[#RapplerReads] How running towards grief can help us move forward

Marj Casal Handog
[#RapplerReads] How running towards grief can help us move forward
Cecelia Ahern’s ‘Postscript,’ a sequel to ‘P.S. I Love you,’ explores how grief and hope intertwine

Editor’s note: #RapplerReads is a project by the BrandRap team. We earn a commission every time you shop through the affiliate links below. This review also contains some spoilers.

I first read Cecelia Ahern’s P.S. I Love You when I was in high school. It was about a series of letters left by a husband (Gerry) – who died of brain tumor at 30 years old – to his grieving wife (Holly). 

The letters, which came every month, contained adventures and some meaningful activities that Gerry wanted his wife to embark on after he had passed on. Some of the letters asked Holly to sing at a karaoke, go on a trip with her friends to a destination where they almost had their honeymoon, and plant some sunflower seeds.

I was young and far from getting married then but this book stayed with me. I watched the movie adaptation in 2007 featuring Gerard Butler and Hilary Swank far too many times. More than 15 years later since I read that book, I am now married and Ahern has come out with a sequel, Postscript.

The release of this sequel shocked me like how Gerry’s letters probably shocked Holly. It was a book that I thought didn’t need a sequel. 

I was a different person when I read P.S. I Love You over 15 years ago. I haven’t experienced grief or the joys of marriage then. But now that I’ve lost loved ones along the way, getting to know what grief feels like, and that I’m married to someone I truly and deeply love, I’m seeing this book with a completely different set of eyes.

Postscript takes us to the life that Holly has been living 7 years after Gerry’s death. She’s a picture of someone who has moved on and is living her life again. She happily works at her sister Ciara’s secondhand shop, goes to her family’s weekend dinners, meets with her friends, Denise and Sharon, and has fallen in love again with a new boyfriend, Gabriel.

Everything seemed to be going well until Ciara invited Holly to be a guest in her podcast. They talked about grief, and Holly, somehow reluctantly, shared the story of Gerry’s letters. She didn’t think it would be a big deal. Her sister’s podcast was small and unknown after all. But the story of the letters surprisingly found its way to those who needed to hear it – the future members of the “P.S. I Love You Club.”

The club, composed of a motley crew of the sick and dying, reached out to Holly for help in recreating what Gerry had done for her. They, too, wanted to write letters for the loved ones they would soon be leaving behind. 

Instead of feeling touched, Holly got upset. She didn’t want to be involved in these strangers’ lives. She didn’t want them to “copy” Gerry’s letters. Her boyfriend Gabriel, her friends and family also shared their worries about the club. Wouldn’t it just bring Holly spiraling back into grief by reliving memories of Gerry? Not to mention starting relationships with people whose lives are ending. 

Despite her attempts to ignore the club, she couldn’t keep it out of her mind – and heart – either. She told herself she would just help them write the letters by buying them stationery, giving feedback, nothing more. But when she said yes, she got more than what she signed up for. 

One of the members asked Holly to teach her how to read and write, one member asked to be filmed doing different things, one gave her a shopping list of gifts to be bought and wrapped, and another asked to put the first letter in his dead hand. 

Things, well, got out of hand. But instead of feeling angry or spiraling back into loneliness, Holly actually found her heart swelling with love for the members of the “P.S. I Love You Club.” She realized that by reliving Gerry’s memories, it doesn’t mean going back to the life she had and dropping the one she has now. 

She was able to move forward with grief by running towards it instead of away from it. By helping others leave their loved ones the same happy memories that Gerry left her, she learned how to lovingly honor his memory. She learned how to feel his love and presence while letting others love her, too. That’s what Gerry told her in his last letter (or is it?) anyway – to not be afraid to fall in love again.

Postscript shows us how grief can find its way to us no matter how many years have passed. It’s something we just have to live with. But it also shows us that a life with grief could still be a life worth living. It can be found in helping others or in sharing our life and love to those who need it. It’s about opening new doors without having to close the old ones. 

If you loved P.S. I Love You, you will also love Postscript. It’s like hearing from an old friend after such a long time and knowing that they’re doing fine. It’s a welcome relief and a happy blast from the past. – Rappler.com

Marj Casal Handog

Marj Casal heads the content team of BrandRap, Rappler’s sales and marketing arm. She helps create native advertising campaigns for brands like San Miguel Brewery, Shell, GCash, Grab, BDO, and more.