A letter writer wants to apologize to her mother for the few times she felt she was ungrateful.

Our elder has an idea that might help…

Dear EWC

Thank you for taking the time to read and answer. My mother passed away a couple of years ago (I’m 19 years old) and despite how hard I try not to, I can’t stop thinking about the times that I was ungrateful to her. I believe the majority of the time I was a thankful person, but those few times I wasn’t are really sticking out in my mind. I wish I can go back and apologize and I can’t.

William replies

I’m glad that you are asking for advice. I’m so sorry to hear you lost your mother at a young age. It must have been devastating, and I can’t imagine how badly you felt, and still feel. Grieving the loss of a loved one is very difficult. Your situation is not unique, and many of us have things that we wish we had said to departed loved ones.

As you know, the past is gone, and we can’t change it. I have no idea what you wished you had said, done or not done, etc., and it doesn’t matter. You sound like a mature young woman, and I’m pretty sure there are no significant mistakes or ungrateful things that should be bothering you. Nonetheless, we all have things we could have said. Sadly, it’s too late for a face to face conversation. However, there are options.

One of the better things that worked for me and a few others were to write the loved one a letter. You can’t deliver it, but evidence has shown that the act of writing your thoughts down in almost any dilemma is therapeutic. If you are a religious believer or have some idea that people exist after death in ways we can’t understand, this is all the more useful. Even if you are an atheist, this method can still work wonders. Make it as long or as short as you feel necessary, and cover the things that are bothering you. Apologize if you think some things were inappropriate, and explain why you did or didn’t do them. Write it as if they were going to read it soon after you complete it. Keep it personal between your mother and yourself. No one else ever has to see it or know it exists. It’s a private conversation between you and your mother.

You can put it under your pillow and sleep on it. Do this for a single night, or for as long as it takes for you to feel better. I know of one person who kept it there for about a month. Another one visited the grave site and went over it privately, between her deceased brother and herself. It was one of my co-workers from years ago who read it at the grave. We also had a severe loss in our immediate family about 15 years ago. That was the case where a close relative kept it under a pillow at night. My reason for giving you these examples is to demonstrate that this is not something off the top of my head. I know of two cases where it provided a lot of relief in conditions similar to those that you described in your letter to us at EWC. The grieving letter writer, in both situations, had things that were unsaid and this went a long way to comfort them.

If you find writing a letter is not for you, visit the grave when no one else is around and have a quiet conversation with your mother. It’s possible, somehow or someway, she will know or hear what you are saying. It won’t hurt to give it a try. I’m sure you will tear up, and that’s normal. It’s also therapeutic. Many psychologists say crying is good for us. They say that tears contain toxins. I’m not an expert on any of this, but a doctor told me she felt that “feel-good” chemicals are released in the body whenever we shed tears of sadness. I believe that to be true, and the only “evidence” I have is anecdotal from personal experience. I’m not suggesting you make yourself sad and cry. All I’m saying is don’t hold it back if you feel the urge. It is called being human.

I hope this helped a little. I will keep you in my thoughts.

Letter #: 436496
Category: Family

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