Friday, September 6, 2013


Jacob, having recognized the tunic of Joseph that his son reported to him tinged with blood, think that he is dead and abandons himself in his grief (Genesis XXXVII, 31-35) - Marc Chagall

I've heard it said before, by people who who've experienced grief, that if one has never lost one very close to them, they cannot possibly imagine it. I know why they say this; honestly I've felt it before myself. This pain leaves the deepest of scars. It goes through your gut like a sword, and cuts through tendons in your soul that you didn't even know you had. It is so painful, so unexpected, so unlike what you imagined, that it's difficult to see how someone who has never experienced sorrow would know what it feels like without actually experiencing it.

I'm an optimist though, and I want to believe that people have the potential to understand grief from the outside, even if it's only in a rudimentary way. I think some can; but I also think there are those out there who have gone through grief and do not yet understand it themselves... so why is this? What does it take to have understanding of grief?

It takes empathy, honestly, and a lot of it. If you're writing about a character undergoing grief, the thing is that you can't take it lightly. Honestly, you can't enjoy it. This isn't one of those 'Oh yay, I get to torture my character!' moments. It isn't 'Time to relish the drama!'. If you're going to write about grief you need to take the situation seriously, with empathy, or else it won't seem real. And not with the self-righteous seriousness (i.e. look how sophisticated I am... I'm writing about grief), but the seriousness of treating the feelings of those who have borne grief with care.

 Love, care, protection, empathy. I honestly believe if you have those traits you can write about grief, even if you've never personally undergone it. That's me being an optimist.

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