(Not) Writing through Grief

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Hello my lovelies,

you may have noticed my blog has been a little quiet lately….

I thought long and hard about posting this, because I knew it would be difficult to write and it’s also deeply personal. But… but when I expressed my thoughts and feelings of the last few months recently on Facebook, I was surprised and overwhelmed by the support I got, and by how many people said they’d been through the same. It seemed as if sharing my experience opened up the opportunity for others to share. We all appeared to feel better for it – I certainly did. Perhaps it’s because there is something heartening about knowing someone is on the same journey as you and that they reached their destination. So I decided to share.

Here it is.

In January, my granddad (stepdad’s side of the family) passed away suddenly. I wasn’t as close to him as my two sisters were, but I felt the loss just the same. We weren’t expecting it and before I even understood how ill he was, he was gone. My boyfriend and I travelled to the midlands for his funeral with my family and a quiet, dignified service was held. I worried about my stepdad and how it might affect him; losing a parent must be awful – not something I’ve gone through – and my younger sister, who took it hard. I returned to the routine of normal life, because that’s what you have to do when you have children to feed and rent to pay. But he was never far from my thoughts and the grief lurked just under the surface. I would well up and get a lump in my throat at random times.

I started a new job in February (a promotion with a new company) so it was all change, and I was determined to do my best there. Six weeks in and my dad called. My grandma was ill in hospital. Within days, before I had the chance to go and visit her, it had become serious and she had passed away. This time the grief was rawer and all consuming. I had expected her to be around for a good few years more, and the whole thing felt hideously unfair. She was my last surviving grandparent and the one I’d always been closest to. Through the weeks that followed, I was sad, bereft, angry and bitter in varying degrees and when I did the eulogy for her at the service, I barely held it together. I felt sad for my dad, aunt and uncle, my cousins and everyone who knew her. She was an amazing woman, and did some incredibly brave things, including travelling the world as an army wife. She also gave me the streak of stubbornness that has been so useful in my writing journey (try to get published and you’ll know what I mean). She would have agreed with me 🙂

I knew, as I returned to work and did my best to keep putting one foot in front of the other, that both of my grandparents would want me to carry on writing.  But somehow I couldn’t. It felt as if I was stuck in a long, dark tunnel. The passion had gone; my grief had sucked it away. I love writing, normally. I write for the same reasons I read – to escape, to dream, to live in other worlds, to follow someone else’s story, to connect with other people. I wanted to write, but every time I sat down with my laptop, I tinkered, I opened the manuscript, I moved around a few words or changed a name, but I just couldn’t do it. I felt lost, stuck. I especially missed my grandma’s text messages with regular family news and updates, I missed knowing she was taking one of her daily walks, I missed knowing that a card would arrive from her on the next birthday or half term, plopping on to the doormat like clockwork. I hated the idea I would never speak to her again. My last text message from her is still on my mobile.

But gradually, life has resumed a normality. Other events have distracted me, a little time has passed. I have written a few times. Not much, and it was challenge – I had to quite literally force myself – but starting again has allowed me to understand why I was having problems. I thought it was because of my grief, and because the new novel is too close to the bone; it’s as much about loss as it is about hope. But the other day I realised it wasn’t that. Finishing this book means I am moving on with my life, moving forward with my journey. And I think I was scared that meant leaving them behind. But it doesn’t.

Both of them were proud of their families and all our achievements, and that included my writing. So this book will be dedicated to them, and to living life as best as we all can. I am filled with a new determination that I will use whenever I sit down with the manuscript.

I am not leaving them behind. In every word, in every sentence, on every page, I will carry them both onward with me.

So for anyone who is grieving and feels their life has stood still, or who is a writer who can’t write because they’ve lost someone – keep going on your journey, don’t give up, you will get there.

Love, Nikki x

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28 thoughts on “(Not) Writing through Grief

  1. Very moving Nicky. Thanks for posting this. After I lost my son I wondered if I would lose my writing but in fact it is still with me, and in some ways my passion to write is stronger. Kosta supported my writing and more than anything I want to make him proud. I also want him to rest in peace and part of that is putting back the pieces of myself that have broken and being the whole person I’m meant to be. Which of course means writing.

    1. Thanks for leaving the comment Viki/Vasiliki. I’m so glad I posted this and I am so pleased to know you’re still writing. You are absolutely right; we owe it to our loved ones to follow our dreams and make them proud. I am sure Kosta would be very proud of you 🙂 Love and hugs x

  2. I’ll be thinking of you as you work through this sad period in your life, Nikki. My first thought is that your relatives must be so proud of you. I’m in awe that you can hold down a responsible job, bring up your children and also write. Hang onto happy memories and the words will come when they are ready xx

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Elaine. It’s so kind. I am equally in awe of the amount that you achieve and am so pleased for you at how well The Woolworth Girls is doing. Hope to see you at an RNA event soon. The words are starting to flow again… 🙂 xx

  3. Wonderful, Nikki. I totally get where you are coming from. Grief does different things to different people. I’m sorry for your loss but eventually you will be left with all the happy memories and only a little sadness. I still miss my grandma and she died over 30 years ago. I think of her all the time.

  4. Thanks for leaving such a kind comment, Tracy. I agree, grief is a unique thing and it affects different people in different ways. I’m sorry to hear about your grandma but am glad you have happy memories. I have lost other people over the years – a baby sister, a cousin, other grandparents when I was younger – it’s just that these latest losses seem sharper somehow. Maybe it’s a cumulative effect… Whatever it is, I am working through it and will keep smiling 🙂 Nikki x

  5. You are very brave to share this with us and it certainly sums up my feelings on grief and working, or muddling your way through it. I think it’s important, as you say, to take the memories along with you – the people you have lost will always be a big part of you and they will always influence your life for the good. Be kind to yourself, Nikki – huge hugs,

    Celia xx

    1. Thanks so much Celia (and to The Romaniacs) for your kind words. I’m not sure if brave is the right word, but if it’s struck a chord with people, including some lovely writing friends 🙂 then I’m glad. You’re absolutely right; our loved ones will always be part of us and a positive influence. Hugs back, xx

  6. Your grief is in every word and I hope writing this will be part of your healing process. Your grandparents would have been so proud, Nikki. You have walked into a brick wall, climbed it and moved forward, taking your memories with you. Your grandparents are part of who you are – and always will be.

    1. Thanks so much, Natalie – that’s very kind and your words have a brought a lump to my throat. I am certain that my writing will help me, and am excited to see what’s next around the corner. Take care, xx

  7. The effect of loss is unique to each person. But in sharing your experience and how it affected you, you will have helped others realise they are not alone. Grief will fade, but your happy memories will stay for ever.

    1. Thanks for leaving this comment Jane, missed it first time around 🙂 That’s a lovely sentiment, and I have some very happy memories. I think when you’re grieving, it is easy to feel alone – but you very rarely are.

      Nikki x

  8. Such an honest and emotional post, thank you for sharing. This hits home to me right now, last night I found out my dad had passed away. We were estranged but it’s hit me very, very hard, and unfortunately my feelings are apparently unjustified. Struggling I must say xx

  9. Thanks for the comment, Kaisha. I’m so sorry to hear your news but DON’T listen to whoever has told you that your feelings are unjustified. Your Dad is your dad, no matter what. You have a right to grieve. Take care of yourself, Nikki xx

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