For I have known a sorrow such as yours, and understand.
July 9, 2008 10:36 AM   Subscribe

How can I feel less alone in my grief?

A close friend of mine from school died a year ago today. I had only know him for a year, but he was what I would call a kindred spirit. I treasured our new friendship, and I was ecstatic about the times we had ahead. He helped me through some difficult times when I didn't have a whole lot of people to turn to.

Right now, I'm living very far away from home. I'm living in what also happens to be his hometown. I don't have any friends here that knew him. I know that his family, his old significant other, his old friends, etc. are all here in town, and I can't help but feel jealous and isolated in my mourning when I know that so close are all of these people who have each other for support. They can cry, and share memories, and laugh, and go to memorial services and whatever else... while I just sort of sit in my room to feel alone and sorry for myself.

Right now, no matter what I'm doing, in the back of my mind there is always the thought that, "He's dead. He's dead. He's dead." I know this will continue as his birthday and my birthday are both coming up very soon.

Anyway, what can I do to feel less alone in this? I've been tempted to write a letter to his mom about how much he meant to me, but I'm not sure if that's out of line. I'm scared to contact any of his friends from high school because I feel like I'm not worthy or something. I feel weird asking people who didn't know him to take part in memorializing him. Maybe things to read or something. I'm not really sure.
posted by Alligator to Human Relations (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think that your instinct to write to his mom is a good one. I bet it would mean a lot to her.
posted by moxiedoll at 10:40 AM on July 9, 2008 [5 favorites]

I agree with Moxiedoll. A coworker of mine passed away suddenly in February and a group of colleagues and I make an effort to send his mother and family cards occasionally. (We even send baked goods sometimes.) She always e-mails us immediately and says how much it means to her and it makes her feel closer to her son who passed away knowing how much he meant to his coworkers.
posted by als129 at 10:45 AM on July 9, 2008

Definitely send the letter to the mother.
posted by milarepa at 10:48 AM on July 9, 2008

Yes, write the letter. His mother will appreciate knowing how much her son touched your life.

You might also want to find out where (if) he is buried. For me, at least, when I visit the gravesite, I can talk to the person in a way that I can't anywhere else. (I know it's not logical, but emotionally it works for me.) There is a Jewish custom of leaving a pebble when you visit a gravesite so I will keep my eye out for interesting pebbles that I can use the next time I visit. Looking for pebbles makes me feel like the person I miss is a little bit a part of what I am doing right at that moment.
posted by metahawk at 10:49 AM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

I am sorry for your loss. I think you should contact his mom. A few years ago I found out a former boyfriend had passed from leukemia and I was so devastated. I wrote a short letter to his mother and told her that even though I'd been out of his life for years, the time that I had with him would stay with me forever. She responded with copies of his funeral announcement, a letter he had written friends in his final days and some of her own memories. I believe it was very healing for both of us.
posted by justlisa at 10:49 AM on July 9, 2008

When my brother died, a recent girlfriend took the time to write us a letter talking about how much she cared about him, and what a gentle, kind and thoughtful boyfriend he was. We treasured that letter and his girlfriend because it was a loving insight into an aspect of his life and personality that we didn't usually get to see.

Every one of his friends is precious to me, no matter how long he knew them, because they each hold a unique piece of his life in their hearts. It is incredibly healing to come together and tell stories, cry, and just remember him in all of our different ways.

So don't hold back from getting in touch with his family and his friends. They are also longing to be in touch with his life in as many different ways as possible. You are worthy because you cared about him, period.
posted by Dr. Loony at 10:55 AM on July 9, 2008

By all means, get in touch with his family. When a close friend died a few years ago, we (Danny's friends) needed the support of his family as much as they needed ours. Together we helped each other celebrate his memory and share our love for him. I am certain they would be joyed to hear from you.
posted by tip120 at 11:06 AM on July 9, 2008

Act 3 of this This American Life broadcast demonstrates how much a letter to his mother can mean (both possibly to you and to her) in a situation like yours. It's a heart-warming story.
posted by tippiedog at 11:07 AM on July 9, 2008

We lost my brother ten years ago this week and I know my mother cherishes any contact she gets from those who knew him, even now. Please do not hesitate to contact your friend's family, I'm sure they would love to hear from you.
posted by platinum at 12:01 PM on July 9, 2008

Definitely reach out to his family and his close friends. If they know about you (and they probably do since you were so close) they probably feel just as awkward about reaching out to you.

I'm sorry for your loss.
posted by mmascolino at 12:36 PM on July 9, 2008

Yes, write!
posted by rhizome at 2:47 PM on July 9, 2008

Write his mom. She will cry (but people need to do that) and she will love you.
posted by greenie2600 at 5:14 PM on July 9, 2008

Found this article in another mefi post...I've since posted it all over the place. I think it's pretty amazing.
posted by holympus at 11:50 PM on July 9, 2008

Nthing all of the suggestions to write to his family. Let me share my experience.

During the summer in which I transferred from one college to another, a girl from my old school's orchestra died in a freak accident while on a school trip. We hadn't been particularly close; moreover, because I was transferring, I didn't have the expectation of seeing her again, except maybe in passing if I planned to visit one of my friends.

I was still a bit shellshocked at the suddenness of the whole thing, and after a little while I ended up writing an e-mail to her parents. It wasn't much, but it was an accurate summary of our relationship. I wrote how I sat in front of her and hadn't planned to see her again, but that I was sorry that this choice was now out of my hands and we'd never run into each other. I then related a brief and somewhat mundane anecdote about how she came over and sat next to me in the cafeteria one night when we were both alone due to late rehearsals. "We weren't great friends," I wrote, "but she chatted with me like we'd known each other for years. That's just the kind of person she was."

I got an e-mail back in December thanking me for my note; they'd read it and passed it around the table at Thanksgiving because they liked it so much.

Sometimes the most meaningful tributes come from the places and people we'd least expect.
posted by Madamina at 3:06 PM on July 10, 2008

I wrote his mother. I'm really glad I did. Still no response, but I'm okay with that. At least I know that I made an effort to make contact. Thanks for encouraging me to do this; I wouldn't have done so without the extra nudge.
posted by Alligator at 9:33 PM on July 24, 2008

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