To generalize, even though death is an inevitable part of everyone’s life, people are terrified of looking directly at the reality of death. It is a subject we want to avoid. This attitude that we have towards death is detrimental to us in many ways. One of those ways that it is detrimental is that it prevents us from seeing life clearly. What anyone who has had a near death experience or who has lost a loved one will tell you is that death changes your perspective towards life and towards all the different elements of your life; most especially the people in it.
To view life and to view relationships from the context of death is both profound and meaningful. It has the capacity to change the way we relate to life and the way we have relationships. The sad thing is that we often wait for an actual death to confront us in some way for this way of looking at things to be forced upon us. We wait until either someone is on their death bed to communicate from this perspective or we end up too late and someone in our life has already died and because of it, we were unable to communicate to them from this perspective.
Today, I am going to present to you one of the most powerful relationship exercises you can do. Here it is: You are going to pick someone in your life. You can literally pick anyone such as your friend, a co-worker, a cousin, an aunt or uncle, a grandparent, someone who really impacted you either positively or negatively in your childhood, one of your siblings, your partner or one of your parents etc. I will tell you that this practice can create particularly profound shifts when you do it with one of your parents.
From there, put yourself in the perspective of either you being about to die or them being about to die. Pick whichever option puts you in a more lovingly, open objective perspective. Either way, know that just like when someone is on their actual deathbed, this is the last time you are ever going to see them in this lifetime. It is your very last opportunity to communicate to them. And from this place, you are going to write them a letter or speak a message to them… As if these are your last words to them. Let this letter flow intuitively from the core of yourself. But in order to help you with this practice, here are some things you might consider:
- Who are you writing to? What is their personality? No two people will need or appreciate the same message. Personalize your letter according to who they are and their specific personality and needs. This will allow your unique relationship with them to shine through the letter.
- How do you want them to feel? What is that lasting imprint you wish for them to carry with them regarding you and your relationship to them? Let this set the emotional tone for the overall letter.
- What is your intention for writing this letter in the first place? Let this intention serve as the guide for how you write or speak it.
- What tension between you needs to be resolved and what might you say on your end to resolve it?
- What painful thing between you needs to be acknowledged? And what might you say on your side to reduce that pain between you?
- What conflict needs to be put to rest or what closure needs to be created and what might you say to put it to rest or create that closure without denying any of your own needs?
- What might you need to acknowledge regarding their pain relative to you or apologize for?
- What might you need to explain so they understand it, without justifying yourself?
- Do you have any cherished memories or moments you want to remind them of?
- What do you love, admire and approve of about them authentically and honesty?
- How would you want them to feel about themselves, you, your relationship and their life at the end of their life or yours? And what might you say to evoke that feeling within them?
- What might you want to thank them for?
- Might you want to communicate the objective story you are going to tell other people about your relationship with them in retrospect in order to give them a taste of your perspective about your connection over the course of time together?
- What have they taught you or what did you learn from them?
- What is it that they deeply need or want to hear from you? How might you give them what they want to hear from you in a way that is authentic and that does not hurt any aspect of you to express?
- Can you see their vulnerability? How might you speak directly to and answer to that vulnerability in a safe and caring way?
- Is there any question you want to ask them that would bring you closer to truly and compassionately understanding them?
- Is there anything you need to reassure them about regarding themselves, you or your relationship?
- What is left unsaid that must be said?
- What could you authentically say that might bring them peace and solace? Is there any way you could let them off the hook for something in a way that does not hurt you in any way?
Make sure that nothing is left unsaid. And once you have written this letter, take that leap to be vulnerable by giving or sending it to them.
If you find that you are in a super angry or disapproving or negative mental and emotional place when you sit down to write this initial letter, and feel the need to confront them on their wrongdoings or make them see how much they hurt you, know that you can write several versions of this letter. There may be more than one layer to work through in order to reach the full truth of your sentiments about and to them. That being said, when someone is on their deathbed, at their most vulnerable, it tends to strip away these top layers and what someone is left with is what is deeper and what is more objective. It leaves you in a place of love. Love is not an up-beat, all positive state of affirmation. It is a deep, truthful, expansive state of closeness. This means, if you really genuinely put yourself in this perspective of having only this last chance to communicate to someone before you never see them again, this deeper more objective perspective about them and you and your relationship will surface.
I’m going to challenge you to not lie in this letter. One thing I notice when people are on their death bed is that people get emotional and want the other person to feel good and so, they lie just to make the other person feel good. They totally bulldoze parts of themselves when they do this. For example, a person may have been disowned or physically abused by their dad and say “You were a really good dad at the end of the day”. When that isn’t true. At the end of the day, they were not a good dad. However, that doesn’t mean that he was all bad. For example, this same person might say “I loved so much when you used to take us in the back of your Cadillac to the corner store to get candy.” And that is totally true and also not damaging to any part of themself to say.
The purpose of this letter is the same as it would be for you communicating a last message to someone right before they die. In general, what you are looking to do is to reduce tension, conflict and pain rather than to create it. It will surprise you how freeing this letter will be not only for them, but for you. And the profound impact and importance of communicating at this level when someone is still IN your life and alive, cannot ever be overstated.