Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Writing through Grief

Did you watch any of the 9/11 anniversary memorials, Sunday? I watched as much as I could handle: little children reading off names of the fathers they’d never met, men and women crying unashamedly as they spoke the names of the loved ones they lost that horrible day. It was even heartbreaking to see the black holes of the reflecting pools marking the places where the twin towers once stood.

On one program, a commentator interviewed a reporter at who had been at Ground Zero the days following the attack. As she reported, she found herself surrounded by people who wanted to show photographs of their missing loved ones. She knew these people couldn’t have survived the collapse of the towers, but she couldn’t bear to tell their survivors the horrible news. Yet she still did her job, though sometimes through tears and with a quivering lip.

Although 9/11 affected all of us in so many ways, disaster sometimes hits close to home. We used to say that death comes in threes in our little town (one square mile, population 400) until one eighteen month period when we lost five citizens: two to suicide, one to homicide, one to a motorcycle accident and one to illness. The oldest was my husband’s best friend who was shot when his gas station was robbed. The youngest was my three-year old godson who had the sniffles Saturday night and died Monday morning. It was a devastating time.

It’s hard to continue on when the world goes crazy. It’s even harder to be creative during stressful times. Artwork, words, music – all seem to flow when our life is easy and times are good. But, that doesn’t mean that we can’t create our best work when life is at its worst.

Listen to the poignant words of Eva Marie Everson, Christian speaker and author, as she wrote in her journal of 9.11.01
"Everywhere we went, the words were the same. Everyone we saw, the expression was the same. Rich man in a suit speaking into a cell phone. Poor man resting on a curb. The conversation was the same. Jew and Gentile, Christian and Muslim. It was all the same. Before our eyes were downcast, we saw what we saw. Before our ears were deafened, we heard what we heard. Before our hearts were broken, we face what we now know. We are a part of history. We are at war."
(For more on healing and grief, check out Eva Marie's blog, 1 Writer, 1 Day.)

Another national tragedy, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, sent everyone reeling. Yet months after her husband was killed, Jacqueline Kennedy recorded interviews and recollections of her married life. (The transcripts from these tapes have been put into book form and are being released this month.) Can you imagine doing this after watching your husband die beside you? Yet, somehow, Jacqueline found the inner strength to make those recordings for her family and for history.

And of course, our best example of inspiration comes from the Bible. When the Philistines seized David, I’m sure they didn’t realize they’d inspired a psalm that would provide comfort for thousands of years. At the beginning of Psalm 56, verses 2 & 3 it says 
“I am constantly hounded by those who slander me, and many are boldly attacking me. But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.”1 
Later in verse 8, we’re reminded, 
“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”2
It’s hard to go on when tragedy strikes. It’s hard to push ourselves to write when we don’t feel like it. But we have to remind ourselves just Who is in control. We have to remember why we were put here on this earth. If we were put here to write, then we won’t find any peace at all until we do just that.

1 Tyndale House Publishers Inc (2004-01-09). The One Year Bible, New Living Translation (One Year Bible: New Living Translation-2) (Kindle Locations 33228-33229). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

2 Ibid


  1. Angie, thanks so much for this beautiful and heartfelt post!

    Today marks nine years since my nineteen-year-old stepdaughter died in a freak car accident. My husband and I will take flowers to the grave and go out for dinner in celebration of her life. Grieving is so important to the healing process, but then we must move on and live.

    As writers, not only do we write through the grief, the writing process helps us heal. By using our grief, we can also help others out of our own understanding.

    You're so right. Above all else, we need to remember that God is in control. We may not ever get answers to our questions. But maybe we will. God sees the big picture ... he sees the end of the story.

  2. Oh, Dawn, I'm so sorry. How awful for you and your family! But you are right, after we grieve, we must move on to live. Isn't it awesome that we can leave it all to Him? Thank you so much for sharing and for your comment. Praying for you today.


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