Giving a Voice to Sorrow: Personal Responses to Death and Mourning.

February 23, 2011

I nabbed this photo from Amazon. To actually look inside you'll have to go to the Amazon webpage.

We moved recently, and the great thing about unpacking is rediscovering former selves. I especially love unpacking books,  remembering how each one helped me see the world in new ways. Just a few months after my mother died a fellow folklorist friend gave me a copy of this book, and I had to stop unpacking to flip back through it. I vaugely remember pouring over it in those raw first months of grief. I know I poured, so to speak, because scribbled notes and mishapen astricks fill the margins and thick underlining overwhelms the pages. I clearly got a lot out of it.

It’s funny how so much of the early months of grief are a bit blurry to me now. I’ve got my theories on why this is, and I suppose scientists do too, but  they are rather blurry themselves (my theories, not the scientists) and will need some fleshing out through the years. There is one thing I am certain of however, and that’s the sense of thankfulness I have for this forgetting. Those early months of grief and time spent transitioning out of the caregiving role were angry, scary, and suffocating days, and I’m glad I can’t recall the specifics of those emotions now.

But I do wish I could remember some of the more positive events from that time period–such as reading this book.  But I guess the mind can’t always neatly chisel away the bad memories from the good, so sometimes whole chunks get lost. I even wrote a post about the book on my other folk studies-based blog. It was clearly formative and must have buried itself in the muddy parts of my brain where things put down roots.

So I’ve decided to reread the book. One of the editors, Steven Zeitlin (founder of CityLore) is a huge inspiration to me, and his work as a folklorist inspires my own plans and dreams in numerous ways. Anything he does has to be good. In just skimming it, I found this introductory sentence underlined : “Giving a Voice to Sorrow explores how we use storytelling, ritual, and commemorative art to cope with death and celebrate life. It both documents and encourages outward expressions of inner struggles” (2). Subsequent chapters go on to discuss specific grieving rituals, narratives, and commemorations ranging from deaths of parents, children, even deaths due to murder and trauma. But it’s not a pessimistic book in the least. That I do remember. If you’re afraid of looking deeply into the world of grief, well, it might not be such a pleasant read. But if you’re at a place in your life where you can’t ignore the reality of death, then this book will inspire you.

No doubt this book greatly inspired me to create this blog, even if I don’t actually recall putting two and two together. There’s a lot of reasons I keep this blog, but the biggest one is that I can find hope in communication and peace in storytelling. So, discussion of the book  to come soon!

I am curious who else out there has read this book. What other books have you read about grief and the grieving process? Did you find them helpful? Would you recommend them to others? I’d love to hear about it in the comment section below. Or send me an email.  I toy with the idea of someday writing a book about grief, storytelling, and daily life based loosely on this blog and the amazing people I meet in my daily life. This may or may not ever happen, but I am sincerely curious as to what kinds of writing help people in their struggles. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

One Response to “Giving a Voice to Sorrow: Personal Responses to Death and Mourning.”

  1. Maci Powell said

    I’m hopeful you will write a book some day! I would love to read it. You are a talented writer! Until then, I have your blog.

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