As the sun rose and streams of early morning light filled my home office, I took the ribbons off the piles of cards representing words of encouragement I received after the death of my father in 2003 and then my mother in 2006. I’ve kept these cards tucked into a drawer in a nearby cabinet.
Although I haven’t looked at them in a long time, I was inspired to sort through them once again. I had a project in mind – an idea for creating something with the images and a few of the notes inside the cards. I also wanted to let go of them….to not keep storing them indefinitely – but to recycle them and in a way create space for the new things I’ve been growing inside myself these last few months.
When they arrived in the mail all those years ago, my own pain kept me from fully seeing the meaning they hold. Some days, reading them felt supportive and offered me comfort through my tears. On other days when I felt too sad or caught up in my grief, I would slip them into a basket to open later.
On days when I needed encouragement – when all seemed lost, I could open a card or two and remember that I was not alone. Even after they stopped coming, I kept them in that same basket – ready to be re-read as a reminder that I was surrounded by a community of love. I could see the notes from people who knew my parents, loved them as friends and cared for me even though they didn’t know me well.
I could also see notes from people who never met my parents but because they knew me they wanted to reach out and be supportive. Some of those friends shared brief words about their own loss journeys. Knowing them, I realized that I would eventually be able to go on – they had survived their losses and learned to live again. All was not lost.
Now, looking across years I could see something larger. I gained insight into my parents’ personal history – who they were, who their friends were and why and how they were loved. This morning I noticed the kind words of their friends who I now realize were grieving with me.
As I sifted through the cards I found images or words that I decided to keep. They may end up in a creative journal or blended together with images of my parents in some kind of album or keepsake. They will remind me of the raw days immediately after their deaths…and of the road I’ve traveled since then. They give me another type of appreciation too – that I am really making a difference when I send a condolence card.
Sending a condolence card is a way to reach out, offer a heart and hand in solidarity to others who mourn. It is simple really. An envelope, a stamp, a few words of solace…and on the receiving end it may be the very thing that brings a smile or a tear and a glimmer of hope; a reminder that they are not alone.
Deb Buehler is a creative grief coach and writer. She is completing the Creative Grief Coach Certificate and has earned the Death & Grief Studies Certificate. Inspired by her own journey through loss, Deb co-authored The Hollowed Heart; Inspiration for Women Awakening from Grief and Loss. To find Deb and her book contact her by email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.