Thursday, November 26, 2009

Writing as Grief Therapy

"Everything has its roots in the unseen world…Every wondrous sight will vanish…Every sweet word will fade." ~ Rumi

We buried my older brother, Jim, who died suddenly at the age of fifty-four, in July 2001. My younger brother, Dan, died a month later at the age of forty-nine. Since their deaths, life has had a sharper focus. There are things I can see that I couldn’t see before. If I can describe what I see from inside this hole, will it help others when they are down in one? What place is this? How will I survive it? How deep does it go? I want to know. I’ve never been here before. Can I make something constructive out of the powerless feeling of loss? Am I digging my way out, word by word? I’m writing Jim and Dan’s story because after living this story no other seems worth telling, because what else can I do down here, because there’s no where else to go. I’m writing Jim and Dan’s story because I’m proud of their story. I want to shout from the rooftop how irreplaceable they are. ~ From The Jim and Dan Stories, the Introduction.

After my brothers died – one unexpectedly in an accident and the other from an illness – I read lots of books on death. I wanted to penetrate the mystery of death (as if it was possible to) and find proof that I would see my brothers again.

Recently, on the Charlie Rose Show, Charlie was interviewing Joan Didian, author of “The Year of Magical Thinking.” Didian lost her husband unexpectedly while her daughter was ill, and then lost her daughter. I related to the unexpected death followed by a more likely one, and the fact that she dealt with her grief by writing a book about it, as I have.

On the show, she said something about her husband’s death that poignantly describes part of the grief process, “You get obsessed and go over and over it… trying to find a different ending.

My blog bio reads: “I write to synthesize what I’m thinking at the time.” Didian put it this way: I had to write to know what I was thinking.

When Charlie asked her what has been the hardest part of writing the book, I knew what her answer would be.

“Finishing the book,” she said. And then she went on to explain that writing her book was a way to stay in touch with her lost loved one. Finishing it was hard because, she had to let go of that connection.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Note: This was originally posted on on November 5, 2005.

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