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Omega (Westport). 2008-2009;58(4):313-33.

Love letters to the dead: resurrecting an epistolary art.

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Dept. of Adult Education, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada.


This article explores the art of letter-writing, specifically to our beloved dead, as a form of autoethnographic research, pedagogy, and care work. As university teachers and qualitative researchers in palliative and end-of-life care, we review the literature and history of epistolary communications with the deceased, as a prelude to writing our own letters. John writes to his long-dead mother and Dorothy to her recently deceased spouse Patrick, each letter followed by a reflective dialogue between us. Through this dialogue, we highlight the potential application of this art, or handcraft, to formal and informal palliative care, and the implications for practice, pedagogy, policy, and research. We propose that such direct, non-mediated, communications can offer a valuable form of healing for bereaved people. The therapeutic potential of letter writing and the abundance of literary and popular culture exemplars of responses from the dead are also largely unexplored in death education and research.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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