Grief (reading) takes a holiday

still pointOver the last several months I’ve read several grief narratives–memoirs mostly.  Actually this whole year has been devoted to reading grief, and of course writing grief.  Not all these books are necessarily classified as “grief memoirs” but I wanted to read them because they deal with grief in some way.  Here’s a brief list of some recently read:

Half a Life by Darin Strauss (which I reviewed last month on this very blog)

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken

The Still Point of the Turning World by Emily Rapp

Somehow Form a Family  by Tony Early

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

The Rules of Inheritance by Claire Bidwell Smith

But grief gets overwhelming sometimes, so I  read The Kalahari Typing School for Men: A No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Novel (4) by Alexander Mccall Smith. I’d read the first three, purchased this, or it was gifted to me, and it sat on my bookshelf unread!  It was delightful. 

I’m also about halfway through Isabel Allende’s Zorro and started to re-read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott…. and I even started reading Ted Kooser’s Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps.   One of the benefits of an MFA in creative writing is the learned ability (grad school survival skill) to read several books at a time. I have many more grief memoirs to read, not to mention essays and I’ll get back to commenting on them on this blog, but for now, for my own writing, I felt like I needed something else.

I needed a break from other people’s grief because really, my own grief never takes a holiday.  Not entirely.  It’s like it goes away, maybe down to Cabo, or takes a pub tour of Ireland, but still it checks in on Facebook every now and again or tweets  status updates:

  • Cleaning out my desk! ran across this letter my mom had written to my grandma…  I recognized her handwriting instantly
  • Hmm. wondering: was mom happy?
  • Thinking about Dad– what would he think about in no particular order: Obama, the iPhone, Syria, Treyvon Martin, same gender marriage, Breaking Bad

Thirty some years down the road grief is no longer the kind of gut-punch grief experienced right after a loved one dies, but still, there are moments of pause, sometimes, still, even a tear.

So while grief may not be taking holiday, I’m taking a break from reading about grief.  At least until I finish the books on my nightstand.  There’s others waiting in the wings:  Son of Gun by Justin St. Germain, To The Last Breath by Francis Slakey, Comfort: a journey through grief by Ann Hood, The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe, Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala….  People. They just keep dying. Writers. They just keep writing about it… I keep writing about it.

About Jennifer Simpson

Writer, marketing consultant, community builder and teacher. Director of DimeStories International, where authors share their 3-minute stories at open mic events and online. Publisher and editor of the I WRITE BECAUSE project. Find out more at
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