The Year of Magical Thinking

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Joan Didion

I’ve been writing my grief book using my blog posts as fence posts from the first year after my husband died.  It’s tedious and emotional work, and not something I want to go back to, but I feel it is necessary to put it all together in a readable format to help other people who are going through the same experience.  To compound this, I’ve been rereading my journals, so I can add to my posts what my friend Denise terms, “notes from the inner being.”  At the time, I wrote the journal entries I actually thought I was holding up well, but now looking back, I can see I was literally sleep walking through most of it. In my journals I often wrote how sad I was, or how scared I was, and I was.  I still am in many ways.  It takes a while to simply recover from the shock of death, but I am much better now.  What was especially interesting was reading what I wrote in the days before he died, but right now that is too personal to share.

Recently, I have been reading Joan Didion’s painful memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking. I didn’t want to read it before now because I feared it would influence how I personally wrote about grief.  There should have been no fear of that as our experiences were significantly different, and in very meaningful ways.  I had children at home, or teenagers more specifically, and I felt my daughters were at a certain juncture in their development where a tragedy like this could prove a serious life derailment.

I had lost my own father as a young girl, so I was dealing with the contrasting duality of the positive and negative aspects of this by being completely horrified by the significance of the loss since I had experienced it myself, and having the benefit of knowing precisely what my daughters were going through.  To this day the death of my own father is horribly painful, however, it was helpful in creating a road map to help my own daughters endure this painful event, learn from it and continue to grow regardless.  So, I am finding the Didion book less relevant then I would have if I had lost my husband after forty years of marriage, and I was left almost entirely alone, her daughter then died shortly after, and she wrote a second book, Blue Nights on the same subject.  Joan has won many awards as a distinguished author and journalist, but she was also a fashion icon, as she began her career interestingly at Vogue.  She was recently featured in an advertising campaign for Celine (see photo above).

Even Joan Didion recognized that there was actually very little written on grief.  I’ve also heard this from my grief counselor who uses my blog posts in his grief groups and from other websites on grief that have reprinted my work.

I am a writer and I have lost my father, my mother, my husband.  I feel compelled to complete this task because when I lost my mother I read everything I could find that was written about grief and it did comfort me.  I hope my work will do the same.

Love and blessings to all.



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