I’ve been reading a few other blogs by bereaved parents and have noticed a reticence to be completely honest.
Rebecca Carney has a blog called One Woman’s Perspective – the name says it all. I can usually relate to her but she has a caveat on her homepage which states:
“This blog is written about grief from one woman’s perspective – mine. It is not meant to be a blanket guideline for grief. It is my hope, though, that some insight or understanding for bereaved parents or ones who deeply grieve may be obtained from sharing my experiences following the death of our son, Jason.
As my main source, I have gleaned writings from the journals I have written since the week after the accident (some entries have been slightly modified for clarification). For those entries gleaned from my journals, I have noted the date at the beginning of the blog. Anything without a “journal date” is written current-date. If there are notes at the end of a blog entry following a ~~ delineation, those are current-day comments on a dated journal entry.
In an effort to promote understanding, I have not shied away from things I wrote that may be construed as negative. I want to be honest with what I was experiencing at the time, but I don’t want to be harsh..and I would never, either intentionally or unintentionally hurt anyone we knew at that time. (I have changed most names or used initials when referring to individuals, and those names that have been changed are marked with an asterisk (*).)
If something sounds harsh, just remember I am communicating what it was like for me at that moment. Raw emotions following a tragic loss run the gamut of practically every emotion imaginable. Emotions and reactions can be incredibly strong…and sometimes not very pretty. There is no tidy pattern for grief.
Please try to listen to the heart of a bereaved parent…”
It is hard to believe that someone feels compelled to explain why her honesty may not be palatable to some readers. I know people have told me that they have appreciated my honesty but, to be completely honest, I am not always completely honest. Like Rebecca, I would not want my remarks to intentionally or unintentionally hurt anyone that I know or knew.
I have written journals since I was 16 years old and continue to do so. These journals are now letters to my daughter. I know she will not read them but writing is how I sort out my thoughts. I write for her in the full knowledge that no one else will read them (not in my lifetime anyway). I can write what I want in my journal, but if I used them on my blog, I would probably sanitise the entries – as Rebecca does.
I have just finished reading Maggie Mackellar’s book “When it Rains”. Maggie lost her husband when she was pregnant with their second child and then within two years lost her mother. The book was published about five years after her husband died. At the beginning, she says that people could understand the loss of her mother and they knew what to say but with her husband it was different. He was young and suffered a mental illness. It seems that Maggie had a different experience with the two deaths as well. One she is able to write about completely; that of her mother. She is still grappling with the other death and shies away from that story.
I met Maggie once at a symposium on grief and writing and I asked her how she wrote such painfully private emotions and then shared them with the public. She explained that there is a difference between private writing and public writing. I think this comes out in her book because I was desperate to hear about the private pain with her husband but that story would not have been acceptable to the general public. I understand why she wrote the book she did but it wasn’t the book that I wanted to read.
I think that is what the assessor was trying to tell me with my manuscript based on the first year after Clea’s death. He or she was trying to tell me that my story and the way I wrote it would not be pleasant or conventional for the general public. I do not come across as deserving sympathy or empathy because I am angry and consumed by my daughter’s death.
Then again, I don’t write in order to please anyone.
To paraphrase David Foster Wallace, pain (physical and emotional) is a selfish state of mind. Grieving and mourning are selfish but those emotions can be no other way. As I have explained, my grief is what it is; it can be no other way. I will grieve for my daughter in the only way I know how. No one prepared me for this grief. No one could be prepared for such grief. And so we write.