What to Do on Dark Days When Words Do Not Come

If you have followed my blog on writing, you know that I’ve shared a few personal things here. You may also know that I write often about creativity. I don’t believe in writer’s block; I don’t even use the term. I’ve experienced being stuck. But being a creative person, I also believe that, in most cases, I am the most experienced person to get myself unstuck. I’ve never been stuck for too long: Until recently. But I’ve also walked through something I never have before. The death of a parent: my Dad. I’ve experienced losses. But the death of a parent is different. I’m not a person who does well with death. Nor am I a person who hides those emotions…so I’m sharing some of them here.

Sometimes feelings speak louder than words

When things like tragedy, death, or disaster crash into our lives, emotions scream and words whisper. I remember that after September 11, 2001, I didn’t write much about it for about a month. Images and emotions can be impossible to express in the beginning. My Dad’s death is new (less than one month) and there are other challenges that are going on as well. But, I know a few things. I know he appreciated hearing from me. Before I hung up the phone he’d say, “Thanks for calling.” I know my Dad didn’t always understand what I was doing with my writing, but he believed in it. He thought that it could be successful. And I know more words will come. He is a part of who I am.

We write and we live by extension

In the same way that a writer feels that the keyboard is an extension of his fingers or that the pen is an extension of his hand, on some level we all still feel like we’re extensions of our parents. I worked hard to become my own independent person, but with him no longer here, part of me still feels like the little boy who looks up at his Dad and wonders what it was like to be him. And even when you know you’re running well, you still want him to be there when you fall.

Working and writing through the sense of lost

No, that’s not a typo. People often say, “I’m sorry for your loss.” And it it’s a fine phrase, and tailor-made for the occasion. But I’ve discovered that with a parent or anyone who has provided guidance, you don’t just sense the loss, you also feel lost (and Google maps are no help at all). Regardless of how independent or how old you are, you feel like you’re suddenly in a car that is a little off-balance, or like a writer trying to write with letters missing from your alphabet. It takes time for your heart, mind, and spirit to grasp this new, uninvited, reality. And it’s hard. During such times, if verses don’t fly from your fingertips, it’s OK. They’ll be back. In the meantime listen for the words.

Mark time and make time…

Yes, the death of a parent is a life-shaking experience. We mark life by big events, marriages, birthdays, and deaths. We live life by making time for the big and the small experiences, because in the long run, the things we think are big often turn out to be small, and vice versa. One “big” event I remember as a kid was getting up with my Dad on many Saturday mornings before anyone else was awake. We’d go grocery shopping. He’d tell me not to let him Writing in Color - Hot Dog and Fries 2forget some item, and often, later that day, we’d realize we’d both forgotten it. Jokingly, he’d tell me, “Aww, you were supposed to remind me.” After shopping, we’d sometimes stop at the diner across the street for a quick lunch (before the butter and ice cream could melt). It didn’t dawn on me until I was older that he’d saved aside just enough for me. I usually ordered a hot dog and fries. Often he’d only get a cup of coffee, and then fix himself a peanut butter sandwich when we got home. Make time for those big and little moments that matter to you. Make a difference in the lives of the people you care about. And if you’re a writer, don’t forget to record some of them, because reading about some of those things might matter for someone else too. If you think these words might be important to someone you know please share them.

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32 comments on “What to Do on Dark Days When Words Do Not Come
  1. Dan Brusca says:

    When words don’t come, I take a break.
    Dan Brusca recently posted…Abomb.co.ukMy Profile

  2. Lee Escobedo says:

    After I lost both of my parents last year, my Dad in January and my Mom in June, I realized that I took a step forward in the death line. “Yes, I’m going to die,” I reminded myself in my numbness. Since then, I’ve thought a lot about the temporary and the eternal. This life is a gift from God that I can say thank you for beginning now and extending into forever. Confronting my grief has been a good thing.

    • Lee, Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving such a thoughtful comment. Yes, and yes, life is a gift each day that we have and I want to keep that in mind as I go through each one.

  3. I hope everything came together well so you were able to grieve Peter! My heart goes out to you.
    Williesha Morris recently posted…Why I Dumped the Free ConsultMy Profile

  4. Sue Coletta says:

    I lost both my parents at an early age, so I can sympathize with what you’re experiencing now. When I lost my mom I’d look at people functioning normally and think, “Don’t they know my world is shattered! Don’t they care?” I was only a teenager, but the mindset is similar. This blog is a great outlet for you to express your grief. Keep it up. Maybe it will help… a little. Though, time is really the only medicine. Of course, my mom died in 1986 (Dad in 1978) and I’m still waiting to heal… I doubt we ever really do. Take care.

    • Thank you for stopping by and being willing to comment on my post. I am in my forties. I can’t imagine what it would be like so much earlier. I know, for me, it will be easier with time. I wish the best for you. 🙂

  5. Psychic Witness says:

    I know the pain you’re going through all too well having lost both my parents. And you’re right, lost is exactly how you feel. I’m sorry for your loss. I know it’s trite but losing a loved one is the worst pain anyone can go through. No words can make up for that. I changed when my mum died. I used to be a keen photographer, but when she died, something in me died too. I hardly ever pick up a camera these days. But writing can help. As painful as it can be to write about tragic events in our lives, it can also be incredibly therapeutic.

    • Thank you for commenting. Losing a parent is indeed difficult. You’re right no words can make up for it, but I still appreciate the thoughts. Writing is indeed cathartic. I hope you pick up your camera again some time. Again thank you.

  6. Erica says:

    My friend, I can’t imagine how lost you are right now. My heart goes out to you.

    Another friend (who happens to also be a writer) lost his father to cancer a month ago and is going through the same thing. He’s writing and putting together an online tribute.

    You are not alone.
    Erica recently posted…9 Internet awesomenesses for writersMy Profile

    • Hi Erica, thank you for your words. I don’t feel alone with so many responses and expressions. Tell your friend that my heart goes out them as well. I’d be glad to read the tribute when it is finished.

  7. Susie Klein says:

    My sympathies on your recent loss Peter. My mom passed 3 yrs ago and your description of the loss…..like being “in a car that is a little off-balance, or like a writer trying to write with letters missing from your alphabet.”…is spot on.
    Susie
    Susie Klein recently posted…He Is Not A Needy GodMy Profile

  8. Micki Peluso says:

    Dear Peter,

    You words have power. I have empathy for your loss. I don’t take loss well either. I lost my 14 year-old daughter to a DWI vehicular homicide and could only use the written word to express my loss, or as you so aptly put, “Lost’. Writing about her led to a career as a journalist and writer, culminating in a book about her, written many years after the memory block broke. It was a deathbed promise that I continue to keep to the best of my ability. Writing saved my sanity and I’m grateful to have it for that loss and others that followed.

    May you find solace in your own grief.

    Micki Peluso

    • Hi Micki, I’m thankful to know that my words may have helped in some way. I appreciate the time you took to add your very personal story. I am glad you have your writing and I hope you keep sharing with others. Shared sorrow is easier to handle. If you’d like to share your book information here, feel free to do so. God Bless.

  9. KL Wagoner says:

    Thank you for sharing during this very difficult time. Your dad sounds like he was a kind and giving man — and one who understood the precious gift that God had given him in you. Thank you also for the reminders to take the time for things that matter and how important our words are.
    KL Wagoner recently posted…Why We Read FictionMy Profile

    • You’re welcome. It was helpful to write it and I am more than happy to remind people to take time out for the important things, and to be willing to share their words with the world. If you know someone the words would also be a help to please do. 🙂

  10. Jean Baynor says:

    Peter, what a beautiful tribute to your Dad and expression of your love for him in the midst of your grief. It brought tears even though it has been 15 years since my Dad died and 9 years since my mother died. You will find more thoughts of your Dad make you smile than those that make you sad. Then the words will flow.

  11. I’m so sorry about your father’s passing. I found your post to be inspirational, in that it reminds us all to never take those we love for granted.
    Tina DC Hayes recently posted…Passing of a Great AuthorMy Profile

  12. Hello Peter, I’m sorry about your dad. My father is very sick right now so I’m preparing for the worst. I agree with Beverly. You are doing the right thing by mourning first, and then writing about your experience. I wish you all the best.

  13. Deanne says:

    I’m sorry to hear about your father’s death, Peter. Dads influence our lives in many ways, and when they’re not there anymore, we do feel lost. May your memories comfort you and make you smile…

  14. I think you’re right. Sometimes we need to step back from being a writer and just be ourselves–live our lives. Let the emotions run their course without forcing them out on paper for public display. Some life events tear through us like a knife, but we can give the wound time to heal. There will be time to write later and our writing will be the stronger for it.
    Christy Bower @christybower recently posted…You Say That I Am a KingMy Profile

  15. Beverly says:

    Peter, my heart goes out to you at this time. It may be a challenge to write at a time like this, but I think you are doing what is best — you’re writing about your feelings. One of my favorite columns I wrote when I was a reporter, was about spending a special day with my dad as a kid. As you process the pain of losing your dad, use that emotion to write about your memories — good or bad — and celebrate your dad all over again. The world will be more than happy to listen.
    Beverly recently posted…‘Head Butts’ Most Consistently Popular PostMy Profile

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