When Writing About Grief – Your Grief
A little girl died this past Sunday. She was three years old, the second of three sisters, and her name was Hallie.
I don’t know all the details of her death. All I know is that she suffered some kind of drowning accident. And while she was rushed to the hospital and put on life support, there was ultimately nothing to be done.
Recognizing that, her parents signed the necessary papers over the weekend. Her organs will now be donated to children who still stand a chance, one last beautiful gift by a beautiful little girl.
I didn’t ever personally meet Hallie, her mom, dad, big sister or little sister. The only reason I know about her at all is through a mutual friend who posted about her on Facebook, asking for prayers.
So that’s what I did: I prayed. And I prayed. And I prayed. And God answered with a no, as he sometimes does.
When I woke up to the news on Monday night, I’m not going to lie: I sobbed pretty hard. In fact, I’m tearing up pretty badly writing about it now. So I can’t even imagine how hard Hallie’s family is having it.
Nor, to be honest, do I want to. Nobody does.
Yet some people apparently have to experience that kind of gut-wrenching, soul-twisting heartbreak anyway.
Because, sometimes, for whatever reason, that’s how life is.
I never lost anyone I truly cared about before this year: a friend to pancreatic cancer. And I’ve never ever lost a family member, much less a child.
So what in the world can I possibly say about writing about this level of grief when it’s so deeply personal? So deeply pervasive? So deeply life-changing that outsiders truly can’t understand?
I can only tell you how the people I’ve worked with have dealt with it. Because they do know how it feels to lose loved ones… their innocence… their self-worth.
Not all the time, mind you. They gave themselves breaks. They gave themselves rest. They spoke to counselors or family members or friends. They went on walks. They let themselves sob hysterically or stare blankly when that was all they had the strength to do.
But then, when they were ready, they wrote.
And no matter how hard it hurt in the moment, they found at least some release in the process.
How did they write?
I’d say the common denominator was honesty. They wrote what was on their minds and their hearts in the moment, whether that was anger or rage or despair, hope or fear or fondness or whatever else was ready to spill out from their fingertips.
Whatever it is, it’s okay. Even if it’s not coherent or logical, it doesn’t matter. The point is to get it out, whatever “it” might be.
You can clean it up later. You can delete horrible admissions or expressions if need be, change the names of the not-so-innocent, and otherwise edit it accordingly so that it’s readable – if you decide anyone else is going to get to read it at all.
They don’t need to, for the record. But that’s not something you have to worry about while you’re writing regardless.
In fact, you don’t have to worry about anything while you’re writing out your grief except for you and whoever you lost.