Step 9: Letters of Healing & Forgiveness


I’ve been down this road before, through the sometimes grueling task of doing my 12-step work in the safety of a Step Study small group setting.    It’s a long process of committed weekly meetings for nine months or more.  I am presently in a group that is nearing the end of our journey through the Steps together.

As a Celebrate Recovery leader, I’m not above doing my own work.  It seems each time I go through the process, God reveals to me the next layer of healing.  As the 3rd anniversary of my father’s passing came and went, I used the opportunity to do a little more work on some wounds from the past through the use of a letter.

My letter was based on Step 9: “We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

Working through Step 9 is geared toward forgiveness and requires that we release the offender.  However, doing so face-to-face is not always possible.  Writing a letter to someone that you will never mail has a very cleansing affect. There is no required structure as long as the letter describes how you were hurt and that you offer forgiveness.  The letter is then shared with your sponsor or an accountability partner.

Here’s a sample of how this type of healing exercise can provide freedom from the past:

Dear Dad,

Over the last few years of your life, we started to develop a relationship.  I wouldn’t call us close, but you were softening a bit, and my inner child was not looking for you to fill her daddy needs any longer.

Three years after your passing though, I sense her surfacing in unexpected ways that have opened up some much deeper wounds from the past.  She is the one grieving today and I’m having a hard time consoling her.

These wounds were formed (and heaped upon other wounds) shortly after you and mom divorced in what until recently, was a forgotten memory.  I was in my tween years and trying to fit in at a new school 2000 miles away from the home I loved back in the Pacific Northwest.

One way I did that was to excel in school.  I worked hard to make good grades and try to fit in with the other smart kids in school.  But they wouldn’t befriend me.  Instead I ended up making friends with students whose lifestyles weren’t a good influence on my developing mind and body.  It led to some regrettable choices as I progressed through school.  Regardless, I still kept my grades a priority and was always on the honor roll throughout school.

Thinking that I (and we kids) were the reason that you divorced mom, I tried my best to win your love back, and to prove to you that I was worthy of it.  When you told us that you would pay us for our high marks in school, I used that as a way to get your attention.

One day, after receiving my report card marked with A’s in all of my subjects, I rushed home after school to call you while you were at work.  I rarely got to speak to you after the divorce.  Even into my adulthood you were never one to spend time on the phone.  Until the last few years of your life, I was the one who always had to initiate phone calls.

I knew better than to call you at work, but I was just too excited and wanted to share my news with you.  Not because I wanted the money, but because I wanted to make you proud.  Unfortunately my call interrupting your busy work day was not welcomed.  I was crushed when you verbally scolded me for calling.  I was criticized and dismissed for my lack of judgment in calling mid-day.

It was the metaphorical dagger to my heart.  Tears and more tears streamed down my face as I tried to understand how you could be so cruel to me, your precious little Princess.

Dad, as painful as it has been, remembering that phone call has been a gift to me now.  I’m seeing the connections between that incident and others in my life that have left me feeling lonely, abandoned, rejected, and unimportant.

I know that you did what you thought was best for us kids.  You didn’t know you were modeling the same compulsive work behavior to me, or that one day I would also put such a high priority on my career at the expense of my family.

I’ve forgiven you and received much peace about that incident.  In doing so, it was as if you reached across from the heavenly realm to sooth my aching heart and tell me how sorry you were.  You made your own sort of amends to me.  It was very comforting.

Yes, today was hard.  My life has moved on.  My family is doing well.  And I am giving my inner child the space she needs to explore some of the painful wounds of her past.  I embrace them as a gift from Above, just as I do the remembrance of the way you left our family with a legacy of healing.

Your daughter

The healing of my relationship with my father was due to my embracing my brokenness and forgiving him as I worked through the 12 steps of Celebrate Recovery.  The steps I took into healing had a ripple affect in our family and allowed him to go in peace 3 years ago.

We never know how God is going use our steps of obedience or forgiveness.  However, if we trust Him in the process, He will use it to bless us and others.

Contributed by a leader at Celebrate Recovery on the Plateau.


Celebrate Recovery on the Plateau is a Christ-centered recovery program designed to help people with their hurts, habits and hang-ups. We are a ministry of Pine Lake Covenant Church, Sammamish, WA.

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Posted in 12 Steps, Sharing Our Stories
2 comments on “Step 9: Letters of Healing & Forgiveness
  1. Jeannie Davis says:

    Thanks for sharing this letter. I can see the value of putting what I’m now doing in my actions towards my mother, into words on paper. This next week is about me giving grace to my unavailable mother and honoring her anyway. I so agree that forgivness is the key to healing. When I get back, I’ll WRITE her my forgivness letter. (I have forgiven her in my heart many many times, but it’s never “stuck”).

    • Glad to hear that this letter has inspired your progress through the forgiveness process. Blessings on your time with your mother, and may your trip bear much fruit of forgiveness.

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