When my son was a toddler & we had a family membership to the zoo, we would often cross the river to visit. One time I had a meeting scheduled and we had to leave early. For a year and a half Aaron would say, “Mom, remember the time we missed the gorillas?” every time we drove by. It did not matter how many other times he had seen the gorillas since that day.
Unfinished business lingers for all of us. Someone dies and we didn’t get a chance to say enough …We fall in love with someone new but really can’t build a new relationship because we’re not finished saying goodbye to the old one…someone can’t tell their family they’re gay…Someone can’t be angry with a sibling about how a parent’s estate was handled etc.
Unfinished business can leave a hole in a relationship with someone else. It’s like looking at a building that is clearly unfinished, without any scaffolding or construction workers who plan to continue. It’s an eye sore, cluttering up the horizon.
One technique I use with people is writing letters. It’s amazing how many people resist spending the time to actually follow through. I suspect they don’t imagine it could be helpful.
After the letter is written and they bring it in, I ask that they read it out loud to take ownership of what’s been written. I witness their words, listen to their voice and look for what’s missing.
Unfinished business leaves a hole in your heart so there’s always something missing. Sometimes anger is what’s missing. Anger matters because anger is a way of asking that you matter too.
Often the writer finishes the letter and it is so obvious they haven’t asked for what they want. They want an apology, they want greater understanding for their own neglected point of view, they want their truth known whether or not it makes a difference or they want to be seen more accurately.
Every letter is not written to be sent. Some letters are revised and then sent. The sender cannot expect, hope or want any response from the other person. You can only send a letter if you are 100% okay with not receiving any response.
Often it is most useful to write the letter for yourself. What matters is that you learn with greater clarity what it is that will help you feel “finished” so you can move on more whole-heartedly.