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Letters to the Dead

Something that we don’t give a lot of thought to is what happens to all the permanently unanswered mail that gets sent to the dead. Uncancelled subscriptions, junk mail, bank statements, even the occasional personal letter or card from those who haven’t been made aware of their intended recipient’s passing. Unless the sender is informed of their recipient’s death, that mail will just keep on coming. So much energy and time put into a completely unappreciated exercise.

Cancelling subscriptions and informing organisations of a loved one’s passing is something that can be completed by family members over time, and when efficiently managed this kind of mail will eventually stop coming.


But what about those personal letters?

More to the point, where do we redirect those thoughts and attention when the person we were sending them to no longer exists?

One thoughtful company has created a solution:

Sleepy Sue provides a final destination for those words that still need to be expressed, to people who can no longer receive and reply to them.


They offer a post office box address for you to send your letters and cards for your deceased loved one to – perhaps an anniversary or birthday that needs to be recognised, or maybe just some heartfelt expression – and you have the option of keeping your mail private and unread, or allowing Sleepy Sue to read and share on their website.


This service allows grieving friends and family an outlet for their feelings and a way to still feel connected to their beloved until whatever time they are ready to let go.

See also a great novel called Love Letters to the Dead, by Ava Dellaira, which covers the need to continue communication with a lost loved one. The person may be gone, but the conversation isn’t finished.


Once again I’m reminded of the strong need for ritual in our society, as a healthy way to respectfully farewell our loved ones. Without sufficient outlets for our emotions, where does it all go? What happens to those unexpressed words? Our society, at least here in Australia, gives us only 2 days compassionate leave for a funeral, and then we are expected to just get right back into it. What if the deceased was a partner, child or family member? How on earth does one get back to work after only 2 days with a loss so huge, so unprocessed?


As I am learning from other cultures, a healthier approach is to give ourselves space and time to fully sit in these emotions, to express them, to share them with others and to also celebrate the person that was. There needs to be space for ALL spectres of emotion – the anger, the sadness, the joy of happy memories, the laughter. Without this space, our feelings stay bottled up inside us and can lead to all kinds of physical, mental and/or emotional problems down the track.


So write the letter, send the card, release the balloons, sing, dance, scream. Take time off work and go be somewhere peaceful.

Or somewhere crazy.


Whatever it is that is needed to help you get it all out. For as long as that may take you.

Know that it is all part of the healing process.



Oh and don’t forget to cancel those magazine subscriptions too.

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