I'm writing concerning the letter from the 15-year-old girl, "Needs Closure in Georgia," whose grandfather committed suicide. You suggested she write a letter to him, and then to burn it.
Another useful technique is to sit opposite an empty chair and speak your heart to the person you need to communicate with. I wasn't getting on with my life after my husband died, and it worked for me.
Doing Better in Millbrae, Calif.
Thank you for the helpful suggestion. Many readers were touched by that girl's letter and wanted to reach out to her. Read on:
When my grandmother died, my father and his wife planted a small rose garden. Over the years, as we have lost family members (including pets), additional rose bushes have been added in their honor. It is peaceful and comforting to sit among the blooming roses and think of our loved ones. It feels like they haven't really left us.
Remembering in Arizona
I believe you. After Cary Grant passed away, his widow, Barbara, gave my mother a rose bush that had been named for her husband. Mama, who had been very fond of both of them, planted it outside her office window -- and when the roses were in bloom, it gave her many hours of pleasure.
I found "The Grief Recovery Handbook," by John W. James and Russell Friedman, to be extremely helpful. My grandfather committed suicide more than 25 years ago, when I was in seventh grade, and my parents didn't want us to tell anyone what happened, which didn't help at all.
Perhaps "Needs Closure" could organize a memorial service with a local church, depending on what is going to be done with his ashes. If that's not possible, she should reach out to other family members and grieve with them. I hope they do not feel embarrassed about the suicide.
Loyal Reader in Saipan
One thing is certain: She should not suffer alone and in silence.
While "Needs Closure" feels that her grandfather's cremation is the reason she has had a difficult time letting go. I suspect it is the manner in which he died. Suicide is a traumatic loss -- sudden, unexpected, often violent. That girl is now a survivor of suicide. One does not "get over" a suicide. The effects may stabilize, but the loss is forever felt.
I speak from experience. Five years ago, my beautiful little sister committed suicide at 19. I have read many books for suicide survivors and belong to an online support group for sibling survivors. One great resource for her could be SOLOS -- Survivors of Loved Ones' Suicides. The Web site is www.solos.org. She can also write to the group for information at P.O. Box 592, Dumfries, VA 22026-0592.
Still Grieving in Washington
Please accept my sympathy for your loss, as well as my gratitude for suggesting this resource.
Your advice was right on the money. I was away when my best friend dropped dead of a heart attack. Since I had no chance to say goodbye, I wrote him a letter telling him what his friendship had meant to me. At first, I planned to "send it" to him by burning it in the fireplace. But it is now 2004, and I still write letters to him. What started as a way to bring closure became the beginning of a wonderful journal.
J. in Oceanside, Ore.
Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.
(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate