have found a great deal of healing.
What works for everyone in their therapeutic journey and in their healing is different; this may work for you or it might not. I was never a writer and often had a difficult time when it came to piecing my thoughts together in writing. But I gave it a try, and I took the pressure off of myself for needing to have it sound or read a certain way. This made all the difference for me. So, now or in the future, try writing letters to individuals in your life (past, present, or future) with things that are weighing heavy (or lightly) on your heart. Practice this mindful exercise as a way to sort through, make sense of, and reflect on your emotions. Whether you choose to write in traditional pen and paper, on the computer, send the letters, or keep them, this practice has the power to heal and help you along your therapeutic journey.