As the new year approaches, I find myself feeling down about going home. During this period, my mailbox becomes the recipient of more and more mourning postcards, which come instead of New Year postcards to announce that a member of the sender's family passed away this year. It's particularly hard when a message comes from the family of a friend or acquaintance; I had no idea they'd died and I'm left in a daze.
Of course, when someone passes away there is pain for both the sender and receiver of such postcards. But, sometimes I think it's not all bad.
The other day I received a message from a friend of mine who lost a family member in the summer. I haven't been in touch with this person for years, and I couldn't go to the funeral. In a small card, I wrote to them about my sadness for their loss, and extended my apologies for not having been in touch.
After a short while, I received a message back thanking me for writing. They had also left a note, saying, "Though it's not the best reason for a reunion, I'd like to talk about family, so why don't we go out to eat sometime?" Of course, I replied saying I would be very happy to, and our reunion is set to happen soon.
Perhaps things like this are happening here and there all across the country. People who receive a mourning postcard but can't attend a funeral service send letters or emails of condolence in response. When a reply comes, there's a suggestion to meet up after such a long time. Or, the correspondence between old friends is revived and they keep sending messages back and forth.
There are people who come to my clinic who tell me about similar experiences. One woman lost her son in an accident, and she found herself in the depths of grief and sadness. But she became close to her son's friends, who would come to visit every year on the anniversary of his death, to the point that they would consult her on work and relationship issues.
"Even things they find difficult to talk about with their parents, they can confide in me, because I'm not related to them. When I think of it as a bond formed through my son, I feel happy about it," she said.
Sometimes I hear of married couples who first met at the wedding reception of another couple they both know, but people are also brought together by someone they lost. It might not be thought of as something harboring particularly good omens, and it's not something I can shout about, but I think it's nice to have occasions where a bereavement notice revives friendships, or when people become friends by meeting at a funeral.
I'm considering about getting back to other people who have sent me mourning postcards sometime in the future, because I believe reconnecting through a person's death isn't bad at all.
(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)