I have four basic answers to the question of why I’m starting a blog. First, I think it will be fun. Second, because the publishing industry these days is…shall we call it, uh, difficult?…and blogging will give me the freedom to say whatever I want, though my family and friends think I always say whatever I want anyway. Third (well, lets be honest here) it’s because I hope this new blog will help new readers find my books, particularly my last novel, Saving Elijah, which is, as one reviewer called it, my testament to maternal grief. And fourth, most important, I guess I think have something important to say, particularly on the subject of grief.
The real question is why do so many people think they have something important to say, so much so that the world is now overloaded with personal blogs? My skeptical college roommate pointed this out on the phone the other day. I take her point.
So much talking, so little listening. Nevertheless, here goes. I hope the reader will find truth and value in what I say, and therefore come back.
And speaking of listening, I tell everyone who will listen that my favorite definition of compassion is a Buddhist one: Compassion is willingness to be close to suffering. One of the most shocking things I found in my own bereavement was that most people haven’t a clue how to be with the bereaved. Some even abandon you. Hard to believe, but true. The reason, I see now, is that it takes work and stamina to be with the bereaved. I recently wrote an article for Boardroom called Grief Support 101: How to Help a Bereaved Friend or Relative. The article offers some simple pointers, the most important of which is to be able to listen. That means: Allow the bereaved person to tell his or her story, as many times as he or she wants to, even if it’s hard to hear. Don’t negate what he or she says about how he feels. This is delegitimizing, and it’s exactly what people tend to do with cliche advice and comments like “Time will heal.” This negates what the person is feeling now. For all the violence and death we Americans see in our entertainment, we want our real pain shrink-wrapped, bloodless, and over fast. Unfortunately there is no quick fix to alleviate the volatile, long-lasting, often ugly emotional stew that is grief; no magic potion to alleviate the pain, despair, resentment, jealousy, shock, guilt, anger, numbness, ambivalence, bitterness, and anxiety. Let’s face it, grief can be really messy, whether it comes from loss of a child, friend sibling, parent, or spouse. There can be appetite, sleep and concentration issues, feelings of isolation and rejection, even fear of going crazy or losing control. And raw emotion makes most people uncomfortable.
Here are some Buddhist style pointers:
Be Present. Be Humble. Observe. Reflect. Allow silence. Don’t judge. Accept. Listen.
And speaking of the Buddha, I saw my cousin Evan Brenner perform The Buddha Play in New York City last week. A simple production, the Buddha in his own words. Very interesting. No. I’m not specifically a Buddhist, but I do find great wisdom in Buddhism.
Why bruised muse? Because I’m a writer and a griever. Because I truly believe that I survived the death of my son by writing a novel called Saving Elijah, a fiction inspired by my own experience that I believe tells the absolute truth about grief, even if not a single word actually happened. And because it was only through rediscovering my very bruised muse in writing the book that I did survive. For more about that, see my Statement of Purpose on the Write-to-Heal Workshops page. I love doing the workshops. Helping people harness their own muses in service of healing is profound.
I also intend to blog about writing, believing, publishing, politics, Jesus, Judaisim, media, cancer, psychology, cultural decline, meaning, bleeding hearts, points of light, headgames, love, power, cynicism, aging, sickness and health, death, belief, black holes, out of body experiences, and many other issues of the day. I particularly want to blog about the disastrous way this world deals with the most human of issues, suffering and grief. So many people on this earth are suffering. Having experienced the most profound grief myself, I find I’m always alert to suffering, physical and psychological. For example, I feel for Senator Obama today. How can he not be suffering? To be so betrayed by a man he called his pastor and friend has to be devastating. Yes, religious demagogues of all color and stripe tend to be narcissistic, but narcissism cannot be the full explanation for such a spectacle. One has to wonder if the Reverend Wright has a) lost his mind, or b) lost his mind. Or maybe someone is paying the Reverend to bring Obama down.
On Saturday I’m heading down to Washington D.C. to participate in the Executive Director’s Leadership Council of Amnesty International. I am honored and flattered to have been asked to join such an extraordinary and prestigious organization, and I thank Kerry Kennedy for that, and hope I can be of assistance in this important work. I know that just being in the company of so many people of conscience will be uplifting to my soul. And I intend to blog every moment I can. I’m new to this. Bear with me.