Dear Ms. Nunez

March 28, 2019

In the past 4 years, 9 months and 10 days, I’ve read hundreds of books: fiction, nonfiction, memoir, classic, mystery, contemporary, biography, and so on. Always a reader, I’ve gone from appreciating books to relying on them. Some, like The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, I continue to read over and over; but I have not felt compelled to write to an author until I read The Friend. Please allow me to explain.

In the summer of 2014, one warm late Wednesday afternoon, a meth and heroin addict under the influence passed out at the wheel less than a mile from my home, his SUV crossing over the center line at 70 mph. My 18 year old son, Jackson, had the misfortune to be driving home in the opposite direction. He was my only child, and I a single mother. He was the love of my life.

Shortly after that, our beloved dog, until then a strong and healthy young adult, began having seizures, unaccounted for by age, breed, or illness. A few short months later he died too. I couldn’t then and still can’t help but wonder if he died of grief, for Jackson or even for me, as if he knew what most people fail to recognize: that not one, but two people died that night, one almost instantly, the other agonizingly slowly. Perhaps he couldn’t stand to watch any longer.

I’d like to say that I’m much better now. I’d like to say that I’ve found reasons to live, other, new meaning in unexpected places. I’ve thought about becoming a foster parent, adopting another dog, volunteering with Syrian refugees or joining the Peace Corps. I even seriously considered trying, at 50 years old, to have another baby. And of course I’ve thought, almost continuously, of suicide. I continue to write, I suppose because I always have, though I’m one of those people your protagonist speaks of in The Friend who hesitates to refer to herself as “a writer” because she feels like a fraud, or pretentious, or just plain eccentric, seeing as how it doesn’t provide a living; only the occasional work finds publication, and I couldn’t begin to teach. For the first three years I could write nothing but diary entries (or as I have come to think of them, diary entreaties). I can grasp at nothing for very long, and solace is ridiculously hard to find.

I hope some day, sooner rather than later, some or even just one of the ideas that pass through my mind about what to do with myself will come to fruition. In the meantime, however – and this is why I’m writing to you today, to tell you how powerful it is for someone like me to read these simple, straightforward words that one might think everyone would understand, but so few people do – “Nothing has changed. It’s still very simple. I miss him. I miss him every day. I miss him very much.” I may yet live again, but I am certain of this: When you are drowning in grief, your body can’t help but follow suit. Whatever cause of death is eventually printed on the death certificate, the true cause of my demise will be sorrow. 

I don’t know what you went through to gain the insight you have into grief, especially the version of grief that accompanies a sudden, violent death. The guilt, the emptiness, the self-imposed isolation, the terror of being in social situations, the recurring feeling of needing to explain your grief – to friends/family and strangers alike – and why it still grips you so tightly at the expense of everything else. Maybe you are just one of those immensely empathic and enlightened people. For your sake I hope that is the case. In any event, thank you, Ms. Nunez, for writing The Friend, for helping me and others like me to feel a little bit less alone, and a little bit more understood. 

Sincerely yours.

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