I went to my last writing workshop last week. As I wrote a few weeks back, this writing group was sponsored by the local hospice organization and was designed to help the bereaved deal with their grief. I decided to attend because I had always wanted to see what a writing group would be like.
In general the experience was fascinating. I enjoyed listening to the other participants’ essays about their lost loved ones and their loss. In the end, however, I am glad the thing is over. As the weeks went by, I continued to feel out of synch with my fellow grievers, who seemed, in their writing, to be stuck in the past.
When I write about the past–and those of you who read my blogs regularly will know that I certainly do–I do so to analyze things that happened, people whom I knew, in the hope that those things and people can inform me in my path forward through life.
I write to construct my life, not to deconstruct it. And I felt that the group was mainly deconstructing, that it was pulling me into the past when I wanted to move into the future.
I knew that my fellow writers found the workshop more useful than I did so I didn’t mention my feelings to them. Everyone grieves differently, and I’m sure that the workshop helped the others a lot.
And I couldn’t ever forget that I was in a fortunate position relative to my fellow writers. They came to the workshop in order to write, to give voice to their feelings. I write and give voice to my feelings every day.
Nevertheless, I did write a few rather sweet essays. I’m sharing a brief one below as a farewell to the group. It’s apropos since right now my brother, my sister-in-law, and I are going through my parents’ old albums and diaries. The writing cue was a poem called “What the Living Do.”
What the Living Do (Tinky’s version)
The living hurry. We get annoyed. The dead don’t seem to be in much of a hurry—and if they’re annoyed they certainly haven’t told ME about it.
The dead don’t make lists.
And I don’t think they worry about the weather, although we were careful to send my parents’ bodies off in warm, cozy clothes just in case.
Their only work now is to rest … and to inspire us with biographies and memories.
We, the living,
… feed the pets and cook supper,
… do housework (not a lot of it in my case, but more than the dead in any case),
… take casseroles to the sick and the newly bereaved,
… try to make a living,
… exercise when we can,
… talk on the phone and read the paper and watch TV and send emails.
We also feed the only hunger left in the dead: to have their lives, now seen in full narrative arc, remembered and examined.
We laugh or at least smile at the jokes we thought we had heard too many times when they still lived.
We turn the decaying pages of old albums and review—relive—moments of their lives: the first words they uttered, their fresh faces at graduations, the huge grins that greeted babies and grandchildren.
All the moments of their lives merge in memory … so that we, and they, can finally say that we love each other as whole people.