Why Do We Write?

Reblogged from September 16, 2012

I attended the book signing this past August. Farther Along, written by my friend and mentor, Carol Henderson, which tells the stories of thirteen mothers (she is one of them), a bakers dozen as Carol points out, who had lost children at various ages.

I was prepared to cry. I don’t do well with death of children, even adult children. Children shouldn’t die before their parents. Maybe that’s why I choose geriatrics as my specialty. Old folks die. It’s expected. No surprises. I can deal with that.

I teared up but didn’t cry and was somewhat unprepared for the humor, serenity, and lack of self-pity as the six mothers read sections from the book. But then ten years had passed since the women came together under Carol’s guidance and direction. Certainly bereavement takes time to absorb, rant and rage against, come to terms and eventually accept the grievous loss that will never be forgotten until one’s dying day.

How fortunate the women found each other and Carol. Writing their stories seems to have brought them to a better place than they would be if they hadn’t immersed themselves in writing.

Why did these women write?

Carol says in her book:

“Writing about deep and traumatic matters, as many studies now confirm, is good for our physical health. Reflective writing actually lowers pulse and blood pressure, increases T-cell production, and boosts the immune system. Writing can help us cope with chronic conditions like physical pain—and the loss of health, of dreams, and, yes, of children.”

We all write for different reasons. I am haunted by my patients. They walk around in my memory and defy me to ignore them. I need to tell their stories.

“Why do we write? To make suffering endurable. To make evil intelligible. To make justice desirable and . . . to make love possible”― Roger Rosenblatt, Unless It Moves the Human Heart: The Craft and Art of Writing

Why do you write?


A close friend of mine just called wanting to talk about a medication her doctor advised her to take—an antidepressant. Her adult son died suddenly of a massive heart attack this past summer. An uncle died last week, on the same day a memorial service was held for her son. She just wanted some validation that her decision not to take the drug was the right one.

I’m reminded of a post from March 28, 2012, Grief: The Proposed DSM-5 Gets It All Wrong, written by Karen Roush. She states symptoms of grief, “sadness, sleeplessness, crying and loss of interest in every day pleasures” that last longer than two weeks would warrant a diagnosis of mental illness if the DSM-5 gets approval.

How long does it take to “get back to normal” after the loss of a child? Carol Henderson and twelve other mothers who lost children at various ages met over the past ten years and now have a book, Farther Along, documenting their shared journey. Their stories are an example of the tortuous route of grief.

Carol and Malcolm

Carol recently wrote that she spent the afternoon in bed on the anniversary of her son’s death–thirty years ago.

It takes time.

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