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  • Writer's picturejessica bruyere

My Experience Writing Through Grief

Today is a hard day. It’s been a hard few days. I’m putting my heart horse (the horse I’ve connected with and loved the most over the last 13 years) to sleep today. We’ve had to deal with the problem of how to dispose of his body. I’ve had to deal with memories popping up on social media and photos on my phone reminding me of our good times together. I bought him four years ago when he retired as a trail horse, though he hadn’t really been used for several years before that. Our time together was of feedings and walks on a lead rope rather than adventures trail riding but they were good times. He knew warm blankets in the winter and regular dental care for his aging teeth. He even got chiropractic care when we first got him, plus he got meds to ease the ache in his arthritic joints. His hooves were trimmed regularly and he was loved on by a little girl and a middle-aged woman. He was cared for by a man who loved him enough to go out to feed him in the middle of a blizzard. He had a good four years.

It's been hard to write during this time. I have no advice for anyone going through grief and trying to still be a productive writer. I can only tell you what has worked for me. First, I’m writing whenever I can. Second, I’m letting myself have the grief feelings and letting myself take a break when I need it. Third, I’m letting the grief bleed into my writing, in the appropriate places. So take what serves you and let the rest go.

There are times when the writing comes easily. Those times are few and far between some days, while other days I might have hours of productive writing time. Keep in mind, I’m revising right now and not drafting anything. But some of my revisions include adding passages or even whole scenes, so there is some writing involved. Getting immersed in the work is healing, I find. And there’s still so much to do on this project before I send it to my editor in only five weeks.

During the times when writing is impossible, due to grief or my ever-present migraines, I have learned to take breaks. I know it’s time to take a break when I’m feeling stuck and nothing will come. When the sadness overwhelms and puts a block in between my brain and my fingers. (Or when the pain becomes too much.) I stop whatever I’m doing, save my work, and shut it down for a while. I sit with my grief and let it wash over me for a while until I feel like I can do something else for a little while. Then I try to get back to writing. Some days, it’s just time to be done for the day.

When I’m working, I try to find places where the emotionality is too dull or blunted. When I’m grieving and still able to write, this is where I put my focus. I can pour some of my grief onto the page and it can be in any form as long as it’s not joy. Hell, sometimes even joy comes out in the midst of grief. Everyone grieves differently, as they say. And “they” certainly have a lot to say about grief.

I have a little advice for writing through grief, after all. Don’t force your writing. On the other hand, don’t close yourself off to it, especially if a little grief can spice your writing. Let all those different emotions play out and then let them go, kind of like a wave on the ocean. You can’t stop those and you wouldn’t want to try; they’re beautiful the way they are.

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