The Place of No Goodbyes

I don’t usually post twice, but I had a lot of down time today…so lucky you! (heh)

Actually, I’d been talking to some people about this and so thought I’d post it. A couple months after Philip died, Phil and I joined an 8-week parents’ bereavement group. We met once a week, and the therapist who ran it would sometimes give us assignments to do, if we wanted. Like the first was to bring in pictures of our children to share with each other.

The second meeting she asked us to go home and write a letter to our child, then write one back from her/him. We could bring them in the following week to read out loud, if we wanted. I thought that was a good idea, and I did it. I’m posting the letters here – they’re not very long. What’s most striking to me is that when I went to write Philip’s letter, “I” wasn’t writing it. I was listening to him, taking dictation. And I find the last line particularly lovely. It contains a phrase I’ve never heard before, a little gift from Philip.

I’ve mentioned that I keep journals where I write down what he’s saying. This is what gave me the idea. It’s a valuable tool, something anyone can do to try to reach a loved one. And even if you don’t think you’ve “reached” them, chances are you’ll feel how much they love you as you write what you know they’d be saying.

So these are our letters, dated April 23, 2012, exactly two months to the day that Philip died:

Hey you,

I feel kinda weird writing this because now you know what goes on with me more than when you were here. What can I tell you that you don’t already know? I miss you, to borrow a phrase, truly madly deeply. I can’t accept that you’re not here and we both know that’s what I have to do; that’s my work in this life of mine. But I don’t think I can, nor do I want to. I’m like a child who had something taken from her and thinks tears and tantrums will help her get it back. I’m afraid if I stop crying, you’ll really be dead. This grief binds me to you like a live wire and I don’t know how to let it go. What will be there, then? What good to say that’s not our real bond, that there won’t be a void? My body says otherwise. My stomach churns and my chest is tight and the tears are in the back of my throat when they’re not being cried. There’s nothing that isn’t colored by your death. Your death – what does that mean? If I am to give meaning to my life, how am I supposed to do that with you gone? How do I bear the unbearable? I don’t know what to do with this rage and sorrow. I can’t undo what’s done and I am helpless here.

Everyone says time. And the world keeps spinning as if you’re still here. The world doesn’t care. I’m responsible for my inner state but I keep going down the rabbit hole in free fall. Then I stop for a while, then I go down again. It’s like that movie Ground Hog Day; I keep waking up and you’re not here. And I keep getting desperate for someone to tell me what to do. No one can tell me what to do; there isn’t anything to “do.” Because what I want is you to be here and you’re not and I don’t know how to live with you gone.

I love you. Your turn.

Hi Mom,

I love you, too; I didn’t used to call to tell you that in the middle of the night for nothing. I’m still here and you know it. I told you we were growing up together, and now you’ve got to finish what we started. You knew soon as you heard I was gone that the work you were doing was what you had to keep doing. You’ll get there. You know that under it all there’s a floor – there’s a place of peace that abides in you as it abides in everyone. I know how hard it is for you to be happy. It made me sad, sometimes, that you felt things were so hard for you. And I know I was a respite from that; I still am. It’s like we’re more in touch than ever. You certainly think about me more than you used to. You talk to me more, too. Have a little faith. You’ll see. I’m still the light you always thought I was; I didn’t go out, as you keep saying. You just have to look a little harder. The light’s all around you even though you feel you’re in the dark. Light is stronger than dark, mom. When the light shines, the darkness goes away. Think of the light you felt from me and live in it. Just a little, like when you crack the door open, until you’re ready for more. You’re afraid; you don’t need to be. The light is where the peace is and where I am. I’m sorry for your grief but this is what is. You know what that means and what to do about it. For the rest of it, you’ll figure it out. I’ll be right behind you as you do. Watch how this unfolds. You’ll be amazed, if you let yourself.

Okay? So I love you. I’m in the place of no good-byes so we can talk whenever we want to.

© 2013 Denise Smyth


13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. tersiaburger
    Jul 09, 2013 @ 15:34:29

    Oh my friend. This is so raw and beautiful!! Phillips letter seems to be written by a different person…it is really a two -way communication. Bless you my friend.


  2. Denise
    Jul 09, 2013 @ 15:53:25

    And you. Let me know how it goes when you do it. (Because you will do it, yes? ;o)


  3. Rose Vidotto
    Jul 09, 2013 @ 16:30:38

    Hi Denise,

    Before I start my note to you, I want to apologize if my words may sound intrusive at this particular moment for you. But as I was reading your post something occur to me. When you have a chance and want to, please go to this site
    This is a mother also going through grief, however, she decided to turn her story around and help teenegers before they end up on the same path as her son.
    I know you might not be ready, or willing to make a move like that but perhaps some good ideas will populate your brain and you might be able to find some comfort by doing something for other young kids like Philip.
    I believe that when we populate our brains with good ideas, we also heal ourselfs somehow. Love Rose


  4. Denise
    Jul 09, 2013 @ 16:34:44

    Not intrusive at all; I would love to do something like, and/or work with bereaved parents. I feel like I don’t know how. I’ll go to that link and see what she did. And thank you – any ideas like that are more than welcome.


  5. behindthemaskofabuse
    Jul 09, 2013 @ 18:03:54

    Very powerful xo


  6. Denise
    Jul 09, 2013 @ 18:12:34

    That’s my boy…


  7. Aimee
    Jul 09, 2013 @ 19:25:26

    Crying big crocodile tears now, my wonderful friend. What a beautiful and powerful post! I’m going to share this with my mom. Writing a letter like this might help her deal with losing my dad. Big hugs, as always 🙂


  8. Lucia Maya
    Jul 10, 2013 @ 12:35:47

    So beautiful! Thank you for sharing these letters, so intimate and yet so relevant for all of us who have loved ones who have died.

    You say often you don’t know how to live without Phillip, and you are, every day…it’s bizarre, I know.

    I have a similar feeling that when/if I’m not actively grieving and missing Elizabeth, maybe she’ll go even further away. But I do find when I have periods of greater peace, and I’m not thinking of her every minute, that when I do “tune in” she’s fully available and present, with no resentment or distance.

    They truly are with us and supporting us all the time!


    • Denise
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 09:12:46

      Yes, we both live without them every day. And I am overwhelmed at the moment; Lucia, I miss him so. Sometimes I feel like I’m being slowly strangled. I try to remind myself that the moment when I face death I’m going to think it all went so quickly, so let me love my son where he is and my daughter where she is. None of us are here forever. But when I miss him like this, that’s exactly what it feels like.


      • Lucia Maya
        Jul 13, 2013 @ 02:35:45

        Oh, I can relate! Lately I’ve had a reprieve from feeling so overwhelmed and almost underwater…it’s grace. And I try to enjoy this time of peace, knowing it’s all temporary. much love, Lucia

  9. Becki Duckworth
    Dec 18, 2013 @ 00:22:13

    Phillip is right about that light.


  10. Denise
    Dec 18, 2013 @ 08:39:57

    Would that I “get” it…


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