When we’re grieving, an ancient, time-tested practice is to write a letter to someone else we know who grieves for the same person. How ancient? I was reminded of this practice as I read the June issue of American Benedictine Review where J. Kalvesmaki explores the cure of souls through letter writing, specifically, Evagrius of Pontus’ (a desert father) consoling letter to a fellow disciple on the death of their teacher, Gregory of Nazianzus (Archbishop of Constantinople) in 489 CE. He looks at how this type of correspondence is healing both for the writer and the reader.
Certainly, social media, blogging, skyping, and more all are very exciting, expressive ways to connect. However, besides the personal touch of one-to-one paper letter writing, there is the ritual, also healing, of selecting paper, ink, a special postage stamp, that becomes part of expressing our feelings for the person to whom we write and for the lost person of whom we write. We have to slow down, go a little deeper maybe, and connect in a different way to write a letter. Also, we can touch and smell a letter and we can save it very differently than we do with electronic devices.
If you find yourself going through the dark valley of grieving a beloved person, a place, or something else, perhaps you will try out this method of mutual cure of souls – endorsed not only by the desert fathers and mothers, but also by cognitive behavioral and narrative therapists, as well!