Tag Archives: grief


18th November 2013

Last week was one of *those* anniversaries. Not for me but for a dear friend of mine. And not the good kind of anniversary – at least not all good. Loss is never better or worse, but from the outside looking in, it’s sometimes impossible to see how an individual makes it through.

About six months after her loss, my friend began writing. She asked me for book recommendations, and I, in turn, went to Twitter. I got some excellent recommendations, but the one that touched her the most was Ann Hood’s Comfort: A Journey Through Grief. This quote, in particular:


Grief is not linear. People kept telling me that once this happened or that passed, everything would be better. Some people gave me one year to grieve. They saw grief as a straight line, with a beginning, middle, and end. But it is not linear. It is disjointed. One day you are acting almost like a normal person. You maybe even manage to take a shower. Your clothes match. You think the autumn leaves look pretty, or enjoy the sound of snow crunching under your feet. Then a song, a glimpse of something, or maybe even nothing sends you back into the hole of grief. It is not one step forward, two steps back. It is a jumble. It is hours that are all right, and weeks that aren’t. Or it is good days and bad days. Or it is the weight of sadness making you look different to others and nothing helps.


She told me she repeats the first line to herself: Grief is not linear. Grief is not linear.

Our lives may be, but our pain most certainly isn’t. And making sense of it is necessary for most of us. If you’ve read something – fiction or nonfiction – that helped you cope with grief, I’d love if you’d share it here.

Review: Shake Down the Stars by Renee Swindle

8th August 2013

pg1*This book was sent to me by the author Renee Swindle in exchange for an honest review.

It’s been five years since Piper Nelson’s daughter died, but she’s coping worse than ever. Her mother and sister are so absorbed in the sister’s celebrity wedding, they don’t have time to notice Piper’s pain. Her ex husband has moved on, and the loss seems to sever her last connection to her daughter, adding to her sorrow.

Her job as a high school teacher suffers as Piper begins drinking more and more to stave off the pain. And like many addicts, she’s hurt too many people by the time she reaches the end of her descent to know where to turn. Help comes in the unlikely form of Selwyn, whom Piper meets at a disastrous engagement party for her sister and her sister’s pro football fiance. Not put off by Piper’s anger and addiction, he instead offers her support and friendship.

She knows she needs to change, but how do you move on from such a loss? How do you shut it away when others are ready to pass over it?

Though Shake Down the Stars could easily have been a depressing or morbid book, Renee Swindle writes a book that feels incredibly realistic and respectful. Addiction is never demonized but written about with understanding and empathy. Swindle also respects that loss looks different to different people and that the reactions to death can range as widely as the people that death affects. But Piper can’t see that in her grief, and the family dynamics and her eventual recognition of them is just as pivotal to her story.

Piper learns to find joy and laughter again through unexpected relationships, including other addicts who walk the same road she does. Yet never does Swindle brush over Piper’s pain, making for a book that can cause laughter and tears sometimes on the same page.

ZZ Packer, author of Drinking Coffee Elsewhere says it best, calling Shake Down the Stars “a rich, savvy exploration of the many kinds of love, loss, and dysfunction that can unearth us or save us, bedevil us or deliver us.”

Add this to your Goodreads shelf.


16th April 2013

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

I never claimed to like running. In fact, I’ve been quite vocal (around friends and family) of how much I hated it – uttered after I’d gone for a run that morning or just prior to a late evening run. When I injured my right foot two years ago, I had to stop running. I started other types of exercise, experimenting which made my foot ache worse than others. And I didn’t miss it all that much. I saw doctors, one doing an MRI then telling me I needed to wear orthopedic shoes (ha!), all for princely sums of money. But after making me wait for two hours one day, only to release me, I immediately left the doctor’s office, donned my running clothes and tennis shoes and ran. I ran through pain and heat and anger and came out the other side, sated in a way, but realizing how much I’d missed that hated exercise. I think of a Nike pitch scene from the film What Women Want, one I’ve always thought captured running well, that describes running as an act almost of defiance of the self. As Jen at the Well Read Fish said in her post this morning, “I don’t run to protest anything. I don’t run to put others down. I don’t run to oppress. I don’t run to prove a point.” Running is intensely personal, so personal that the motivations for running a marathon can range from obsession to need to ambition.

When I read CharlesPierce’s piece in Grantland, it struck me when he talks about how the runners in the Boston Marathon had “already traumatized their bodies over 26 hours” that there is an exquisite pain in running but that the pain is immediately followed with a joy so intense, some term it runner’s euphoria.

And that running yesterday was stymied. The pacing and release of the run turned to running in fear, in anguish, in desperation. Some ran to find family. Others ran to tear down the barriers keeping the crowd from the runners, running again to aid the wounded, the shocked, the dying. Still others ran to the hospital to donate blood, taxing their bodies even further and showing up in such large numbers that they were turned away.

I hate everything about these incidents of mass violence in our society. I hate the death and pain – literal and figurative – that they inflict. I hate the fear they instill in each of us, in ways large and small. But I also hate the products of that fear. Seeing the reports that a Saudi national, here on a student visa, was questioned, made me near ill, as I have taught Saudi nationals here on student visas, students so amazingly kind and wonderful that just last week, one brought me a box of 60 (!!) granola bars as thanks for editing a letter for her. I hate, too, our desire to deconstruct the use or avoidance of terms like terrorism, when in reality, people were terrorized yesterday, and though that may not fit the FBI’s definition of terrorism, it works for me. Today, the terror many felt has turned into horror as the shock subsides and the reality sets in.

I want a kinder world. Yes, there have been moments of bravery and love and generosity. Even Twitter was a more watchful, cautious tool than it has been in the midst of more recent crises, as The Signal Watch points out so well. But that we’re learning to adapt and move forward warily doesn’t stop my desire for kindness in its largest sense. The who, why, and how doesn’t matter nearly as much to me in this moment because the answers to those questions won’t change what has happened. And as Craig Ferguson said on his show last night, “I just can’t not think about it.” And I suspect I’ll try and fail to not think about it tonight as my feet pound the pavement.