This is a much darker post than anything I’ve written before on this blog. Up until this point, I’ve shared stories of triumph, writing thoughts, and helpful tips. But now I want to share a bit of my heart – and how writing helped me through the darkest period of my entire life. I share this because I believe that it can do the same for you. And something tells me that the fact that you even clicked this link and started reading this post means you’re probably in a kind of dark place, too. And that’s okay. There’s no judgment here.
A year and a half ago, my life took a sharp downturn. It was a convergence of several worst-case-scenarios: not one, not two, but three family members died within one year. One of them was my beloved grandma – my childhood best friend, the woman who encouraged me to write. She’s the reason everything I’ve accomplished became possible. I owe every word I write to her.
Then my dad lost his job and couldn’t find work for over a year. I was attending college, and the money ran out, and I came home to work full-time and figure out my life. In that same year I also lost my boyfriend, whom I considered to be the love of my life. He decided to do a year of mission work in Alberta, Canada and the mission group he worked for required that he remove the SIM card from his phone and contact no one from the outside world. (Pretty cult-ish, huh?) He left in August completely in love with me. He came back in June feeling nothing at all, and was a completely different person. I was devastated. If you’ve ever lost a great love before, you know the kind of pain I’m talking about. I was like Bella from New Moon. Sad but true.
For almost that entire year and a half, I felt completely lost and confused. The compound losses left me wondering about who I was, and I struggled to even pick up a pen, let alone write another novel. I couldn’t bring myself to write, even though I knew I needed to. I had a book series that had been ruminating inside of me for years, and it was time to begin the project, but I just couldn’t. The grief was overwhelming. All I did for months was just lie in bed and binge-watch Netflix. This was undeniably the lowest point of my entire life. I was sad all the time, trying to escape the sadness but only believing things would get worse, not better.
Then I started hard-core blogging on this website, mostly to get myself writing again. It wasn’t full novel writing like I was used to, but it was a good back-door entryway to start creative writing. Finally, as months went by, I felt I could begin the journey of writing the first book of a series. I started posting chapters on Wattpad, and the more I wrote, the more I started to see just how I could use my sadness to help me write.
See, the story I’m writing is about a girl with a very sad life. She, too, loses loved ones and has to cope with grief in her own way. Without the grief and sadness I’ve experienced in my own life, I would not know her pain nor be able to write about it. But because I know pain, I know what it feels like, what it looks like, how it manifests itself, how I try to suppress it, how I wrestle with it and try to cope with it. The same questions I’ve asked myself for months – Why me? When will it end? Will I ever feel okay again? – became the same question my character asks herself. The same manifestations of sadness – sudden flashbacks, little reminders, crying myself asleep – became the same ones my character endured. And the same coping mechanisms – overworking, listening to music, playing guitar – became the very ones my character employs in the story.
And slowly but suddenly, I realized that the sadness has been lifting little by little. Through this process of writing about grief and loss, I’ve been able to come to terms with my sadness, even see it as a good thing (as it can be harnessed and used for a creative endeavor), and actually embrace it.
It’s okay for me to feel sad. It’s okay to acknowledge the immensity of the losses I’ve taken this year. Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. It’s unnatural to feel happy all the time. Besides, you can’t experience great triumph without knowing the pain of tragedy.
So I guess the point I’m trying to make is that I’m not scared of the sadness anymore. I know that when I feel it, I should acknowledge it and then use it as an emotion to be poured into my creative projects. Afterwards, I feel the release of having let it go. It no longer has power over me; I have power over it.
I can listen to songs that remind me of my ex and not cry now. I can watch the movies my grandma loved and feel okay. And even if I do cry (which I previously thought of as weak and juvenile), I know that it’s better to let it go than bottle it up and hide it. I acknowledge my sadness, but I don’t let it crush me anymore. Instead I use it to my advantage. And when my book is published, I believe readers will feel that twinge of sadness. It’s a bittersweet story. But so is life.
Do I still miss my grandma and my ex? Of course. But acceptance is slowly coming. And writing is the reason. I was stuck until I started writing again. Now I know what to do with my sadness. I can smile through it now, knowing that it is not useless and unlimited after all. I use it for good, and then it’s through. I hope you learn to harness your sadness, too, and project it into your creative writing. It just might set you free.
Has writing helped you through a difficult time in your life? Tell me about it in the comments.
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