Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Unbroken Circle

How come you can get 3 months off work for maternity leave and only about 3 days for bereavement? ~ My husband, Joe

When I wrote the Jim and Dan Stories, about losing two brothers a month apart, I was really putting myself and my family “out there.” And so much has come back to us because of it.

Since the publication of the book in 2003, I’ve received dozens of “thank you” emails and letters and phone calls from readers. Some have stunned me. Some have brought me to tears. And some I want to frame.

Today, I received one of those “frame-able” letters from a reader who lost her mother as a child. She wrote, “I wanted to write you and affirm how important your message about grief is and that it gets out to the larger community…Thank you, for publishing your writings; for sharing what’s in your heart!”

In reference to the book’s introduction in which I wrote about feeling like I was down in a hole and described writing the book as “taking field notes from grief’s frontline,” she had this to say… “By the end of the first page of “The Jim and Dan Stories” I was in tears and connecting with your experience. That hole that you speak of that one must dive deep into to fully encounter the feelings of grief doesn’t go away. For me, it’s just not so cavernous a place that I fall into any longer, but more like a familiar pothole on the road home.”

I feel privileged that readers of my book feel safe to share their own stories of loss with me, but that alone isn’t the most meaningful thing that sharing the book has brought me. What is even more awesome is that the book doesn’t just reach out and touch others. Those who have been touched by it often reach back and touch me.

Not only did this reader share her innermost self with me through the poetry she included in her letter, she sent me a copy of an article listing insights into grief, which starts out by announcing: “Grief has its own timetable; sometimes it never goes away.” Considering how shrouded and misunderstood the subjects of death and grief can be in our society, I found the tips – which come from a book by Therese Rando entitled “How to Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies – to be very helpful. They include (in part):

~ Your grief will take longer than most people think.
~ Your grief will show itself in all spheres of your life: psychological, social, and physical.
~ Your grief will depend on how you perceive the loss.
~ You will grieve for many things both symbolic and tangible, not just the death alone.
~ You may be obsessed with death and preoccupied with the deceased.
~ You may search for meaning and may question your religion and/or philosophy of life.

Touching others and being touched back is extremely rewarding. But there’s more. Reconnecting with old friends through correspondences and the reunion in Hull that was spurred by the book, making new bonds and friendships with people who have read the book all spring forth from the fact that my brothers, Jim and Dan, lived. They are the center from which it all has rippled out. Even this blog is an offshoot of the book that likely wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for them. Losing them was the impetus that propelled my writing forward and urged me to reach out and share.

Not only is the circle unbroken; it continues to spiral out.

Note: Originally posted on on November 11, 2005.

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