Writing Out the Grief
Melissa A. Smith
A common question people ask a writer is what made them decide to sit down and start writing in the first place. For me, it was grief.
While in high school, I wrote. I had taken journalism and the teacher loved my writings. Two pieces of my work had been published in two different school publications. I was also asked to join the staff for the school paper, but declined. I just didn’t like writing the things wanted for a paper. I liked creating stories to take you places. Inventing new worlds and people to live in them. I stopped writing after getting out of school and didn’t start again for several long years.
December 2008 had started like any other December before it. I was out shopping for those perfect gifts for each member of my family, and loving every minute of it. By my side was my shopping partner. My mom. My best friend. This year was a little different, as we made our rounds trying to get most of her shopping done earlier than her normal pace of slow (she was known to be out shopping as late as Christmas Eve), because she was set to have her final knee replacement surgery on the 19th. That day was also the last day of work I had before school let out for Christmas Break.
We had almost done everything she’d wanted to have done, done. But there were still a few things to gather, like stocking stuffers and things of that nature. She went in for her surgery and everything went great! The last time she’d been in the hospital, for the first knee 6 months prior, she’d contracted hospital-acquired pneumonia. Her doctor, wanting her to be healthy for the rigorous knee therapy that follows two days after surgery, released her the following day. The 20th.
Wanting to forgo giving you all the details, I received a phone call early on the 21st. A phone call no one wants to get. My father, who’d awoken to find his partner for the past 34 years gone, couldn’t make that call. The responding police officer had to do it for him. Pneumonia had taken her from us.
So started my decent into grief.
We were supposed to do some shopping before I took her to physical therapy that day. We were supposed to do a lot of things during my break, because she too had it off for recovery.
Instead, I had to help my dad organize a funeral.
During the year and a half that followed, I read over 230 books. All while working full time and tending to a family.
It was the start of summer vacation in 2010 when I’d run out of books to read. I dove into spending time with my boys and vegging at the pool daily. I thought it had been long enough, and maybe the grief wouldn’t be so sharp. I was wrong. Without having someplace for my mind to wander, to live in, I was a mess of tears.
It was then I’d woke up in the middle of the night, leaving a dream that made my brain buzz. I tried to shake it off, leave it where I found it. In my dreams. But it wanted to be let out. So I sat down in secret and started writing.
At first when my family noticed my switch from books to the computer and all my constant typing, they asked what I was doing. I lied. I told them I was writing to my sister who lives in Texas. At first they bought it, but as the typing went on, they were puzzled as to why I didn’t just call her and talk to her. Again, I lied. But this time I said she’d asked me to write down some things about our mom.
While they still were puzzled by all the clicking going on at the keyboard, they left me alone.
While writing started out as therapy for a grieving soul, it is now something I must do to keep all the exciting characters quiet. I love it! I only wish it could have developed without such dark beginnings, but nonetheless, my mother would be proud.
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