Back in your former life -- remember that? -- I bet this happened: someone came to you with a problem, or maybe you had one of your own that you dumped on someone else. "Write a letter!" was the agreed upon solution, followed quickly by "but write a practice one first, you know, where you get it all out."
"But don't send that one."
And sometimes, just in the getting out, you find you don't need to send the letter after all.
Dear [Family member],
You have got to be the most self-centered, cold-hearted human being I have possibly ever encountered. Who on earth could take a child's death -- someone else's child's death, I guess I should clarify -- and turn it into your own problem? The gist of your martyrdom? Let me speak loudly so you might hear me: It's not about you. Check your shit at the door and support me in my grief, or just get the hell out and shut the fuck up.
It seems, unfortunately, that circumstances like ours lend themselves to a lot of letter writing. Letters to doctors and lawyers and shrinks and RE's. Letters to insensitive coworkers, bosses who just don't get it, friends who crawl away, neighbors who feign interest and do so poorly. Letters to family -- especially the in-laws, to spouses, and even to dead children.
Dear [Dr. X],
You know the day after my daughter died when you called to say how sorry you were and check on me? That was really nice. You know how you said "it was for the best?" I agreed with you, because honestly I thought so too. However, on further reflection, I don't think other people get to say that particular line in lieu of the grieving parent. I think only parents get the right to say that, and frankly, we also have the right to change our minds about whether it really was for the best as much as we damn well please.
(There's a lot of swearing in my draft letters.)
I happen to think writing angry letters is rather cathartic. I prefer anger over sadness, because I find it easier to channel anger and actually do something with it -- like write a scathing diatribe. Unfortunately, I had little to be angry about when it came to the facts surrounding my daughter's death itself -- no one did anything wrong or missed anything or really treated me poorly. I would've loved to have released some of my steam on some poor unsuspecting L&D nurse or office assistant.
Dear [office assistant],
For the love of Mike, never, ever, EVER, ask the patient checking in at their six-week post-partum visit if they brought the baby. UNLESS YOU ARE REALLY FUCKING SURE THERE'S A BABY TO BRING. Because someone, someday, just might whip out a little box of ashes out of their handbag and say, "Why yes! Yes I did!" Which is what I wish I could've done when you asked me this very question instead of breaking down into tears.
Instead, my rage as it were took shape against people who didn't let me grieve appropriately, or who dismissed my child's wee life. And instead of writing them letters -- even ones I never sent -- I started a blog. I guess I viewed the entries as letters to some reader in cyberspace who could tell me if I was letting too much slide, going a bit bezerk over something trivial, or if I should clean it up and really send it.
Dear [fellow pre-school parent]:
Please please do not corner me and then go on any more about death in children's books and "how hard" it is to read and how you edit out those parts when you read aloud and how in fact you whispered the whole conversation to me like you were talking about the Karma Sutra and not Barbar's mother. FOR THE THIRD TIME. Because you know what? Death in fiction is a fucking walk in the park -- it's goddamn "Ten Little Ladybugs." Try explaining to your three year old why her sister died. Death isn't dirty or something you should tiptoe around, you moron.
/delete, she was so nice to me at the potluck. Sigh.
So as it turns out, my husband got a letter. And it's addressed to him, and ergo not mine to blog about, but he let me read it and it has a lot to do with me. (Apparently they think I'm the problem. Which, if you were familiar with the problem, would blow your mind because I honestly think I'm the last person involved in this mess.) And my husband, somewhat humorously, suggested that perhaps *I* should be the one to break the ice here, that *I* should make a phone call, that *I* should write a letter.
Dear [person who cut us out of your life totally six months after Maddy died, because I guess that was long enough to deal with us being depressed],
There is so much in this convoluted, loaded letter I don't even know where to begin unpacking it -- perhaps you might want to pay someone to start unravelling some of these thoughts. It's called therapy. Anyway, let's start in the middle where you mention your kids and how wonderful they are, and how you're sure we'd really love them if we could be around them more. And how that went on for a few sentences. And how nowhere in this letter do you once -- once -- mention my children, living . . . or dead. Especially dead. In fact, Maddy is the reason this letter is being written in the first place, you'd probably agree, and she doesn't come up once. Talk about an Inconvenient Truth. But why guilt us about your kids? Do you not want to see ours? Or is this some one-way street kinda deal where we're supposed to feel guilty for this chasm that you sorta brought on? Then there's "Is Tash mad at us?" Which makes me actually laugh out loud, because I sure as shit am now. Although I honestly wasn't and never have been -- we've been under the assumption here that y'all were mad at *us*. But thanks for transposing your assumptions onto me, because a grieving mother is, after all, batshit cray-cray, and obviously mad at just about everyone. So blame me, that's fine, whatever helps you sleep at night. And that part about lamenting that you happened to be nearby one day and couldn't call . . . why? Why not? Why is it incumbent upon us to call you? Why can't you break the awkward silence?
/save. Still drafting. Not enough profanity. Will never ever send. Sadly, I am not nearly that brave, so I passive-aggressively sent a holiday card without a personal note.
You don't have to reveal the addressee, but can you share a few lines from your letters? Are they still drafts or did you actually send them? (Did you clean them up much before you did?) Anyone out there you need to sit down and write to?