The other day my sister Beverly read part of a paper to me over the phone that a relative of the author had given to her. We both cried. Since it is the anniversary of John's death, I wanted to share it today.
With gratitude to the author, here is an excerpt from "Understanding Grief: Integrating Some of its Lessons into My Life" by Catherine Lunt (her son Doug passed away in 2004):
In the face of death, closure is often an outward recognition of intense, inner loss. Finding closure after the death of a loved one does not mean forgetting about the relationship, or denying your feelings for the deceased. Closure means feeling as though you had a chance to say good-bye, even if this was not actually possible." (1, p. 79)
"Dr. Ira Byock, a pioneer in the American hospice movement, has talked extensively about "the five things" (1997) -- the topics that typically need to be covered in order to facilitate closure." (1, p. 80) "Taking time to say the five things, out loud, in your mind, or on paper, allows you to develop a sense of closure in your shared relationship -- a closure that comes from expressing your feelings, both good and bad, toward your loved one. Even if you feel that your loved one cannot hear you, it is important to be able to articulate and express for yourself these five things." (1, p. 82)
1. I'm sorry. Everyone in a close relationship has some regrets. None of us is perfect, especially the way we treat each other. Apologies are often spoken long before remorse is felt; out of a sense of duty, we may say "I'm sorry" long before we feel it. All apologies, whether big or small, hasty or well planned, pave the way for forgiveness. If you were not able to apologize for something you regret, you may find some comfort in symbolically and intentionally asking for forgiveness now.
2. I forgive you. This can be forgiveness about anything and everything. Forgiveness can be thought of as radical acceptance toward someone else. Forgiveness is not to be confused with forgetting. However, when you forgive, through the power of compassion, you release the hold that this issue has had on your life. Rather than feeling unresolved outrage or a sense of justice unserved, you take upon yourself the responsibility for living life on your terms.
3. I love you. Love is why you are grieving. Love transcends all sorrow, but sorrow can be fueled by love. Asking forgiveness and forgiving wrongs opens your heart to the full power of love. Acknowledging this love is an affirmation of the relationship, your grief, and your capacity to share yourself with another human being.
4. Thank you. What did you learn from this relationship? What was special about your time together? How did your life change as a result of your loved one's presence, or even loss? Perhaps you learned to love deeper than you had thought possible, or perhaps you learned how to change the oil in your car. This is what you can thank your loved one for.
5. Good-bye. There is hardly ever a right time to say good-bye. If you have already lost your loved one, saying good-bye after their loss is a recognition of his or her absence, your grief, and your having cherished his or her presence. Saying good-bye to someone who is already gone does not dismiss that person from your life, or mean that your grief is over. Remember grief does not end, even though it may stop hurting. Grief only changes.