Friday, April 17, 2009


Writing Through Grief

Last week, my boxer, Charlie, died suddenly in his sleep. He was 10, and he led a good life, but it was still completely shocking and totally devastating. In our family, dogs are not just dogs, they are members of our family--our babies--and my parents' grandbabies.

When my husband broke the news to me, I was in the middle of writing a blog post, and I completely stopped. I couldn't finish, of course, and I just closed down my computer and put my stuff away. That night, we continued with our plans to take our other dog to my parents' house, pick up my stepson, and travel 10 hours to my brother-in-law's house for Easter. So, I didn't write the next day either.

For the week we were gone, I wrote nothing but two paragraphs on my blog about Charlie and a few status updates on Facebook. I could barely even turn on my computer. The only thing I could think about was how much I missed Charlie, how much I was worried about Hush Puppy (our Basset Hound), and how horrible it would be when we got back home without my shadow. I was exhausted from trying to be "happy" around my family and celebrate Easter. I hadn't gone a week without writing anything for probably five years. I usually write every day--an article for Bright Hub, a chapter of my novel, or a draft of a poem. But I didn't want to write--not at all--I didn't even miss it.

When we returned home, I forced myself to go to the library and write two articles for Demand Studios--articles that focused on travel tips and didn't make me think about Charlie. I finally returned to work on my novel yesterday, although I just read over a couple chapters and revised them. I'm still only writing during the day, away from home. I can't seem to get in the swing of things at night. I'm finding when your work is creative, it is just plain hard to work through grief.

I've heard people talk about journaling their grief or turning those raw emotions into beautiful poems. But the most I can seem to do is share my story with the world through a couple blog posts. I'm too close to the situation, I guess. I can't even think about the first line of a poem or essay--it's just a big, bundled mess in my brain right now, which is why this blog post is also probably rambling a bit.

I guess my point is that if you experience a great sadness in your life as a writer, give yourself a break. I didn't want to, and I keep worrying that something is wrong with me, that my joy for writing is gone. But it's probably not. This is all normal--and the same methods do not work for every writer. Some people could fill journal page after journal page about their grief or depression; others can produce pages and pages of poetry; I can offer this blog post.

I would love to hear your stories. How did you work through your grief over a loved one (human or animal), and how long did it take your writing to get back on track? The one thing that has really helped me through this process is an old book I found at the library about grieving for pets. Pet owners shared their stories, and I found comfort in hearing others' tales. Maybe we can do the same for each other here.

Margo Dill

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