Guilt and Grief
In the August 25th article “I Couldn’t Say ‘My Mother’ Without Crying” by Hope Edelman, Edelman describes the difficulty found in dealing with the devastating grief faced by a child who loses a parent. As I can attest from personal experience, the grief of a surviving friend can be just as pungent and lasting. For Eldeman, it is “the closeness of the grieving” that crushes a child, but I and others have been just as destroyed by the loss of those we “consider family.” Not having the link of the literal title of family ushers gut-wrenching feelings apart from grief into the grieving process. The excruciating feeling of grief experienced by a child is aggravated by additional feelings like guilt brought on by a “so close, too late” mindset.
In 2012 a friend of mine was declared missing and was eventually discovered to have been killed. Coming from a small town, everyone had a story to tell about her. On the rare occasions that I shared mine, I emphasized 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. Observing the grief of those around me made my own feel self-indulgent. “What right do I have to feel so much pain when her sister is undoubtedly suffering worse?” I thought. The feeling that I should grieve in private rather than burden those who are undoubtedly feeling worse with my pain lead me to bury my feelings, creating a hole much larger than if I had simply grieved in the moment. The trauma of her loss and my guilt over grieving her are still evident in my personality today.
While Edelman’s article captures the difficulties of facing grief as a child, it does not show the confusion the grief of others induces on a child. Being someone who was undoubtedly changed by the loss of someone close to me, I can affirm 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. No child can process grief without validation. Only when a child is forgiven for what they are feeling and assured that their feelings are legitimate, can they begin to process the complicated feelings of guilt that accompany loss.
—MPSJ, you’re making an important comparison here, one altogether worthy of a Letter to the Editor. I applaud your choice. Second, you’re grappling with an emotional topic, which is challenging, so I acknowledge the difficulty of getting the tone right. Technical advice might sound out of place in this situation, but I hope you’ll see how much the right phrasing can emphasize the emotion.
—Your language creates distance.
—1. describes the difficulty found in dealing with
—2. is apparent
—3. the closeness affects the loss
—4. can hold just as much of an effect
—What you want, instead, is to strip away that buffer and use the verbs that confront your readers with the rawness of grief.
—Your verbs were: describes/is/affects/hold
—These verbs are: devastates/loses/racks/crushes/destroyed
You’d have to pivot from there to the recognition that grief at the loss of others for whom you “have no right” to feel so deprived of can be complicated by other emotions, including the guilt of feeling “so close, too late” now that you’re irrevocably separated.
I hope it’s clear how much more the second version of the opening paragraph makes the reader feel the weight of the grief.
Can you apply that lesson to your other paragraphs, and to any writing you ever do forever and ever? 🙂
Your reactions, please. And, of course, if you want additional feedback, put the post back into the Feedback Please category and leave a Reply to direct me to your specific needs.
MPSJ, now that I’ve had a chance to compare your first Draft with this Portfolio version along with my own responses to that Draft, I can see that you found the feedback helpful, so I’m disappointed that you haven’t responded to that feedback more directly.
Now that you’ve placed your post into the Feedback Please category, again without indicating what sort of help you seek, I’m going to have to insist that you specify what you’re looking to gain from the interaction. This conversation needs to go both ways. Otherwise, I quickly tire of talking to the void.
I apologize for taking so long to respond to this post I had intended to return and make a comment after I had posted the assignment. I have had two family emergencies in the last two weeks and have been preoccupied with family matters and other deadlines. I appreciated the feedback I originally received and attempted to condense my letter and work on the clarity of the writing and was wondering if you had additional feedback regarding these issues.
Thank you, MP. I understand families and family emergencies. You’ve clearly taken feedback to heart, and you’ve posted an improved version of your draft as your Portfolio version, so you haven’t done anything wrong. My “having to insist” is my own issue, having more to do with a professor’s agenda than anything you should have to care about.
If you want specific help, you should ask for it. If you don’t want or need it, that choice is entirely yours. My love for my students is unconditional; only my rules place conditions. 🙂
This time you’ve asked for specific advice: “I attempted to condense my letter and work on the clarity of the writing and was wondering if you had additional feedback.” I’ve put you back into the Feedback Please category and, because you’ve made a detailed request, you’ll rise to the top of my Inbox.
Wishing you and your family well.
MPSJ, you didn’t make a specific Feedback request. I will return to offer feedback, but first I’ll respond to your classmates who gave me guidance about the sort of responses they wanted.