Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Writing about Grief

Grief possesses an incredible ability to sharpen and obfuscate thought. One moment the world is seen with perfect clarity while the following moment the griever can feel untethered and rapidly losing any mooring in this world. Writing about grief becomes paradoxically easy and difficult. The ease stems from the manner in which words effortlessly fill the page. The difficulty arises with the realization that no amount of words will ever draw close enough to an adequate description. I am grateful for writers who have attempted to make sense of their unique grief. Grief is individually unique, yet one person’s experiences can reveal so much about us.

A good grief memoir tells us: This path has been walked before. Yes, you have yet to walk it and your footprints might not fit the prints already present, but a path does not become a path until many many people have trudged the same swatch of land.

These five memoirs capture the confusion, heartache, fear, and nascent hope of grief.

Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking (loss of her husband)

Philip Roth's Patrimony (loss of his father)

Meghan O'Rourke's The Long Goodbye (loss of her mother)

Joyce Carol Oates' A Widow's Story (loss of her husband)

C.S Lewis' A Grief Observed (loss of his wife)


Carlos said...

Thanks. It is hard sometimes to remember that you are not the only one, and that you can learn from people who have gone through this before.

Christi said...

Being new to grief, I am surprised how isolating grief can be--as the picture used illustrates well. Also, people tend to want to qualify and assign a degree of grief, as in, how well one is handling it. In truth, grief is a constant companion, one that will most likely never leave our side, since the loss can never be replaced. I suppose it is a matter of learning to live with it and not turn away from the power it has over us, but rather, accept it for its commonality, and embrace that though fragile, the life cycle continues...

liblairian said...

Well said Christi. Grief has no shape, thus it cannot be placed in a square hole or a circular hole.

I agree Carlos. While knowing others have walked the path doesn't lessen grief, there is comfort in shared experience.

Aleph said...

Indeed, grief is there with us always. Time helps taking it out of the center of our attention, moving it somewhere else, let say, a little further back. Then, it turns into this little something that you will constantly see with your peripheral vision, but at the end is always there. It is also something that snap at you when you don't expect it. Somebody's smile, a perfume, a song and the wound bleeds again. Grief, however, is a great teacher.