About Writing about Grief

Give us grace to do your will in all that we undertake; That our works may find favor in your sight.  –The Book of Common Prayer, Prayers of the People, Form III

So, I get lots of questions about my writing process. For starters, y’all are stuck with me. I have an ample supply of posts. Some are fully formed and ready like airplanes circling the airport waiting to land, and some are just in the beginning stage, stored up like eggs waiting in an ovary. Most of my ideas, my initial thoughts, begin as handwritten notes.

Handwriting may be low-tech, but it is just so practical for thoughts that are happening in the moment. Handwriting is also useful because it forces my racing brain to slow down. My brain sprints back and forth between sensory or short-term memory and long-term memory, relies heavily on working memory for the act of writing itself, and at the same time, is filtering all of it through a swirl of emotion and the sieve of grief. Doing this type of writing is like working some sort of switchboard for accessing memory, plugging in and out, connecting and disconnecting, trying to tame a bundle of crisscrossed thoughts like a telephone switchboard operator from the last century. It’s exhausting, cognitively and emotionally!

The rhythmic action of hand writing brings the focus, my eye watching my hand form the letters, and concentration necessary to plug-in to those memories, calmly access the thoughts and emotions, and get the ideas down on paper. In my mind, an idea, limp and deflated, fills like a helium balloon. Eventually, it gets to a point where it becomes strained, stretched, uncomfortable, and dangerously close to popping! Getting it out on paper is such a relief and deeply satisfying. What comes next is revision, and revision is all about me and the laptop. With the laptop, I’m like a sous chef wielding a knife. Chop, chop, chop! Then, over time, a piece of writing is fine-tuned for taste, texture, and color until it’s ready to be plated and served. So, no, I don’t always write in real time. It takes time for me to process my experiences and craft them into something that makes sense.

I asked God to give me words.

I have never been very good at speaking my faith in the moment although I deeply feel what I want to share. This disappointment in myself with not being able to share my faith openly has been a historical problem with me. It is not a recent struggle or specific to the grieving process in which I now find myself. In fact, it has been a frequent prayer request of mine for years. The Lord has been so good to me. I have always had a strong desire to share with others all that He has done. However, when I tried, I always came away feeling like I wasn’t doing a good enough job of sharing or explaining what it means and what it feels like to live a Good News life, a type of after-life really. It’s the life you lead after receiving the saving grace of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the gift of salvation. I struggled to translate all that into words in the midst of conversation. I always came away wishing I had shared more, wishing I had said something different, hoping I had not actually accomplished the opposite of what I was trying to do, hoping I didn’t sound like I was preaching to the person. I longed to be like other Christians I know who have the gift of sharing their faith so easily and naturally in their daily interactions with others.

So, I asked God to give me words to share with others. In my mind, I was asking for the ability to share my faith through conversation and talking, but apparently, knowing me as He does, the skill set with which God himself equipped me and my emotional state, God granted me the gift of words not through talking but through writing. I have literally been compelled and driven to write sometimes without even understanding where it came from and not recognizing it as an answer to my prayer request until sometime later on. I know it sounds like I must be a little dull not to have realized the work of answered prayers taking place in my own life, but I also think it’s not uncommon for us to get confused about answered prayer when God answers our prayers in a way that is not what we asked or expected. Honestly, I didn’t fully realize it until people started saying things like “….thank you for sharing your faith”, “God is using you”, and that my writing is “a ministry”. What a blessing! The work of God being made manifest in my life. I am so thankful that God is using my brokenness and grief to minister to others.

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

My prayer is that my writing will continue to bless others in ways known and unknown.

Ever in your service, Malia