“So it’s true, when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love.” ―
As a storyteller, I have the honor of creating. I get to dream of new worlds, over all of which I am in complete control. The world of my book is a broken one, very much like the one we currently live in. Lightning falls, crops fail, waters grow bitter, volcanoes bellow such masses of ash as to cover entire cities with their alkaline flutters.
People war against other people in the name of god or greed. Riches are unbalanced, the wealthy scheming for more as the poor give of the little they have. Love abounds, whether longstanding or budding in its inception, battles waged for the thrill of romance. I create the life of characters, their hopes, their hearts, their personalities. I design relationships, some based on affection, others hate, but all realistic.
Out of all of the battles fought, dialogues written, plots developed, architecture designed, one profound concept has stumped me. Out of all of these things, one has given me more pause than others.
Love cannot exist without grief. It is the price we pay for love, the knowledge that life is fleeting, and separation is inevitable. All life experiences grief, therefore, it belongs in my book, but how do I give it proper reverence and magnitude? How does the depths of a person’s love for someone effect the extent of their grief?
How do I write their grief in such a way that a reader not only understands it, but feels it?
Grief is so personal, so close to the heart, that when it cuts, it seems to cut forever, over and over again, each small remembrance another wrench to the soul. I blessedly have not experienced profound grief or mourning yet in my life, but I have had glimpses of it, visions of it in my friends and family, but not yet of my own. But I fear it. Oh how I fear it.
The threat of grief will twist your blankets at night, sending you shooting upright in your bed, sweat and tears mingling on your sleep pressed face. Even being of the edge of such an abyss has threatened to overwhelm me, pulling me over into the pit of despair.
So I write as an outsider, as other characters looking on, watching the grief unfold. Readers are human, they have all been touched with despair, their imaginations only needing a small nudge to feel the pain as if was their own. So I write it simply, cataloging the actions, expressions, and words, letting readers’ minds add appropriate emotions, gatekeepers to their own pain and grief.
As Dumbledore told Harry Potter in the Order of the Phoenix, “You care so much you feel as though you will bleed to death with the pain of it.”
The pain of grief is often proportionate to the extent of the love that existed before. As a writer, you cannot possibly capture an the measure of grief until you first display the depths of the love that came first. We can mourn for the loss of a child’s beloved teddy bear nearly as much as for an adults’ loss of a loved one, why? Because the teddy bear was as important as a human life? For that child, yes.
The most puzzling thing about writing grief, is that you can’t just stop there. Characters do not just magically get better, magic solves a lot of things, but unfortunately not that. How do you pull your character out of the grief back into the sunshine, ready to love again? You need to honor their lost love, give them proper time to mourn, for time is always required.
As Neil Gaiman wrote in his book Fables & Reflections, ” You attend the funeral, you bid the dead farewell. You grieve. Then you continue with your life. And at times the fact of her absence will hit you like a blow to the chest, and you will weep. But this will happen less and less as time goes on. She is dead. You are alive. So live.”
You still have to live. They may be gone, but you are here. Sometimes you may wish that it had been you, I know that my characters do. But it wasn’t. Their lives go on. They struggle, they mourn, and slowly they heal. As they heal, the pain of loss growing more distant, it doesn’t mean that they loved any less.
Do not be afraid to love, even knowing there will be an end. Do not fear it. As Jesus taught in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” You may feel as though the world has ended, and maybe yours has, but you WILL BE COMFORTED! For as inevitable as grief is, it also must end.
I hope you all choose to read my book one day, and when you do, watch the characters, track their lives, watch them love, watch them mourn, and finally watch them heal. I hope they bring you joy and encouragement. When you walk with someone through their own grief, often you find them helping you through your own.