Writing Our Griefs

© 2017 Toni Lepeska

My 93-year-old uncle fought the aftereffects of a stroke and then contracted pneumonia. My earliest memories included him. I knew he might die as my folks had.

I began my memoir in earnest on the night he was readmitted to the hospital. The grief I felt over the habitual and inevitable loss of loved ones was like uncorking a wine bottle. My deepest sorrows rushed out and onto the page.

Loss prompts lots of stories. It generates an essential story element: conflict. We want a person or situation to remain as is, with us. But they leave. Death. Divorce. Loss of health. Loss of job. We struggle with what was versus what is.

Where do we start? What do we say? What do we not say? How do we end?

The Biggest Challenge

As we honestly record the events that scattered our world, we again confront our grief. We attempt to help others while reopening ourselves to pain.

Jessica Handler compares this to holding your hand over a flame that’s already burned you. Thus, the title of her book, Braving the Fire: A Guide to Writing About Grief. She suggests starting by just getting the raw story on paper.

Decide later what is too private to include. To be viewed credibly, we must share hard stuff, but we don’t have to share all of it.

The Audience

We may be tempted to be like a crying drunk, leaning on the reader’s shoulder with woe after woe. While we want people to feel our tears, we don’t want to drive them away.

As I blog about loss and grief’s transformative power, I give myself space to cry. I then think of my audience, a woman with her own loss. I think of my pain in the context of her needs.

To avoid emotional flooding, turn to a journal, a friend, or support group. Write in segments and take a break. And remember your joys. Always give people a reason to celebrate.

The End

Still fresh in my grief, I didn’t know how I’d end my memoir. When I sit to blog, I don’t always see the finish line. But God connects the dots—on and off the page. Our grief story is there first for us and then for others. Our Creator writes endings better than any I can imagine.
Toni Lepeska, a former newspaper obituary writer and crime reporter, is a Memphis freelance journalist and aspiring author. She blogs about her personal journey of healing and the transformative power of grief at Giving Grief Room. You also can follow Toni on Twitter and Facebook.

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