Writing Through Loss

This won't all be heavy, I promise.

When someone you love dies, and you’re not expecting it, you don’t lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time—the way the mail stops coming, and her scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in her closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of her that are gone. Just when the day comes—when there’s a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that she’s gone, forever—there comes another day, and another specifically missing part.” —John Irving

When my mom passed away, I took it hard, but I thought I was doing the work to get better. I talked about her, I cried all the time, I worked on my books as a form of therapy (if you haven't read Maybe Maby, that was in the thick of it), but it was almost as if the full barrel of grieving didn't unload on me until a couple of years later. I'd gotten through all the "firsts" and even when I lost my grandma and grandpa not long after my mother, I was still stuck on her. And in a season where I should kind of be better by now...

Good things came out of it too. I immersed myself in my family. I didn't go anywhere—that sounds like a bad thing, but it was exactly what I needed. I spent lots of time with my dad. I made a ton of cakes and pies and cookies, which I'm still trying to work off.

But I'd sit to write and just sit and sit and sit. And eat and sit. Common thread: I ate a lot. What used to be 1,000 word days turned into being a real feat if I could finish 100. This story I'd been so passionate about—I even knew the way it should go, start to finish!—just sat with me.

My mom never read my finished novels. She read some of In the Fields (which I worked on long before True L̶o̶v̶e̶ Story) and wanted me to finish it, but I didn't tell her when I did. My blog though—she was my biggest fan. It's why I had such a hard time going back to blogging afterward. So this post is a tiny bit of progress...

Maybe no one has died that you're close to, but a breakup or the loss of a friendship has derailed you. While the topic of grieving is vast and I won't be able to cover it all today, I do want to talk about some things that helped me write through the loss when I thought I might be stuck forever ... because as trivial as it may sound to think about writing when you're going through such pain, for all of us writers out there, writing usually always helps. So when that's not working either, the pain often has nowhere to go.

*Talk about your loss and that person as much as you need to, but...

*Avoid triggers that make you wallow in it. It's one thing to find it cathartic to remember someone and another to know you'll go in a downward spiral every time you look at certain pictures, go certain places, or do that one thing that always takes you down.

*Read an author who inspires you.

*Write something different from what you normally write, just for fun.

*Move! If the writing isn't coming, go live life for a while! Just don't avoid writing for too long.

*Write anyway. Even if it's 10 words, do it.

*Write as if no one will read it. It's a lot of pressure to keep up with all the authors out there, but more than that, it can be daunting to keep up with your past work. Put all of that out of your brain and just write.

*Once the writing comes, write all the words. Go with it as long as you possibly can, hopefully every day forever and ever amen.

The best part of being stuck is when you get unstuck. :) The gratitude is transcendent.