Let the emotions that break us, heal us.

This weekend I did something people rarely do anymore – I wrote a letter.

Armed with a blue pen, pad of yellow-ruled note paper and the handwriting skills I learned back in 2nd grade, I was all set to begin this old school approach to communicating.

At first I considered an email or a phone call, but felt a handwritten letter provided the more personal touch I was hoping for in this delicate matter. It was a letter to my parents, whom I haven’t spoken to in five years.

A little history. I grew up in what I always perceived to be a very close family unit – never dreaming that one day my relationship with them would become difficult to maintain as a free-thinking adult.

Growing up I had a great deal of respect for my parents. They provided for all of my worldly needs, taught me invaluable lessons and skills, and maintained a true sense of family and tradition within the walls of our home.

Yet something was always missing for me, as I was burdened by an inner need to always seek my parents’ approval and acceptance – rendering me incredibly insecure and anxious growing up.

Eventually, I became completely dependent on them for emotional stability and continual guidance. I didn’t love and trust myself enough to be my own keeper, so I allowed my parents to fill that role for me.

As I evolved into an adult, found someone who loved me unconditionally, and began to develop a deep appreciation for the person I truly was, I realized the family dynamic I’d known for so many years no longer worked for me. My parents, however, had a difficult time understanding that.

Eventually the reality that they needed to relinquish control, combined with a very public attack on my character, forced me to make a very difficult decision. Either I could continue to play along with what had become an unhealthy relationship, or I’d have to walk away. After a lot of soul searching and even heartache, I chose the latter.

Some might say we should always forgive family members when poor judgment and emotions establish battle lines in the relationship – regardless of the offense. But whatever the relation might be, we all deserve to be treated with respect, compassion and dignity – perhaps more so from the people who hold the title of “family” than anyone else in our day-to-day existence. Sadly, sometimes walking away is the only way to achieve that for yourself.

Famed author Nicholas Sparks once wrote, “The emotion that can break your heart is sometimes the very one that heals it…” And so eventually with growth and personal discovery, I learned to go on without my family, while still keeping close all the wonderful memories still alive and well in my heart and my mind.

That remembering, rather than trying to bury my past, helped me to realize that the bad should never overshadow all the good that was shared. I think we do that a lot in life. We so often focus on the few negative, unpleasing sentences written in our personal history books, that we ignore the countless pages of joy we’ve been blessed to experience.

People are in our lives for a reason. Whether its 20 minutes or 20 years, the impact they have on our lives in infinite. While the relationship with my family didn’t quite turn out as I expected, that in no way diminishes the reasons why they were in my life for as long as they were.

Time has caused me to grieve, mature and accept the realities I speak of above – realities that wound up being the impetus for my letter and so many other decisions along the way. You see in a few weeks I will be relocating some 1,800 miles away from the town I’ve called home for the last 39 years. And so as one chapter closes and a new one begins, it just didn’t seem right to leave without saying something to the people who gave me life.

The letter was without pretense or bitterness – it was more or less me saying “thank you”. I expressed my sadness that things didn’t work out, but would be remiss if I simply moved across the country without them knowing how much I appreciated all they had done and the many memories I will always take with me.

I’m not looking for a response, to have the last word or to re-open a wound I hope has healed for them. I just felt if I wanted them to remember anything it’s that people are in our lives for a reason – and there’s was to help make me the man I am today.