Guilt and Grief
In the August 25, 2019 article “I Couldn’t Say ‘My Mother’ Without Crying” by Hope Edelman, the topic of childhood grief is heavily discussed. Edelman describes the difficulty found in dealing with grief of a child specifically in the case of the loss of a parent. Edelman briefly discusses how the closeness of the grieving to the deceased effects the pungency of a loss. However, I feel that an emphasis must be applied when discussing the loss of someone who is not one’s parent. The uncertainty of the relationship between the deceased and the one grieving can cause more strife to the suffering child. While closeness of one to the deceased may influence the child, the closeness of others can hold just as much effect on the grief process.
In 2012 a friend of mine was declared missing and was eventually found to have been killed. Coming from a small town, everyone spoke on the subject and everyone seemed to have their own stories. When speaking on my friend’s passing, however rarely I did or do, I always emphasize that I was not her best friend. We played soccer together, we had sleepovers, we went to each other’s parties, we sat next to each other in classes, but for some reason I felt unjust in claiming any part of her. Having such a mindset, I became guilty over the amount of grief I was feeling. I would often think, “what right do I have to feel so much pain when her sister is undoubtedly suffering worse.” Dealing with a traumatic loss and feelings of guilt over grieving led to several changes of personality that are still apparent in me today. Seeing other’s dealing with or not dealing with their grief brings an uncertainty to the validation of a child’s own feelings.
While Edelman’s article captures the difficulties of facing grief as a child, it does not show the effect that the grief of others also holds on a child. Being someone who was undoubtedly changed by the loss of someone close to me, I find that it is just as important to validate the grief felt by a child as it is to help the child grow through their loss. If other negative feelings are eliminated, it is much less gut wrenching for a child to process their loss.
MP, I’ve read only 3 sentences of your draft so far, but I already have some advice I hope you’ll appreciate and take to heart. Possibly, I’ll regret being so judgmental and jumping to a conclusion, but, please remember, readers are very judgmental and jump to conclusions. If they think you’re going to waste their time, they’ll move on to something else. No matter how pressing is the news you have to share, if you don’t deliver it promptly, you will lose a large percentage of your audience.
So, what makes me say this?
Sentence 1. Grief is discussed.
Sentence 2. The special grief of a child who loses a parent.
Sentence 3. The pungency of the loss.
Forgive me for being hypercritical, but these three sentences are just one sentence.
You continue in much the same way. Your closeness to the subject matter is evident. Your sincerity is profound and moving. I do not quibble with your emotions or your tone, only with your word count.
This reduces to:
I hope you can separate your personal feelings from your critical appraisal of your writing here, MP. In no way do I want to critique your grief. I just want to point out that readers are preoccupied until we capture their attention, demand their involvement. And they bail on us as soon as we flag.
This paragraph is excruciatingly emotional:
I want to hug its author and promise that nobody is in charge of grief: it beats us up any way it wants to. I want to preserve every nuance of emotion it contains. But I also feel compelled to edit it, if I may be so bold.
Is that what you meant? I feel intrusive imposing an interpretation on your feelings, but I consider it my job to help you express them clearly. Is this accurate?
You used the word “however” in your first paragraph, but you’re not arguing with Edelman, so you don’t need to contradict her. You’re enlarging on her thesis, expanding the realm of devastating juvenile grief beyond the circle of kin. Be gentle in your critique. You agree with her in everything else, it seems.
This is particularly effective, but even so unclear:
Again, I’m going to presume to interpret your emotional state. Apologies in advance.
I know. I’ve taken tremendous liberties here. I shouldn’t be rewriting your work. But getting it right seems important to you, MP, and I want to help you find the words that will do that. You’re already a good writer with a devotion to nuanced feelings. That will serve you well. But precision of expression will help even more.
I hope you find these Notes helpful and not too intrusive, MP. Please let me know how you feel about the feedback. Much as I like to give advice, I very quickly start to ignore students who don’t keep the conversation going.
1. Respond to this feedback with a Reply.
2. Open your post in Edit and make revisions.
3. Update your post without creating a new one and without changing its title.
4. Leave me another Reply to alert me that you’ve made changes.
I look forward to seeing your revisions.