Dear Abby: My husband died recently in a fire he started in a drunken rampage. In the aftermath I am left with feelings of extreme sadness and rage.
Last night I was going through a box of his belongings and found some old letters he had written to a woman he'd left me for 20 years ago. (We patched things up and then were married later.) I didn't want to read them, but in the first letter I caught the sentence, "You are the only woman I've ever met who truly changed me." I immediately tore it to shreds. There were others, but I tossed everything in the box into the trash. I couldn't put myself through the pain.
For months, I have tried to dwell only on the happy times we had together and the love that, in spite of his alcoholism, we had for each other. Perhaps I could have dealt with these letters while my husband was still alive, but now I can only stew in my own anger.
I don't want to do this to myself. I have been in therapy and at Al-Anon, but I feel as though I need other tools at this point to get me through this awfulness.
- Widow in St. Louis
Dear Widow: Please accept my condolences for the loss of your husband. I'm sure you have many reasons to be angry, and those letters are among the least of them.
Try to think rationally about what the letter said. That they were in his possession probably means they were never mailed, and it's likely they were written while he was drunk. As to the woman having "changed" him, from the way he died it doesn't appear he changed a lot.
You have your life ahead of you. If you choose to waste your precious time looking back over your shoulder and cursing a dead man, of course that's your choice. But if you want to break this cycle of destructive thinking, the quickest way to do it would be to contact your therapist for a "reality check."