Reflecting on the Experience of WritingBy Emma Pearson
January 28, 2023
26 November 2019
Megan Devine WYG prompt asking us to review the first 14 days of the course… and reflect on what we have learned, noticed, etc
As some know, this is my “Round Three” of WYG. Round one I did within weeks of Mike’s death. It felt too soon. I was too bubbly, too optimistic. Yes, I was devastated but I sensed, if only from reading others’ writing, that either I was a sociopath and unable to truly feel what was going on, or more likely, that bigger, deeper, longer-lasting pain was around the corner somewhere. In my first round, I sometimes cried more deeply for others’ losses than my own. I was still able to rationalise my loss, and be grateful for what I had.
Having learned that the WYG community was so rich, and that I’d be a different person in a different space as regards life and love and grief and death, I decided that I would redo the WYG course at the one-year mark. There are so many trigger dates at Mike’s one year mark – aside from the obvious, four of our five birthdays plus a wedding anniversary come within a 6 week period. Pretty much all of those anniversaries would be held within the 30 day writing. I met new people in the WYG community and while I had a sense of “wow – I have survived a year of this”, I felt I was able to go more deeply into my experience. The loneliness was greater, the sadness heavier, the sense of loss more pervasive. I felt that some permanent foggy mist had settled into my bones. The writing prompts, same as they were, revealed new aspects of my experience, my grief, my living, my losses. And while my energy and passion for living was still there, it was more tempered. I figured I would do the course on an annual basis, just to check in with myself.
But this year, things were so chaotic in my life at that time, in the spring. I was lurching from crisis to crisis with my youngest daughter. Nothing more could squeeze into my life. I was doing full on care for her and self-care for myself. Even my older two kids were way down the priority list.
Then Julia died. I knew I would do the WYG course again. I am probably doing it too soon, but I can do it again and again and again.
What I have learned from doing WYG, which is a broader question than the one Megan has asked, is just that it makes me stop, check, look, touch, scratch, feel, explore, nurture, lick, hold, caress, apply balm. It also allows me read others’ writing, experiences, which serves many purposes. I have done that much less this time, because sometimes it’s just too painful. I need to manage how much of others’ grief I absorb. Reading others’ writing helps me keep things in perspective, helps me to know that we truly are not alone even though we are alone in our specific experience, and reminds me that somehow, and I still don’t know how, we just keep putting one foot in front of – or at least by the side of – another. And I get valuable tips and insights that truly help me “get” what’s also going on for me.
Specifically to Megan’s question, what I have learned through a review of my first 14 days is that I love and hate this process. I love it because it makes me stop. I love it because I connect with others. I love it because my writing, my contribution, my perspective, is appreciated by many.
I hate hate hate it though because, try as I sometimes might, it reminds me all the time of the enormity of my lossES. Plural. Too many.
Horrendous. I hate it because I KNOW I am just scratching the surface. More pain is there to emerge. I am so out of synch sometimes. I have learned – and accept – that my shock protection bubble after major loss is MASSIVE and SOLID and LONG-LASTING. Some people, many people, ask me “How do you cope?” And I realise that they know something I don’t. They sense that the absence of Don, Ed, Mike and Julia is so big and enormously painful, so what must it be for me? But I am somehow protected.
I am ultra aware of all of these deaths, absences, that it’s forever. And yet I am not ready, not able, not willing, to really really go there, to be there in the pain. It’s too much. Too big. Too heavy. Too sad. I would go under, and I am not willing to. I cannot. I may never.
This way is my way, and that’s okay. Morsel by morsel is how I do this. Day by day. Daily writing. Sitting with the pain for a scheduled time. Really being in it for an hour or so each day. Then doing what I can to be alongside it, rather than in it, for the remaining 23 hours. It’s always there, always present, but I just cannot breathe underwater for 24 hours at a time yet. Just can’t.