The awesome Sara McClung is hosting a May blogfest, to try to blog every day in May!
I've decided to try putting a spin on things. It may not work, but I want to plan each post around a song lyric, or a quote, or something to that extent. Besides for that, I'll be keeping my posts pretty short.
Thursday: MAY I tell you something about someone else?
No? Oh well. I wasn't really asking.
Today's post is a heavy one, but instead of dumping my garbage on ya'll for no reason, I'll share some advice after I present my picture. I should probably dedicate a full post to this at some point, but there are some things people just don't know.
So. About that picture.
I'm not sure how many of you know this, but an old friend of mine was killed in a car accident a year and a half ago. I've known her for almost my entire life, and it happened before her had even begun. Losing someone is so, so hard. The pain is overwhelming at first, and never truly leaves.
It's frustrating to read books where grief is done inappropriately, or just improperly. It's not believable, and it's annoying. You can read all you want about the 4 or 5 or 7 or whatever stages of grief, but I don't believe that that's enough. You can't get into the head of someone who has lost without having lost, yourself.
I wish that no one knew how to really write grieving scenes. But life (and death) sucks.
The following is all based on my own experience. Everyone grieves differently, and the best I can do is offer some insight into my own emotional roller-coaster. So show me your ticket, and grab a seat. Don't forget to buckle up, you're in for a wild ride.
The first few minutes, right after I get the phone call: (initials are used, except in regards to this friend, who will go by Britney Carter. It's a four-syllable name, like hers.)
The phone rings. I answer it, in a good mood. "Hey, A, what's up?"
"Hi Riv. Mrs. K says that if you want to come to the memorial tomorrow, you need to bring a note from your mom."
"What? What memorial? What happened?" Heart-rate picks up in fear.
A pause on the other line. "Britney Carter passed away."
Time stops. Everything. Stops. It's a sentence, a second, that can never, ever be forgotten. I will remember what happened when I turn 80.
First emotion: Shock.
We say our good-byes and part ways. I stand up, on shaky legs and my brother walks in right then. "What happened?" he asks.
Calm. Controlled. "My friend was in a car accident."
"Is she okay?"
A shake of the head, some lip biting to keep from falling apart.
"Did...did she survive?" There's a hesitation, another moment I will never forget.
A second head shake, and I go to where my parents sit at the dinner table. The startling realization that no one else's world just ended, and these two people don't know that my life was just shaken to the core.
An off-hand, "Why are you just standing there, Riv? Sit back down."
I don't move. My face must give it away.
"Riv? Did something happen?"
I won't keep going. Next come the tears of agony and sadness, some anger at the world.
The numbness sets it, and I'm a robot the rest of the night.
In the morning, it's a bit of disbelief, but mostly incomprehension. She can't be dead. She has too much life to be dead.
That's right. She's not dead. She just left. She's not dead.
She's not dead.
She's not dead.
SHE'S NOT DEAD.
SHE CAN'T BE.
There's a break at one point, in the numbness and disbelief, and the agony makes you want to tear your heart out. Your chest tightens, you can't breathe, and it aches on your left side. I used to not understand why people connected the heart to emotions. It's really just a muscle. Everything is in the brain. Until you feel the ache in your very core.
Albert Einstein said that two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity.
I don't think that either of those things can be fully understood, either. And the same goes for death. I can't wrap my head around the fact that she's gone, even after a year a half.
A few notes on writing grief:
- Make yourself feel. No tears in the writer's eyes, no tears in the reader's. (Hey, that's catchy. I should trademark that...) One option is music. My go-to songs are: (1)On Top of the World by Boys Like Girls (I didn't connect to it until I found out what it's really about--the singer's dead mother) (2)Gone Too Soon by Simple Plan (3)Permanent by David Cook (4)Someone's Watching Over Me by Hilary Duff (not so much as the first three, though)
- It never goes away. It lessens, but it never leaves.
- There are different ways of dealing with grief. Some people cry and get over it. Others bottle up everything. Just don't have an "I'm so sad, but dinner won't make itself, and there are errands to run."
- Don't discount it. If you say "I'll come back to it later," DO. Don't leave grief hanging. Characters shouldn't be created and killed just to make your stoic character shed a single, dramatic, tear.
- It haunts. It will never leave. It can be repressed, but that sadness will come back.
- If it's your MC's best friend, you definitely can't ignore it. I've spoken to someone, a guy about loss. He lost his best friend when they were 11, and he's 24-ish. Still, there will be times when he'll be going about his day like usual, and it'll hit him. He'll put everything down and just cry.
- Death should NEVER be brushed off. Even in an action book, with lots of killing, your characters shouldn't be cold-hearted murderers. Will their victims haunt their dreams? Possibly. 1 in 8 veterans suffers from PTSD. (source)
- Yes, your heart hurts. Even though you think it's just a muscle.
This post is getting WAY too long, so I'll leave you on this happy note.
May the odds be ever in your favor,