Saturday, November 14, 2009

Reaching Out to Grief

A week and a half ago, our youngest son, Daniel, died. He was twenty years old. In the fog of grief and exhaustion, I've sometimes wondered what I would say in my first post since that day. It felt strange to have my mind jump to such ordinary things, but even in the middle of the worst moments, I have known life really does go on, whether we like it or here I am. I'm a writer, and I value healing and relationships, so it helps me to be here. I hope it helps somebody else, too.

I have learned a powerful lesson in the last ten days. I've learned that any expression of caring and support is of value when someone has died. I used to think that I might cause more grief by calling and stirring things up, or that I'd be one person too many during an exhausting time. As a result, I often hung back when a friend's loved one died. I suspect some of that hanging back was connected to unresolved grief of my own and to a general discomfort with death. But a large part of it came from my belief that my small offering was too small to bother with or would be badly timed.

Well, I'm here to tell you that's not how it works.

My husband and I began to heal early on, a bit at a time, as we were lovingly touched by the hundreds of people who called, emailed, came by, hugged us, sent cards, cried with us, posted a message on Daniel's Facebook tribute page, prepared and brought food, tidied up, sent flowers, sang and drummed, prayed, smiled, and reminisced with us. One friend and neighbour came by and fixed the porch light -- what a helpful, caring act! Every good thought, each small act, has helped us avoid despair and overwhelm -- and will continue to do so.

So, please, trust your instincts when someone suffers a loss. Believe that you do matter. Your offering of support and caring helps. My husband described it this way: the sadness, grief and numbness of Daniel's death emptied our reservoirs, but each act of kindness and support refills our reservoirs one drop at a time.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Joy of... Text

Check out my short essay on writing at this Kate Thompson Writes link or the one at the top of the page.

The Joy of... Text

The first memorable and deeply satisfying piece of writing I remember was the big school project I did on the city of Paris. I was in about Grade 4, and I saved that thing for years, through the many moves so characteristic of our unsettled family. I was especially proud of the Eiffel Tower I'd so faithfully drawn on the cover. Back then, we either drew our own cover designs or cut pictures out of magazines to announce our topics. My mother is an artist, and I guess for a few years I fancied myself one, as well, because I loved that drawing as much as I'd loved the research it introduced.

Research. I didn't know the word, really, but that's what I loved doing. I would sit in the library for hours, buried deep in the stacks of Do Not Remove Reference Books I so loved. I would yearn to be able -- just once -- to be allowed to Remove One. But I never was, and I never did. Sometimes I'd stand in front of the numerous shelves lined with several matched sets of encyclopedias. Oh, the joy, the satisfaction of all that information and all those pictures! The maps and the Flags of the World just about sent me into orbit. If I'd been either a "bad" kid or a gutsier one, I'd have torn out those flags and secreted them away in my lunch box or something. For better or worse, I was neither. Besides, there was the sacrilege of tearing a page out of a book. Nope -- just wasn't gonna happen.

Anyway, the deep pleasure of getting lost in the pages and words and smells and ideas of books has never left me. And I feel equal satisfaction from putting my own words and ideas onto the pages of my own books, articles, and stories.

So whether you've always loved to read and write, or you're just discovering a new love...keep at it. Have fun. Learn and share and stretch yourself. Reading and writing aren't the only great things in this life, but they sure are somewhere near the top. Climb up there and take a look. You might get tired or a little dizzy sometimes, but you can hack it.