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How to Write a Goodbye Letter to Someone You Really Love

by Ellen Swanson Topness

If you are considering writing a goodbye letter to someone you love, you are taking a courageous step in dealing with your grief. You may not identify what you are feeling as grief unless you have lost this person to death. However, you are losing someone you love, be it a significant other, friend or family member, and whether the reason is death, domestic violence, addictions, betrayal, moving away or just breaking up, grieving is a natural response to any loss. HelpGuide.org suggests one way to positively impact your grief is to express your feelings in a creative way, including writing a letter and saying the things you never got to say.

Writing a Goodbye Letter

Your goodbye letter to a loved one does not need to be formal.

Start your letter by addressing the recipient the way you have always addressed him or her. This letter, even if you are angry, will be more meaningful and significant if you use familiar language.

Explain why you are writing the letter; what your plan is. Basically, this step is the announcement step. An example might be, "I am leaving you" or "I am letting go of wishing you would come back." You can also discuss the difficulty in making the decision based on your love for that person. And yet, you still need to reaffirm that you are indeed saying goodbye.

Even painful partings cannot erase special memories.

Include your gratitude and your memories in this next section. If this is a letter to someone who has died, this is your chance to say all the things you wished you could have said. It is a chance for healing. It is your chance to say thank you for their love and kindness. It is a chance to spend time recording special memories on paper and in so doing, reliving them and doing the hard work of grieving. If this is a letter to someone for whom you have love but also much anger and pain this part will be harder. However, there is a reason you loved them. If you can recall some reasons for gratitude and some special memories, it will make the letter more powerful than if only negative information is included.

Accusations and blame will not be effective in enabling your recipient to hear what you are saying.

Detail more specifically why you are saying goodbye. You have already announced in the opening but this is the time for final thoughts. This is the place to write of your need to let go and move on, to protect yourself or to save your family, for example. This is the place to write of the negative effect your relationship with him or her has had on you if this is the reason for the goodbye. Avoid accusations and blame – but do not avoid truth. Give some specific examples but focus on the effects rather than the behavior in order to avoid the recipient becoming defensive and not listening.

Once in a while, it is appropriate to add final thoughts. In most cases simply signing your name is enough. If it is a no-send letter to someone who has passed away, this might be your chance to express your love for them and that you miss them. For most recipients, a repeat of how important they have been to you is a positive note to end with. However, if it is a toxic relationship you are strongly encouraged to avoid any possible suggestions that may give the recipient hope, such as "maybe in the future we can be friends" or "maybe in time we can be together." Yet, if the goodbye letter is for someone you love who is moving, this is the opportunity to reiterate you value their friendship, want it to continue and that they will be missed.

Items you will need
  • Stationery
  • Envelope
  • Pen
  • Computer (if you choose to not hand-write)
  • Printer
  • Stamp, if mailing

About the Author

Ellen Topness has been a counselor in the mental health field for more than 25 years. She has a Master of Arts in counseling. Throughout her career, Topness has enjoyed writing articles, poems and vignettes for pleasure. She also released a new ebook, "A Natural Disaster: Learning to Survive Myself."

Photo Credits

  • Steve Mason/Photodisc/Getty Images