Thursday, March 09, 2017

Posted by Laurel Garver on Thursday, March 09, 2017 No comments
Image by Charmaine Swart for morguefile
One of the most helpful things in researching Never Gone was attending a seminar on grief. The keynote speaker, Dr. Diane Langberg, discussed how grieving isn’t a linear process and it’s highly individual. The famous Kubler-Ross “phases of grief,” are often misinterpreted as a road map. Dr. Langberg said it’s helpful to re-label those “phases” as “faces.”

 Any bereaved person, whether terminally ill (the focus of Kubler-Ross’s work) or facing a job loss, divorce or death of a loved one, will cycle through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance at various times. Some steps may be skipped, some lingered over for extended periods. When grieving a death, the nature of that death will color the grief process. For example, in the case of a prolonged illness, some grieving happens prior to the death.

 I was particularly interested in exploring the immediate grief experience — those turbulent first weeks immediately after a death. Most grief fiction tends to enter the experience later and cover a longer time period than I do in Never Gone. My novel begins a few days after the protagonist loses her dad and the story covers approximately three weeks’ time. Danielle spends much of the story cycling through denial, anger, and bargaining. There are moments of depression and glimpses of what acceptance will look like when it fully flowers. Most of the deepest grief work is still to come for Dani, but the events of the novel prepare her to begin to earnestly do that work, rather than deny or flee from it.

Dani especially struggles with feelings of anger, in part because of her family history and culture, in part because she mistakenly believes that anger has no place in a life of faith. I hope this story will encourage kids growing up in a faith tradition that it’s okay to really wrestle with God in places of deep pain. One of Dani’s friends tells her, “I think God can handle it when we’re mad.” He goes on to point out that large chunks of scripture are at root complaints to God. The Psalmist and other saints of old give us models for talking (and hollering and crying) to our Creator honestly about our pain, which at root is an expression of faith that He hears, cares, comforts and makes things new.

(This post was originally written for the Rabble Writers blog, which has been suspended.)

Have your own experiences of grief borne out the idea that healing is not a linear process? What are the best stories you've read that involve a grieving character?

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