Writing tragedy as healing

I’ve finally reached a point where I can start writing about the events of the last few months. It’s very rare for me to not “feel” like writing; when life gets unbearable or extremely busy, writing is something I always make time for. Just not lately.

It’s a strange phenomenon to have so many emotions and pent-up energy, yet no words. The thought of writing everything down in chronological order was exhausting, so I started with small snippets:

I started with how Halloween, my favorite holiday, is now major Trigger Territory because those fake plastic skeletons people put on their porches remind me of what Dad looked like on his death bed.

I went on to describe the final tipping point of the summer, when Tommy, our 15-year-old tabby, died of liver failure. His condition went unnoticed because Dad’s health issues took center stage. The kitty who believed he was a dog went downhill one weekend, and was gone in a matter of days. It was tragic because it was unexpected. It was excruciating because we felt like we had just gone through this – caring for a loved one who didn’t have much time left, trying to keep him comfortable when there was nothing else we could do.


It’s almost poetic, in a twisted way, to lose your father and a childhood pet in the same year you get married. It almost feels like a great literary tragedy, if you will: the juxtaposition of addressing wedding invitations while making funeral arrangements, then flying 1500 miles away to move into an apartment you have never seen before, because your fiancé picked it out while you were away caring for your dad.


And then, finally, the mix of nervousness and excitement when trying a new church, knowing you are not in a condition to be meeting new people and putting on a happy face, but if you don’t try, it will never happen.

For me, the best way to combat depression and anxiety, or at least make it more manageable, is to start with one choice. First, get out of bed (that’s an accomplishment some days). Next, take a shower. Remember to eat. And, finally, start writing.

I must have been in pretty bad shape for that last step to feel like the hardest. Unlike showering or eating, writing is something I cannot do on autopilot. Perhaps the scariest part is knowing that the act of picking up a pen or placing my fingers on the keyboard is an act of returning, and it’s hard to return to an identity that feels stretched, worn out, debilitating, and even ruined.

But I have new goals to reach. I’m preparing for my first writer’s conference in two weeks. I’m excited with the direction this new book is going, because it’s different than anything I’ve written before. And, per Dad’s request, I applied to graduate school (yes, again) for an MFA in Creative Writing. I will get married, adopt another kitty (or two) and start over. I will try not to fear being happy, even though most writers know that sometimes the best fodder for stories are found in the greatest of tragedies.


3 thoughts on “Writing tragedy as healing

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