New discovery leads to belated condolences

Dear Amy: I just Googled a childhood friend for the first time, and discovered that he died by suicide 12 years ago when he was 24, after serving with the military in Iraq.

My friend and I hadn’t spoken since high school. His birthday was a memorable one (10/10), and so I thought of him every October 10. I’d just notice the date and think, “Happy birthday, my old friend.”

Now that I know what happened, I’d like to write a condolence letter to his younger brother, who I knew in high school, but with whom I’d also lost contact afterward.

I’m hesitating. He appears to have a successful life now (good for him).

Is it wrong to send a condolence letter 12 years later? Maybe he moved on and doesn’t want to be reminded of this pain. (It’s not certain if it was suicide or an accidental gun discharge, according to the news article.)

Since this might stir up painful memories, I wonder if it’s better to say nothing at all and let it be? On the other hand, might he be touched to know someone cares about his brother? Or is that selfish altruism? I really don’t know.

— Postmortem Grief

Dear Grief: I find it hard to imagine that anyone ever truly “moves on” from the sudden death of a sibling. It is never, ever “wrong” to contact someone to express fond memories of a friend.

I suggest that you should write to this younger brother, tell him that you were thinking of your friend, as you do every year on his birthday, and say that you have just learned of his passing.

There is no need to mention or question how this friend died. Simply share a memory or two of the two brothers from your youth, express your condolences to him and his family, and encourage the brother to get in touch with you if he’d ever like to.

There are a number of charities serving our nation’s veterans. You might consider donating money or time in your friend’s memory to K9s For Warriors (K9sforwarriors.org), which provides service animals to servicemembers experiencing challenges related to their military service.

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