I faced grief and growth after Mom died in 2013. To honor my healing, three years later, I released my book, A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir, after giving myself time to process the loss. I tried to work on it in 2014—way too soon, and all I did was cry. That cycle went on for a couple more years before I could revisit the pain of that loss.
The Loss of Mom
On March 23, 2013, Mom died after a short three-month battle with cancer. She had been diagnosed with polycythemia vera in the fall of 1996, the year Dad died. For seventeen years, she did a monthly phlebotomy, taking blood, and she managed well. Then in December 2012, everything changed. She ended up in the hospital on January 13, and she declined from there to her death. The polycythemia vera morphed into myelofibrosis, a rare type of leukemia.
Her death came so rapidly—a short three months after the first noticeable change—and caught me off guard. At first, I couldn’t write—nothing came. But after six weeks, the floodgates opened, and I recorded my process in poetry—hundreds of lines of poetry.
At my regular therapy appointments, I shared the newest poetry with my therapist. After one tearful session where I read several moving poems, she wiped her eyes and stated, “Please publish these. I want my daughters to read these when I pass.”
After that session, I went home and pondered her request and knew I had to do it. But I needed to heal. After a couple of years of extreme struggle with my grief, I started compiling this book. As I looked at the poetry, I filled in the gaps from my Morning Pages (three hand written pages a day) I had religiously kept throughout the ordeal, and those pages helped clarify some fuzzy areas I had trouble remembering.
The Loss of Dad
As the piece came together, I realized I needed to add my loss of Dad seventeen years earlier. But as I pondered this, I realized I hadn’t written at all after he died, and I wondered why. Poetry and writing have always been my way of processing life. After much reflection, it came to me. I became Mom’s primary caregiver, and my focus after losing Dad was her, not me or my loss.
The book begins with the loss of him and, in writing my description of him and his death, it became my way of processing the loss of my dad. His section is short, but he affected my life as much as Mom did.
In my other three books, I had either photographs or illustrations, so I wanted some visuals in this book that personalized it. My brother’s youngest daughter, Cheryl, came out before Mom died and helped us tremendously. She’s a fantastic artist, so I asked her to illustrate it, and what a job she did! She captured so much of my emotions in each drawing.
For the cover, I asked Facebook fans what they thought the cover should be. I had downloaded several really appealing photos to buy. They responded emphatically—not a stock photo, but a picture from my hometown. So, a dear friend and I did a photo shoot one day with Saddlerock, a predominant landmark, behind me with me standing in an open field on the high plains of southeastern Colorado. I added a snippet of one of Cheryl’s drawings up in the clouds: Dad and Mom as angels looking down on me. I love the way the wind blew my skirt—so life like!
When I titled the book, it only identified the memoir to be about grief, but the book deals with my growth through the losses, too. Of all my books, this has been the hardest to sell. People don’t want to talk or read about death and grief. They miss the point, maybe because it’s not stated in the title, it’s about growth too. I’m considering changing the title. What do you think?
Interestingly, of all my books, this one has won the most awards.
As I faced the grief and growth of losing my parents, I healed. That’s my hope for you in reading this book. Have you lost your parents? If so, how did you handle it? (Share you comments below.)
Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com