Write a letter to your mother, even if she’s no longer here
May 13, 2018
Your mother probably wants to hear from you – even if she lives next door, even if she lives half a world away, even if you haven’t spoken in decades. Probably she wants to hear from you – you know the particulars better than I do. In any case, it’s an interesting and revealing exercise to see what you’d have to say.
If she’s no longer alive on earth, she is still alive in your mind – her phrases come to mind, in fact they come out of your mouth. In my case, whenever I say ‘Bless your heart,” it’s her, and she’s been gone for almost 15 years. And she remains present in your thoughts, at first constantly and later, as grieving proceeds, intermittently.
It also doesn’t matter if you are/were on good terms. It’s only a letter and you don’t have to mail it. There is no harm in putting tough thoughts and feelings on paper, in fact there is research evidence that it can be helpful. (Read James Pennebaker’s book Opening Up for details.) But stick it in the drawer for a while before sending. If it’s too raw, give yourself a chance to rewrite – later versions often evolve beyond anger and blame.
I do this occasionally when I have something particular to say. The most recent time was when I was moving and needed to tell her that I was bringing along the plant – an orange day lily – that I’d taken from her birthplace on the side of a mountain in the Smokies. I’m looking at it out the window as I write this and it’s looking good and strong – it was a nervous winter for me waiting to find out if it would survive. She would like the bird feeders and ferns surrounding it I know.
So, what would you like to tell your mom today? What do you think it would be like for her to receive a letter from you – an actual letter with a stamp and envelope? What would it be like for you to write it? It doesn’t have to be soupy with emotion. It could be a recollection that you value, a contribution she made to your life, a question you’ve never asked, an amends, or one of a thousand other things. I hope you try it.