If you’ve followed this blog for very long, then you know that grief is a subject I wander back to again and again since my mother died 5 years ago, so when Alise Chaffins released her new book Embracing Grief, I knew I had to read it. . . and it was so helpful, so affirming, and so honest. Take some time to get to know Alise here today, and then be sure to pick up her book.
And though it may have seemed counter-productive, I wrote grief as well.
Writing through painful circumstances is, well, painful. There were difficult stories that I needed to revisit. There were past wounds that needed to be reopened. After long days of writing, there were plenty of nights when my husband simply needed to hold me while I cried about the words that had poured out that day.
If you write the hard things, there’s no way to avoid discomfort. Whether it’s because someone tells you that you don’t have a right to tell the stories, or because of the pain of simply retelling them, or because of the risk of vulnerability, you will encounter some kind of hurt when you write difficult words.
So why do it? Here are a few reasons why I choose to continue to write the hard things.
- Writing helps me process my emotions. For as long as I can remember, I’ve journaled. For me, writing has always been connected to my life experiences. Good or bad, I want to chronicle them. Writing out hard things helps me understand my own feelings about them and allows me to have a better grasp on how to move forward.
- Writing connects me to a larger community. For much of my adult life, I was a stay at home mom. Now I work largely from home. I don’t always have as much interaction with other adults as I’d like. Even though I write about my own experiences, there are a lot of common threads to the experiences of others, and as such, we are able to have conversations about things that sometimes aren’t talked about in “polite company.”
- Writing helps me be less selfish. Sometimes writing can be seen as a selfish or self-centered pursuit. And there is some truth to that. But I also find that when I share my experiences, I am giving a part of myself to my readers. When I allow others to see all of me, both the good and the bad, it helps keep me from having too much of a high view of myself. As one prone to selfishness, it is important for me to keep that balance.
- Writing battles the idea that vulnerability is weakness. In her book Daring Greatly, Brené Brown puts to bed the idea that vulnerability is weakness, but we often continue to believe that about ourselves. But when we see others exhibit vulnerability, we are able to see the strength necessary to share those stories. We can see more clearly that there is courage in vulnerability and that allows others to choose vulnerability.
- Writing hard things is where my voice is. I have tried numerous times to write more light-hearted pieces, but even though I am a fairly light-hearted person, that’s not where my writing voice lies. If I want to write in a way that sounds authentic and real, I have to write the hard things.
Whether you write about them or not, hard things will happen to you. You can try to push them away, or you can lean into them and allow yourself to experience them completely. I believe that even if we choose not to write about the difficult circumstances, when we pull them close, we become better people, better friends, and better writers.
Alise Chaffins is a wife, mother, eater of soup, and defender of the Oxford comma. She writes about life and grief, and how embracing grief allows for a fuller life. You can follow her online on Facebook and Twitter. She blogs regularly at knittingsoul.com. Her book Embracing Grief: Leaning Into Loss to Find Life is now available.