Those who know that their life may be coming to an end tend to want to get their affairs in order and make amends with anyone they have a fragile relationship and unresolved issues with.
But what about the relationships where you lost someone suddenly and hadn’t had a chance to resolve the conflict before they died?
There was this couple, both in their early 50s, married for over 25 years. They had many struggles in life but somehow worked together to overcome them.
Then one day, out of the blue, the wife (let’s call her Anne) got upset by what her husband did. It was only something small and didn’t really matter all that much, but it upset her and she gave him the silent treatment. The husband (we’ll call him Michael), who was used to this silent treatment over the years, didn’t bother to try to shake her out of it. He knew it was something she did to help herself deal with life. But Anne thought she was teaching him a lesson!
A few days went by, but she was still upset at him. Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. Still no word from her. Michael tried to get her to see sense and come out of her silent treatment, but Anne stood firm. At this point she didn’t even know what she was angry about, but thought there must have been a reason so she stayed adamant.
Then one dark winter evening, while Michael was walking home from the station after work, he got knocked over by a car and died at the scene of the accident. His wife, upon finding out about what happened, was flooded with feelings of anger, resentment and guilt.
She was angry at the driver for the accident and at her husband for leaving her alone. She had resentment towards her husband for not giving her a chance to make amends (even though he tried many times). She was riddled with guilt for not breaking the silence sooner and resolving the issue, the tiny insignificant issue, that she had been holding onto so tightly.
Anne was carrying these feelings for many months after her husband passed away. So what did she do to finally resolve whatever was unresolved?
Resolving the unresolved
After several months of turmoil brought about by these feelings, Anne sat down one quiet evening with a hot drink, a pen and a notebook.
She started to make a list of all that she was feeling and trace those feelings back to the initial cause. Then, when she thought she may have found the root cause, she went back a little further and found the real reason. Anne realised that what caused the original frustration wasn’t really all that bad and that she ought not have held onto the silent treatment for so long.
She thought about the driver of the car and realised that no matter how much at fault he may have been, any anger she harbours will only cause herself more suffering.
Anne also thought hard about the resentment she felt towards Michael not giving her a chance to make amends, and that it really wasn’t in his hands to resolve the issue.
She thought about her own guilt and realised that any guilt she felt was just causing her more pain, more suffering.
As the months moved on and the years passed, Anne learnt to let go of the anger, the resentment and the guilt. Along with that, she freed herself from the pain and the sorrow and now lives a calmer life – a life with clarity and purpose.
How to resolve the unresolved
If you are still harboring unresolved issues and feelings following the loss of a loved one, what can you do to resolve them?
1. Get clear on what caused the hurt: Take some time out for yourself and think deeply on the root cause of the feelings that are causing you so much turmoil? Are they truly justified? Can you afford to keep feeling them? What value do those feelings bring to your life, and what might you want to replace them with to increase your level of peace and happiness?
2. Write them a note: Granted, the one you loved may no longer be around, but it may help to write a note addressed to them. You don’t need to post it or show it to anyone, but write out your deepest feelings, the causes, how you feel now and how you want to feel. Write whether you love them. Write whether you forgive them. Write whether you understand. Write what you have learnt about yourself. Write to love more. Write so that you may grow.
3. Be kind to yourself: Most important, care for yourself, so that you may free yourself from suffering. Be kind to yourself so that you can release the shackles that have kept you bound in turmoil. Be kind to yourself so that the ill feelings simply lift away and let you lead a peacefully calm and purposeful life.