Writing Through Grief: Five Posts

fallen leaves in a puddle of water

For many of us, writing is catharsis: a way to process and release difficult emotions. Few things are as emotional as the loss of a friend, family member, personal hero, or pet so it’s no surprise that we read a lot of posts paying tribute to lost loved ones and trying to make sense of the newly-made holes in our lives. Here are five pieces that have moved us over the last few months.


The Mess You’ll Leave Behind,” Stop the Silence, Speak the Truth

Parents who lost a son to a heroin overdose wrote this open letter, bluntly detailing their pain in an effort to push other addicts toward rehabilitation:

I can tell you for a fact that your Mom will never be the same. Some things she used to do joyfully she will no longer be able to do because they are too painful. Remember how she used to like to surprise you with special treats she bought at the food store? Well now she can’t go food shopping because everywhere she turns in the store she sees something she remembers you liked to eat. Those gardens she was so proud of in the front lawn. They’re forgotten now. The only garden she cares about is the tiny one around your grave that she tends almost every day.


Grieving a Child Gone Yet Still Here,” Trail to a Texas Trial

Sometimes, those we grieve are still with us. At Trail to a Texas Trial, Melinda Lancaster writes about the sadness that descends on parents when illness robs a child of their chance at a normal future:

And there you are — left to cradle a living child and grieving for all that was now dead to you. Grief gets easier to bear, except when you see children on a playground climbing up a slide and your child can no longer walk; it’s easier to bear until you are holding your daughter or son in bed cuddling…after a seizure; it’s easier to bear until prom comes along and no handsome young man is going to ask your girl to her first dance or your son is not pulling at his necktie nervous as all hell as he knocks on his date’s door; it’s easier to bear until your younger children surpass their older sibling and help feed them, run for diapers, wipe drool from their mouth, have to defend them at school. It’s easier, until so many times it isn’t.


An Elegy for Your Cat,” The Citron Review

Animals are family members just as surely as human parents or siblings, and their loss can provoke profound grief — as Charles Kaufman realized when his cat Koko passed away:

You buried Koko under those white pines, wrapped in her favorite blanket; you tossed in her worn, forest-green breakaway collar with its small, round, blue metallic tag that reads “Koko” and gives your telephone number. Next to the blanket, you placed her favorite multi-colored felt ball, the one your sister made from laundry lint, and as you filled the tiny grave—those frozen-clay walls so carefully clean and square—you left a tulip bulb near the surface, something that would live again in the spring, something that would mark the grave year after year.


Fiddler’s Green: RIP Gord Downie,” Matthew Barlow

When an icon dies, the pain may not be as acute as when we lose a loved one, but there’s a hole nonetheless, a hole shared by millions of other people — in this case, the millions of Canadians who loved Gord Downie, lead singer of The Tragically Hip, who passed away last week.

I have been thinking about this since the night of the Hip’s last concert in Kingston, ON, last summer. The CBC broadcast and streamed it around the world.  And so we were able to watch it in our living room in the mountains of Tennessee, where we lived at the time. Today, with Downie’s death, I realized what it was that made the Hip so quintessentially Canadian in a way other Canadian artists aren’t: They made us proud to be Canadian. We are not a proud nation, we are rather humble (and occasionally annoyingly smug). We don’t really do patriotism, and when we do, it’s kind of sad and forced. We don’t have the great stories of nation formation other countries have. No ‘Chanson de Roland.’ No King Arthur. No Paul Revere. We just kind of evolved into place. But, in telling us our stories back to us in a way no one ever had, Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip made us proud to be Canadian.


Goodbye Piper,” Lonely Keyboards

Coming to grips with a death is difficult not just because of a loss, but because of the uncomfortable truths it forces us to confront. When Bruce Jenkins’ mother began her final decline, he struggled with both his detachment and his own possible bleak future:

Could have seen her every other day, easily, little bother. But didn’t. The shame curls my lip and brims my eye. I so wanted to be the kind of man who could leave behind the solitary confinement of each inmate in our family of origin prison; share the autumn garden. Or at least peer over the fence and say, how ya going? And I did, but not often. Not often enough to take satisfaction from the entries on the Family Compassion Ledger just inside the number-coded front door. Frequently enough to feel a chill portent; what if my child will not sit with me either? But no way I could think about losing language myself. A nightmare too far. Her, not me.


Do you use your blog to process emotions or challenging experiences? Share a time when your writing or art helped you heal.

October 24, 2017Death, Personal Essay, Personal Musings, , ,