Episode 25: Writing in Grief

On December 29, 2018, it was just Kasie and Mary in the studio and they talked about grief. Here are the show notes:


Dr. Kasie Whitener, Clemson Road Consulting and WBC of SC

Mary Sturgill, Storyteller and nonfiction author

Theme for the day:

Grief and the Writer

adult alone anxious black and white
Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

Agenda review:

  • Writing as a way to channel your grief
  • Writing a character that is grieving

Segment 1

Today’s episode was very, very personal as yesterday, December 28, 2018, we buried my Papa. After texting Mary, “Let’s do writing through grief. Buried my Papa today. Have a lot of the feels,” I started trying to prep for the show.

I couldn’t. I just didn’t have it in me to pull together resources on grief, to read about resources available to grieving individuals, to dig through “all the feels.”

On the air, Mary and I alternated fighting back tears as we talked first about my Papa’s death which came just six weeks after my Uncle’s (we talked about him in the “Writing Funerals” episode), and then about her father’s death. We ventured into talking about grieving my parents’ divorce, losing/leaving a job, moving to a new town, and losing a pet.

We talked about the catharsis of writing: put it all on paper or screen. Release it into the world. Like this and this. I wrote three blogs when I got back from the show. The third will post Sunday on this blog.

The discussion of writing through grief included a reference to this book and the “Morning Pages” practice the author, Julia Cameron, suggests. I told Mary how I’d used that practice to work through another family devastation in 2012.

The first half hour was an emotional journey but one I desperately needed that Saturday morning. So thanks to Mary for being there for me like a true friend would do — live on the radio — and here are some links for things that might help if you’re in your own grief journey:

A friend who is a Death Doula and General Manager at Greenhaven Memorial Gardens, often shares posts from this blog and podcast: On Being.

This link is about helping a grieving friend.

This one is about grieving during the holidays.

Here’s one on how to talk to your kids about death and grieving.

Feel free to share more links for our reading in the comments.

Segment 2

The topic of my first novel — the one I’m looking for representation and/or a small press for, the one that’s more a Word document and less a novel — is suicide. The first person narrator, Brian, is brought back to Northern Virginia when his best friend takes his own life. Over the book’s seven sections – each one a day – we watch Brian attempt to reconcile with his friends, tie up loose ends with his ex, and get honest with his parents about his future, all with the back drop of having “all the feels” associated with death.

In writing Brian, I never thought about grief as a motivator. I never thought of it as anything other than the reality these characters were experiencing. Even so, it manifests in Brian’s behavior in every single chapter and even in the voice he uses to tell the story, one we understand at the end has found resolution but is still able to be raw and selfish and angry throughout.

A lot of the beta readers I have who hate Brian do so because he’s selfish and immature. The ones I have who love him do so because their remember their own irrational immaturity in the throes of grief.

Of course Writer’s Digest has a list for writing about grief in a story or novel.

Here’s a “show, don’t tell” for the 5 Stages of Grief.

A heartfelt guide speaks from personal experience and this link says you don’t need first hand knowledge to write grief effectively.

And here’s one that talks about researching the topic for your fiction.

Here’s a great “how to” that’s not Writer’s Digest.

And here are 5 things to avoid (a list! hooray!)

Okay, those links should get you started researching “how to write grief.” Comment below if you have some ideas or thoughts you’d like to add.

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