Mortality, Burial, and Parental Attitudes
9 Consolation Literature: Sympathy Letters, Poetry, and Books on Parental Grief
Sympathy Letters, Poetry, and Books on Parental Grief
Consolation literature has taken on various forms throughout history. It may be seen in letters between or to grieving parents, lamentation poetry, books of advice on how to deal with the death of a child, or even how to grieve appropriately in public. Some historians consider consolation literature a form of psychotherapy; an avenue by which parents may grieve. For example, Yiddish Holocaust lullabies appear to have been written to sustain morale, “support the psychological structure, and integrate the traumatic loss of a people threatened with psychic disorganization during the Holocaust”.1 This chapter discusses selections of consolation letters, manuals, and poetry written to, about, and by grieving parents.
One of the most well-known examples of consolation literature was written by Plutarch, the Greek historian, philosopher and politician, who eventually became a citizen of Rome. Upon hearing of his two year old daughter’s death, for which he was absent, he wrote a letter to comfort his wife. This letter has been published, commented upon, analyzed and criticized through various perspectives. One interpretation of the letter is that it may be seen as a public show of steadfastness ← 113 | 114 → and dignity; a commentary upon grieving. Another more obvious interpretation is that the letter is a moving attempt to console his grieving wife.
Because Plutarch was away during the death, burial, and subsequent period of mourning, the letter...
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