family Aug 08, 2020
Writing a letter to deceased spouse

As published in

The Covid pandemic and required quarantine have been tough on all of us, there is no question. But I dare say they has been particularly hard on those of us who have been widowed – whether recently or not – and are spending their days alone.

The distractions that we all had before the quarantine – friends, extended family, grandchildren, volunteer work, or social interactions at work were all instantly taken away. We were left to entertain ourselves and be in our own heads.

For those living alone, this can be most difficult. And for those who have been recently widowed, there is no escape from the grief. It’s harder right now to get out and socialize with friends. And we don’t have as many “work” distractions if we are working from home.

It has been many years since I became a widow. However, I can say with certainty that you never stop missing a loved spouse. Not ever. Having been a very young widow, I decided this year to write a letter to my deceased husband. I was filled with gratitude after I finished it.

I’ve had many others reach out to tell me that they loved the idea and have decided to do the same.

Why Write a Letter?

But why go through all those memories, and the grief that is likely to accompany them? There are many positive sides to writing a letter to a deceased spouse, and below I share them with you.

Like Most Journaling, It Is Very Cathartic

Writing down your thoughts and feelings clears the mind. It grounds us. It’s not always easy, but that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be. Feel the feelings and write down your thoughts. Cry. And smile at the memories.

Don’t try to push those feelings away. They are real.

It Will Make You Feel Connected to Him

As you fill him in on how you’re feeling and what’s been going on, you will feel a sense of connection to your deceased spouse. This is a bittersweet feeling, for sure. But the two of you have experiences and memories that are yours and yours alone.

It Can Make You Feel Empowered

Becoming a widow is one of the hardest things many of us will ever experience in our lifetime, secondary only to losing a child. We are left alone to pick up the pieces, plan a funeral, and take care of our finances.

This can feel very scary, but as you write your letter and reflect on all that you have been able to do, you may feel empowered.

I’ve always suffered from anxiety, but sitting back and reflecting on the fact that as a 24-year-old I made funeral arrangements and took over the solo raising of two small boys made me proud! If I could do all of that, I could do anything!

How to Start? What to Include?

There are no rules. You can sit down in a quiet place and write down whatever comes to mind. Following are some ideas to get you started if you’re suffering from writer’s block.

Reflect on Shared Memories

Talk to him as you would if he were sitting next to you sharing a glass of wine. “Remember the time when……?” Write about memories that only the two of you shared. This will help you feel connected to your beloved husband.

Fill Him in on What You and the Family Have Been Up to

Kids married? New grandbabies? New jobs? Fill him in. Let him know how proud he would be of everyone!

And if you’re remarried, talk to him about that. Let him know that you’re happy. It doesn’t take away from your marriage to him. He loved you and would want you to be happy. 

Let Him Know How You're Doing Emotionally

Be honest! This helps you feel the feelings. If his death is very recent, this can be an uncomfortable exercise, but it’s therapeutic and healthy. When I wrote my letter, 34 years had passed, and I still cried.

Reflect on those days, weeks, and months right after he died. Share those feelings and experiences with him – the sad as well as the happy. Because even though it’s mostly sad, there is often laughter and thoughtful gestures that occur in those early days.

Tell him about times when you “felt” him there. Let him know that you knew he was present.

Tell Him “Thank You”

This is an exercise in gratitude. Thank your husband for being a part of getting you where you are today. For your kids and grandchildren. For taking care of you. For the things you learned from him and from your relationship.

Taking the time to sit, reflect, and write down our feelings can be cleansing and healthy. Writing a letter to our deceased spouse is a way of journaling that can leave you feeling certainly sad but also very grateful. It is a bittersweet experience.