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The Healing Art of Cathartic Letter Writing (Because the Internet is NOT a Journal)


Through writing letters — and burning them — we can release the pain of old wounds and stale dreams

There is so much weight and heaviness we carry with us on a daily basis — the weight of past relationships, betrayals, and pain inflicted by others. The process of letting it all go, moving forward, and healing old wounds isn’t an easy one, but it is available to us all. I can speak from experience when I say that the weight for leaving a 10-year marriage that I had worked so to make appear perfect (at least on the outside) is a burden I carried for a long time. Over time, lots of time really, the pain subsided, and the weight began to lift.

If there were a three-step process to guide us through forgiving and letting go, I’d have jumped all over that. There isn’t.

Instead, what I can provide you with are some guideposts and words of light to help dispel some of the darkness you may be carrying and make room for more light.

Over the past year, as a clinician, I’ve talked and written a lot about my experiences and the personal journey I have walked. About the dreams, illusions, and fantasies that needed to be released. About how much chaos is created in our lives when we begin to dismantle our illusions, which unfortunately is necessary. But more importantly, how holding onto them keeps us from truly showing up in the world, from being present, and living fully.

Some dreams are good, even great. They keep us hopeful, aspiring, vision-oriented. Others become stale and heavy. They keep us stuck – stuck in the past, stuck in bad relationships, stuck in situations that cause us to be disrespected or inhibit us from fully stepping into our worth.As a result, sometimes a wake needs to be held. A vigil where we mourn the dreams and fantasies that are no more. Where we can write letters to help us release past relationships, ideals, and beliefs that no longer serve us.

So I ask you, what letter do you need to write?

You won’t actually send it, but what needs to come out? Who do you need to write it to? Is there a second letter that needs to be written? Do you need to write one to yourself? Is there a story that hasn’t been told? A feeling that has yet to be expressed or words that have yet to be heard? Perhaps there is forgiveness that needs to be given.

I anticipate that if you need to write a letter to yourself, there will be a fair amount of forgiveness that needs to go in there. I know this was the case with myself and this is what I did:

1. Grab a pen and paper.

Or maybe tear a piece of paper out of your journal. I generally hate tearing pages out of a journal, but in this case the jagged slip remaining against the binding reminds me of what I’ve chosen to release. It acts as a visual reminder on those days where we struggle, because we all struggle.

2. Write it out.

Don’t filter yourself or judge yourself for whatever it is you’re feeling. Your feelings are your own and you’re entitled to them.Maybe it’s not a letter you need to write out but a dream or illusion that needs to die. A fantasy of what life should have looked like, a vision of what that relationship should have been.

3. Write it down and burn it (or rip it to shreds).

Find a fire-safe container, please; an empty kitchen sink or ashtray usually works well for this, just turn on your fan or crack a window. If you’ve got a fireplace, throw it in. If you’re feeling any resistance here, know that this is normal. Our past, no matter how heavy and painful, can feel comfortable. The unknown of what comes next, once we no longer have our stories to cling to, can be frightening. But if you were compelled to write it down, then deep down you’re ready to release it.

4. Watch it burn and release it as it goes up in flames.

As it turns to ash, let it go and make room for new possibilities.Maybe you want to make a ritual out of it by lighting a candle and playing some meditation music. Maybe you want to crank up some rock music and pour a glass of wine. Whatever your jam, go with it.

5. If tears come, let them flow.

Some dreams are heavy and need to be mourned. Others are a bittersweet release. If you want to dance around in your underwear while sending it off into the ether, go for it.If you’ve got more than one to burn, go for it. Make it an annual ritual. Or maybe you need to repeat this again next month, or tomorrow. If it will help you let it go, go for it. Whatever you need to help you let go (responsibly, of course), just do it.

6. Chose a word, a phrase, or a mantra of what you want to draw into your life. What do you want to bring into the void? Let it all in:
  • Light

  • Love

  • Peace

  • Compassion

  • Resonance

  • Divine

  • Joy

7. Sit with it.

Sit in meditation, lie in savasana, take a hot bath, or go for a walk in nature. Or maybe it’s just a chocolate brownie and a Disney movie under cozy blanket. Whatever it is, take the time you need to mourn what is no more, and take in what’s coming next, because it’s going to be great, and beyond anything you can imagine.

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