My daughter Ashlie died in February of 2009. She was sixteen years old. I have been writing about her almost daily for the last three years. At first, I wrote for therapy. Then along the way, stories emerged and I began to string them together until they took on the shape of a book.
The goal was no longer simply to heal myself, but to tell her story and because of that, the writing itself changed. Instead of long passages of narrative grief, I changed her name and edited out extraneous bits to streamline the story. I now had to contend with a feisty living, breathing heroine on a daily basis. I was intent on getting her onto the page in the most honest way possible, doing her justice and crafting her life into a coherent story.
Earlier this year, I got quite ill and joked that I couldn't die yet because I wasn't finished with my book. Beneath that joke is the truth that I've become consumed with the project – that finishing it is the thing which prompts me to get up in the morning and go about my business each day.
When I sat down to write this piece, I realized that I haven't written about Ashlie outside of the manuscript in quite some time – that I haven't honestly allowed myself to embrace the grief in ages. Yes, it is always with me, just as her shoe still props open my bedroom door, her lip-print is still on my dresser mirror and I sleep with her baby blanket clutched to my chest every night, but I have learned to tuck the grief away, to feel just the tip of it most of the time.
I know this is a measure of self-protection, that this is the thing which allows me to function at all, and over time, it is what we must to do survive. But some days I wish to sink back into the grief – to wail and wallow and let it overtake me. I am still at that place where this pain is the most precious thing that I have.
Events over he last couple of weeks have made it increasingly likely that this book will see the light of day, which means I'll have to finish it. Which of course means I'm going to have to kill off the feisty little heroine I've created. Which also means I'm going to have to face that grief all over again. To be perfectly honest, I am terrified of that reality.
And so tonight, I wonder of any of you might be able to tell me what habits, tricks or practices have sustained you through the darkest hours of grief. I am going to need a new coping mechanism and I don't even know where to begin to look.
A special welcome to anyone who is new to The Grieving Room. We meet every Monday evening. Whether your loss is recent or many years ago, whether you have lost a person or a pet, or even if the person you are "mourning" is still alive ("pre-grief" can be a very lonely and confusing time) you can come to this diary and process your grieving in whatever way works for you. Share whatever you need to share. We can't solve each other's problems, but we can be a sounding board and a place of connection.