Seven days after my daughter was killed in a car crash and my father-in-law succumbed to pneumonia (they died the same weekend) I wrote an article about grief. I wrote several more, and was starting to recover, when my brother died of cancer. Three deaths in two months were so overwhelming I stopped writing.
But as I discvered, life wasn't life without writing. In fact, I grieved for the lack of writing. Writing was - and is - my way of coping. Would the distractions of grief prevent me from writing? The only way to find out was to start writing again. I'm grateful for my writing career and its many blessings.
WRITING DIVERTS MY MIND. If you've had multiple deaths in the family you know grief wears you out. As my 15-year-old grandson said, “I'm so tired of crying. " Sometimes you have to take a break from grief and writing does that for me.
Instead of obsessing about tragedy I let my mind roam free. And it does roam free as I hunt for article and book ideas. Some of the things I write about have surpised me. Writing is a mental vacation and takes me to new and surprising places.
WRITING FORCES ME TO FOCUS. When I'm writing I have to focus on one topic. Once I'm focused I think about the points I want to make and their order. Though I may struggle with word retrieval and sentence flow, I'm still able to stay focused.
Of course I think about my deceased loved ones when I'm writing, but it's just for a few seconds, and I return to the task at hand. The best way to honor my loved ones is to enjoy each day and what I do. I know my daughter, father-in-law, and brother would not want me to get mired in grief. Life is too precious for that.
WRITING KEEPS LANGUAGE SKILLS SHARP. These skills are more than punctuation, spelling, and grammar. I have to be attuned to current events, hot topics, and trends. Writers are supposed to write about what they know and I just wrote an article about taking down a tree in our yard.
I volunteer for many organizations and do lots of gratis writing for them. Last week I spent three days on a grant. This intellectual exercise required focus, brevity, and originality. When I finished the grant I was pleased with the results. My language skills were there, in black and white, on each page.
WRITING KEEPS MY LIFE MOVING FORWARD. If I say I'm a writer I have to keep writing, not sometimes, but all the time. A new book idea is percolating in my mind. I'm excited about the idea and even more excited about the work it demands. I am so blessed to be a writer!
Copyright 2007 by Harriet Hodgson
Harriet Hodgson has been a nonfiction writer for 28 years. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Her 24th book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief, " written with Lois Krahn, MD, is available from http://www.amazon.com A five-star review of the book has been posted on Amazon. You will find more reviews on the American Hospice Foundation Web site ("School Corner" heading) and the Health Ministries Association Web site.