The other day at the Children’s Grief Center (where I volunteer as a bereavement group facilitator for young adults 18-25) we wrote letters to the person we lost. I participate in these activities partly because they are useful for me, but more importantly more than just companioning someone through their grief, I see my role as a model, to let my young adults know that this is what grief looks like seven years down the road (in the case of my dad), or 35 years down the road (in the case of my mother). We don’t “get over” it, we get through the worst of it and the rest we learn to carry it with us. Grief is not a giant whale we are dragging behind us** and it is not a thick blanket taking us down but rather it is something we learn to tuck into a pocket or a purse, something we can take out every now and again. We can turn it over, run our fingers along its edge, we’ll cry and sometimes we’ll laugh and either way it’s ok.
I used a template from the binder of activities at the Grief Center and so here is the letter I wrote:
I remember when you… were healthy and happy and played tennis.
The hardest part about your death for me is…that now I am an orphan, even though it seems silly to say that at my age.
It would have been nice if… you hadn’t been an alcoholic, hadn’t smoked, had eaten healthy food, exercised, and paid your taxes. Seventy-three didn’t have to be old and you didn’ t have to leave such a mess.
I’m really sorry for….not reaching out to you as much as I could have. Maybe it’s because it hurt too much to watch you slowly kill yourself.
My best time with you was….that day you and me and Jean went to Skyline Drive to see the Fall colors. It was fun. You were carefree and I thought we would be okay. I thought YOU would be okay.
If you were here right now, I would…. tell you I love you and tell you to hire a maid and a tax accountant.
Thank you for…. putting me through college–all the way to grad school. And thank you for trying your best. I always knew that you loved me and I loved you.
**this is a reference to The Rules of Inheritance by Claire Bidwell Smith, one of my favorite memoirs about grief.