It is often the case that people have an easier time sharing personal information with a stranger more than those they know. In today’s world, the Internet provides a way for people to share their thoughts and even personal grief with complete strangers. Jackie Hooper created a site for this very purpose.
Hooper created, Wouldhavesaid.com, also called The Things You Would Have Said for users to write open letters to those they've lost. Interestingly, Hooper was inspired by the death of actress, Natasha Richardson, who passed away last year after a skiing accident.
What would cause a 24-year-old to create a website after the death of someone whom she never even met? According to Hooper, she felt compassion for the actress’ husband and children. "I kept thinking about her husband and her two boys. What would they have wanted to say to her,” says Hooper
The site has been successful in providing an outlet to those who are grieving. Many of the letters posted include statements of regret and even anger towards the deceased. In one letter, a user expresses regret for not expressing enough anger while the deceased was still alive. Some of the letters are simply heartbreaking. Included in the site is also an open letter from Hooper to Richardson.
Still, one has to ask if writing open letters to the dead over the Internet is a healthy way to grieve? According to psychologists it is just as healthy as counseling. Scott Hinkle, a member of the national Board for Certified Counselors agrees that creating a relationship with others who have experienced grief can help with healing even if it is over the Internet.
"Bonding with someone is the most robust therapy for grief reactions," says Hinkle. Hinkle agrees that the Internet can provide that outlet.
Hooper is satisfied with the letters she has received from grieving Internet users. "Everyone who writes sends me a personal message saying they didn't realize they felt all this before putting it down on paper,” she says.
The site has gotten recognition from several news sites including CNN.com, The Houston Chronicle, and The San Francisco Chronicle. Hooper is currently working on a book, which will publish many of the letters from the site. It will be called, The Things You Would Have Said.
Would you publish an open letter to a deceased friend, lover, or family member on a public site?