'Dear Me': Martensville widow's letter-writing helps her find a path through grief

Dianne Young is looking for other widows to contribute letters to a book to help others deal with grief.

Dianne Young now collecting letters from others for healing book

When Dianne Young's husband died, she didn't know if she could make it, and found no solace in the books available on the subject. It is why she is now working on an anthology of letters that widows write to themselves. (CBC)

Grief does not follow stages. It ebbs and flows, and is a unique experience for all those who suffer loss.

"Dear me, you had no idea that heartache could be such a literal thing, did you? Sometimes the pain is so intense it takes your breath away."

These are the opening lines in a letter that a Martensville, Sask.,  woman wrote to herself after her husband of 30 years died.  

"For the first year, I didn't know if I was going to survive," Dianne Young said in an interview with CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning.

Young is now working on a book she plans to call Dear Me: The Widow Letters.

No solace found in books on grieving 

It is somewhat ironic that Young is now composing a book on grief, because on her own journey, she said, many of the books she turned to to ease her suffering were not helpful.

"I rarely throw books in the garbage but this one, I did," she said of one. 

"One of [the] suggestions was you need to get rid of your husband's things as soon as possible. I thought, 'How dare you tell me not to dwell on my husband's death.'"

Recognizing that coping with grief is such a personal process, one that doesn't follow the experiences outlined in books, Young sat down and crafted a letter addressed to herself, one filled with "words of comfort, words of advice, and words of warning."

Inviting letters

That letter proved to be cathartic for Young and now she desires to share that healing through a compilation of letters written by widows to themselves.

Young is inviting women who have been widowed at least a year to share letters they would have addressed to their newly-widowed selves. Young says anyone interested in the project can contact her by email or visit her website.

So far, she has spoken to about 12 widows and has received two letters. She is hoping to self-publish a book a year from now.

with files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning