In one month my second book, On Loss and Living Onward: Collected Voices, will be in your hands. As I write these words, talented lay-out and cover designers David and Maggie are making last-second tweaks, and sending the manuscript off to press.
Let me admit something: This book has been pushing itself up and out of my very pores for nearly five years. It’s been close to publication with two other publishing houses. And I’ve been teetering on that slick ledge of giving up on it, oh, 174 times. But I have a persistent (bossy and endearing) cheering committee, and they wouldn’t let me hunker down in the safe retreat of silence. Finally, this book has found its rightful channel to reach the public.
I am grateful. I am joyful. I am tired. I am anxious.
When cataclysm erupted in our family’s life, I turned to literature for a community, common experience and spiritual knowledge. People who know me well know that, with the exception of math, marbled meats and sometimes sleep, I don’t do much half-heartedly. So that same intensity translated into gathering hundreds upon hundreds of statements on loss and grief. Not with a mind to ever publish an anthology, mind you, but with a heart that was stunned to a sputtering speechlessness and needed understanding. I scraped and spelunked through other’s words to speak for and to me. In time, and without having had a plan on the outset to do so, I had the makings of a major tome on grief. Those quotes–at least those for which my publisher could acquire legal permissions– together with 17 of my best personal essays, have evolved into this substantial book. I can hardly wait to get it out there.
I sent a friend and fellow bereaved mother a galley (pre-published) PDF copy. Here’s what she wrote to me just this week:
I’ve had the immense pleasure of spending much of this past weekend with your wonderful book…My husband was not feeling well, so we were both at home, and I read and read. I can’t tell you how often I picked up my computer and said to my husband, “Read this,” because you were able to articulate just how I was feeling so much of the time. And you did it so eloquently and beautifully. You were able to put into words what I felt but could not express and you did this so much better than any other author I have read.
I loved the quotes at the beginning of each section. I must admit though that I hurried through them so that I could get to your writing. I do plan to go back and highlight as soon as I get my hard copy. There were so many wonderful nuggets where I paused and smiled because they nailed feelings I had experienced and interpreted what I was still trying to identify.
One of my favorites was the grief beast section. My grief beast looks a lot like yours, and now I can put a name and description to it. It’s still lumbering around but it doesn’t come as often as it did before and it doesn’t stay as long. But I think that now I will talk about that beast to others so they can have a better idea about how awful grief can be.
I can’t imagine how heart wrenching it must have been for you to move to an entirely new country and new community right after Parker’s death. How did you survive? I’m so glad that you wrote. It must have been healing for you, but now it is healing for so many others. Even though you were so alone, you have been able through your writings to reach out to so many.
I’m so grateful that you have such a gift for writing. All of us who have experienced the loss of a child feel like your book is balm for our grief. I shed a ton of tears as I read, but I felt so understood and valued. I will read it again and again. Thank you. Thank you.
You know those emails that make your throat sting and nose prickle like you’d just breathed in a whole room full of dry ice fumes? This one. If she says it works, I’m convinced. I need that kind of reassurance. Similar to my fears of publishing Global Mom, I have had some nagging fears for this book, too. What if I turn my son into an artifact? Will I be misunderstood as bitter, gloomy, morbid, or strangely proud of or elitist about our family’s loss? Will my family’s story not be fairly represented? Will I make grief look too easy? Too hard? Too dreamy? Too predictable? Too comprehensible? Too tidy? Will its most helpful pages not be the ones that were the hardest to write, which were the descriptive ones (my essays), but the most helpful will be the prescriptive ones, which took just a day to whip together (the two appendices with What To Do/ What Not To Do and a suggested readings list)? Will my deep faith and profound, repeated experiences with the spiritual alienate readers who do not, perhaps, consider themselves people of faith, or “spiritual” types? WiIl this book speak with humility the truth I’ve known?
I’ve run down this list of questions plus a longer one, be assured. But I’ll let you read my writings, and you can decide.
Visit my Loss and Living Onward Facebook Page to find daily updates as well as quotes I could not include in the hard copy itself.
You can preorder now on Amazon, or wait until May 6th to order and receive your stack for yourself and for
US Mother’s Day, May 11th,
US Memorial Day May 26th.