Ask an Expert: How Do I Make Amends to the Dead?

By Jay Westbrook 01/26/15
Today's question is on how to make amends with the dearly departed.

When my grandmother was dying, I only showed up once, and I stole her pain meds. Now I'm sober, and on Step 9; how do you make amends to someone who's dead?

Jay Westbrook: Great question - I believe this is a situation that calls for both a living amends and a direct amends.

For the living amends, as you go forward in life, simply do two things. First, show up whenever someone in your family (however you define “family”) is sick or dying, and show up with both the attitude and behaviors of service. Second, stop stealing, and not just pain meds or money or stuff. Stop stealing people’s trust, time, emotions, joy, and peace of mind.

For the direct amends, write out a formal amends to your grandmother, saying everything you would say if you were making that amends to her face-to-face. Then, you can do one of several things. You can go to her gravesite, and read the letter to her. Or, you could take the letter outside at dusk, burn it, and watch the smoke drift up towards the sky. Or you could do both – read the letter at her grave, and then burn it, setting an intention that she receive the message.



G Jay Westbrook, M.S-Gerontology., R.N, is a multiple award-winning clinician (Nurse of the Year), Visiting Faculty Scholar at Harvard Medical School, speaker and author who specializes in both substance abuse recovery and End-of-Life care and is an expert in Grief Recovery©. He has both consulted to and served as a clinician in multiple treatment centers and hospitals, guiding clients through their grief, and working with them and their families on healing broken relationships. His lectures to physicians and nurses include trainings in When Your Patient is a Substance Abuser: Currently or Historically. He can be reached at [email protected].Full Bio.

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