Grief, Loss, and Pain – Writing as a Way to Process Emotions

As I mentioned in my previous post, I used writing to express my emotions. Writing, for me, has always been a way to untangle the balls of feelings inside ever since I was a young girl and my mother gave me my first journal. Even when I attended elementary school, my favorite class was language arts. Back then, it was fun. And, I was a quiet, only child, so the best way to entertain myself was writing little poems and plays that I’d act out.

Sometimes, when I went outside to play with my friends, I’d make them act it out instead of playing all the parts. This was, of course, only after I’d gotten tired of playing school because they always made me the teacher. Then, along the way (I’m pretty sure it was high school), I’d stopped writing. I started writing again at the behest of my therapist many, many years later to sort out my feelings of hurt, anger, and pain. With the weekly journal entries, I’d found that life, such as it was, could go on. I’d also rekindled my love of writing again.

Once I started processing my past hurts through my writing, I began writing short stories again. After the end of therapy, I’d gone back to school to jump into writing as a career. Just as I’d completed my graduate study at Arcadia University, my grandmother had gotten ill. She had seen my unofficial transcript, but never made it to the graduation.

During my grandmother’s last weeks, I had been writing what I thought was a short story for a friend of mine who had self-published a couple of novels at the time. She kept asking me for more. “What happens next?”, she would insist over the phone after I’d emailed her the latest installment. Almost 30 chapters later, this friend informed me she wanted to show me that I could move past just short stories. I could write a novel. Just as I’d completed this work, my aunt arrived into town.

Two nights later, my grandmother and I had our final exchange as these would be the final words she spoke. Ever. In a moment of lucidity as I was using a medicine dropper to give her morphine for comfort, she turned to me and rasped that she loved me. I told her I loved her, too. Her final words were, of course, “Forever and one day”. I gave her the drops as she closed her eyes and turned her head.

The next evening, she took her final breath as my aunt and uncle were watching over her. Because of the aftermath of dealing with her estate and my mother, who fell apart because she’d lost her mother and her best friend being the oldest who spent the most time with her, I never had a chance to grieve like everyone else.

I was doing what I had been prepared to do by my grandmother for years. Take care of the business because she knew my mother would be too upset to do it. In keeping my word, I had to find time to cry in private. This was while I knew my marriage needed to end, but who had the emotional capacity to deal with both situations at the same time?

I decided that the best thing to do was to use the best coping mechanism I could – write. Write for my life. Write for my sanity. Write to get out the hurt and pain and anger just as I did years before.

This time, though, I also wanted to honor the memory of my grandmother by telling a great story just as she had done for the family. Sometimes, her stories were funny. Other times, they were sad. At all times, there was always something to learn. In fact, in her storytelling, you tended to learn more about what she was guiding you toward from what she didn’t say than what she did say.

Once I’d decided, over a year later, to write a novel dedicated to her memory and great gift of storytelling, I knew that I’d want to make my story with the same nuances as she had when she spoke. The way she could turn a phrase and catch your eyes with her words as well as her movements is what I strived to put on paper. Because she had such passion when she was trying to teach you or help you with a situation in your life by using hers as an example, I wrote this novel to do the same. To celebrate her life by choosing to live mine as an example from which others can learn as she did for countless others.



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