Monday, August 31, 2009

Letting Go of Grief

Nearly twenty years ago and long before I ever knew I was a writer, I thought it would be interesting to take an introductory writing class at our local community college. I had the urge to write, but didn’t have any idea that I was capable of writing a story. However, in the Writing 101 course I signed up for, not only did we tackle writing resumes, research reports, news articles and statistical reporting for office procedures, but we were also given the opportunity to create the written selections of our choice for our final projects.

I instantly knew what I wanted to write. I didn’t know, however, if I could do it justice. It seemed an insurmountable task. But I had a burning desire to capture the spirit of my father—my dad—on paper. He, who had passed away nearly ten years before, was on my mind constantly. It seemed I had to write about him, tell the world what a great guy he’d been in his lifetime…tell them how much I missed him!

But where to start, I wondered. I didn’t think of it as grief at the time, but that’s exactly what I was doing—grieving. Grieving for the times we had spent together in our Upper Peninsula of Michigan home, grieving for the times that would never come again, grieving for my immense and unsettling loss.

But suddenly, I realized I could go back! I could go back and relive one of the most powerful memories I held of our times together. All I had to do was recall the memory in detail and write it down...

Because of my constant pleading, my father decided to take me with him on a deer hunting expedition to the backwoods of the North. Although his decision was met with stony silence from his fellow woodsmen, he plunged ahead determinedly, as he did with all decisions. He was a man among men and his pals acquiesced to his resolve. The hunting trip was a gift from him to me for my sixteenth birthday. I remembered every detail in living color.

How to start writing? I thought about it and asked myself, “What would Dad do?” The answer was simple. He would plunge right in. And that is exactly what I did. I wrote and wrote, and when I thought I was done, I read over what I’d written and added a word here and there, revised a few sentences, checked my punctuation. But in rereading what I’d written, I realized I had captured the essence of the adventure. More importantly I had captured the heart and spirit of my dad.

When I turned in my paper, I hoped my professor would see that this was more than just an assignment, a fictional story. I worried that she would not see how important this was to me, beyond receiving a good grade. But I was not disappointed. When my story was returned to me, the letter A was written carefully on the last page…followed by four brief words. “You touched my soul,” she had written in small letters under the grade.

Her inspirational support spurned me on to write other stories. But that story, entitled “A Killing Age,” was the one that stood alone among all the others—just like Dad. The writing of this adventure was truly a work of grieving though I didn’t realize it at the time. I had accomplished what I had set out to do. I’d secured my father’s memory for all time and had given up the sadness that had surged inside for so long. The poignant and somewhat funny story, filled with both happiness and loss, formed the basis of my first book of memoirs, “The Wishing Years,” published in 1995. Many readers have shared their innermost thoughts, wishes and dreams with me about their own experiences after reading the book. It has been my great pleasure to know I have touched others with my memories.

Now I have a newer book of memoirs in publication, “A Tree Grows in Trout Creek.” Dad is in this book too, along with all my family and friends from the past. He is still as determined as ever in all the stories I recreate of our true times together. I write now with nothing but pure joy. I am no longer grieving; I am celebrating my memories.

If you are living with grief over the loss of a loved one, recall the most cherished memory you shared with that person (or pet). Then write it down. Don’t worry about how it sounds…just write. I let go of grief through memory writing. You can, too!


  1. Well, I knew you had the gift of writing, but I did not know you had published works. I must read them. Can you direct me where to purchase? Tks!! :-)

  2. You can order autographed books on my book blog:
    Check it out...I ship same day or next day at latest!
    Thanks for asking!

  3. I would love to find a class like you mentioned. When I first started blogging I posted a few short stories and was told I had a gift, but I've not honed the skill as of yet. I may re-post a writing exercise that I did just for fun one day.

    Keep up the great writing!

  4. I was wondering how you got started!


  5. Very nice and kind words. I found "time" is the best healer of all. You always have memories, but in time you will heal. So happy you shared these thouoghts with us. Thanks for leaving me a comment.

  6. I so enjoyed reading your post today, very inspiring and comforting.
    Thank you for making time to visit Normandy, please call round anytime.
    a bientot
    Maggie @ Normandy Life

  7. Hi Coralie,
    Thank you for visiting my blog today. I love to write too and I'm writing a story about my life for my children. I'm not brave enough to write a book just yet although I would love to. I did however write about my father for Father's Day on my blog. He passed away in 1995 and I still miss him dreadfully. I'm glad you've taken the inititive and done something with your dreams! Have a wonderful day.


  8. Coralie, thanks for being such an inspiration.

  9. I always enjoy reading your blogs but found this one especially helpful. I'll write memeories and see if my "Jessie" (our 13 yo granddaughter we lost in a car accident) days are further apart..thanks for the suggestion....

  10. What a lovely heartfelt post, Coralie. I thoroughly enjoyed the depth of emotions & love.

    The books you wrote arrived today. I am captured on just the first couple pages of both ... now to choose which one I will continue with first.

    Have a beautiful day, my friend.
    TTFN ~ Marydon

  11. Thank you. I need to do this, but seem to have a writers block. I hope to find your books as I know I would like them. Sharon

  12. Wise words from a very wise lady.x.

  13. Coralie,
    Thanks for sharing this memory of your grief and of your love for your father. I am glad your professor recognized these words as words from your heart. Hope your week is a good one. Vicki

  14. Enjoyed reading your post today -- thanks for visiting Linderhof.

  15. Coralie, I've been writing a bit about my parents this past week. It is exhausting. I think that's the grief. I did love the deer story in your book. I think community writing classes are the breeding grounds of greatness! I took an adult school class in writing when I was first married and when everyone shared their first stories aloud (we all had to write on the same subject: earthquake) I was stunned. Not only had we all interpreted the subject so vastly differently, but everyone else's story was so much better than mine! When it was my turn to read mine aloud, the others told me mine was so much better than theirs -- which just goes to show, we all lack confidence about our writing! But that won't stop you if you know you must write, as I do, and as you obviously do!

  16. Hello, Thank you so much for stopping by. I enjoyed your post today. I wish you the best in your writing!
    Bless you, Shirl
    Shirls Rose Cottage

  17. what a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing. It's necessary to be able to let go but at the same time to always keep our loved ones close to our hearts :-)

  18. Coralie, All week long I've been thinking of writing a letter to someone, someone that can never read it.

    It's strange but I always think of grieving as staying connected to that person. To not grieve would be to walk away. Maybe after all these years, I need to write that letter.

    Thank you Coralie. I think I needed to visit you:)

  19. How do I buy your books? They sound wonderful! Let me know please. Also come on over to my blog because I have a book I'd like you to read. Thanks, Pearl

  20. You are right about not knowing where to start, I am in that position as we speak. Keep up the good work! Have a great weekend!