I never intended to write a book about grief. A Strange Companion was supposed to be a story about soulmates and eternal love, but as I dug deeper into the writing, it soon became apparent that, at its heart, this was a story about grief.
Grief is a funny thing. It affects people in so many different ways. Some people seem to shut down and forge on as if everything is fine, only to have a meltdown months later. Others are so overcome they can barely get out of bed. Some are pragmatic about death as a fact of life and some struggle for years to make sense of it all.
In this story, Kat is struggling to deal with losing Gabe and, even though she knows she has to move on with her life, the memories of him keep pulling her backward. Because of the way she’s learned to deal with grief (i.e. to stuff it in a box and sit on the lid, as we’ll learn later) she’s never been able to fully let go and get over Gabe’s death. She wants to have a relationship with Owen, but she’s stuck in her guilt about Gabe and her inability to let him go. She believes that if she falls in love with Owen, it means she never really loved Gabe in the first place, and so she’s trapped between her desire for Owen and her guilt about Gabe’s death.
I’ll admit that I was raised among the “grin-and-bear-it” crowd and learned that grief was something private that happened behind closed doors. Because I never saw grief in action, it left me woefully unprepared to deal with the loss of my dad as a teenager. Like Kat, I didn’t find a good outlet for my grief and it stuck with me and found ways to creep out for a lot longer than it should.
Through other experiences in my life, I’ve learned that you can’t ignore grief and, at some point, you have to face your losses. Ultimately, this will have to be Kat’s journey, too.
How have you dealt with loss in your life? How do you wish our culture dealt with grief?
Lesley Pyne says
Like you, Lisa, I too was raised to ‘grin & bear it’ (that’s we do in Yorkshire) and after Mum died I distinctly remember stuffing it in a box. And there it stayed, even when I stuffed more in when Dad died. And after a year of bearing it and sitting as hard on the box lid as I could, it wound;t stay shut any longer.
initially it felt like defeat to ask for help, but I did and am working through it now . the result is that i feel calmer and more peaceful than I have in years.
Lisa Manterfield says
Thanks for sharing this. I’m really glad to hear you asked for help. I was a teenager when my dad passed away and I did not know how to deal with it. No one really talked about it and I ended up stuffing it away too. Turns out if you don’t work through it, it creeps out for years (decades actually.) I’ve been thinking a lot about this as I write Kat’s story. Now doubt I’ll write about this some more. 🙂
Mary Jo Hazard says
I agree with you, Lisa, everyone handles grief differently. It helps to have a good support system, family and friends, who understand. In my family, my mother went to the doctor and got prescriptions to numb herself, and my father medicated himself with alcohol. They were good examples of what not to do and I realized that even when I was a child. My siblings and I are close and have always been able to talk about our feelings, that has always helped me. My husband is very understanding and so are my friends. I have caring people in my life I trust when I’m happy or sad–a great support system.