I thought it fitting to write this blog post about how writing has become my lifeline, as this post will publish on the day I go to meet the Wales Air Ambulance crew who attended the scene of the horrific car crash that killed my 5-year-old little boy, Ned, on Good Friday of this year. This post I’m dedicating to my little hero.
I am not going to dwell on the horror that has torn my world apart, as I blog about this on my own personal blog, https://sharonmariej.wordpress.com/, in the hope of raising awareness of grief and mental illness.
This blog post is about how writing has become my saviour and how it helps to get me through the day.
We’ve all heard the old adage that everyone has a book in them. But for me, it’s more that everyone has words in them. Words are powerful. Words can take you to places you’ve never been before, places that don’t exist in the real world. Words can make you tingle with anticipation; make your heart beat faster; make you laugh or make you cry. Words are quite simply, magical.
As children, new words can delight as they roll off our tongues in a jumble of letters. I’m yet to see a child not giggle at Roald Dahl’s ingenious wording in ‘The BFG’. ‘Whoopsy-splunkers’ is one of the favourites in our house.
I read ‘Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot’, by Horatio Clare, to my eldest son last year. The title of the first chapter is ‘Rambunctious Boy.’ And that was it. The word ‘rambunctious’ echoed around our house for weeks afterwards.
Words are fun. You can play about with them. In my book, ‘Grace-Ella: Spells for Beginners’, Mr Whiskins, the cat, describes Grace-Ella as a ‘magnifulous-splendifulous’ witch. I had such fun with Mr Whiskins’ creation of phrases and it’s been fantastic to listen to children repeat them to me in story sessions.
The magic of words mean that you not only see them, but you can hear them without moving from your chair/bed – the thunderous roar of the raging sea. You can feel them – the icy sting of the wind on your cheeks. You can smell them – the mustiness when opening the old chest in the attic. You can taste them – the bitter bite of a lemon.
The wonder of words is that they don’t have to be spoken or signed, but can be written. They can be secrets; letters and diaries locked away for your eyes only, or pieces of writing hidden in a box. Words can be angry, written on paper then scrunched up and thrown in the bin.
The human anatomy is far too complex for me to understand, other than I know that we are made up of organs and bones and tissue and cells. But we are also made up of words.
After the death of my son, nothing made sense. The world around me shifted. My little boy couldn’t have gone; he was going to learn to ride his bike over the Easter holidays. His Gruffalo Easter egg was sitting in the fridge. I was Mam to three boys.
So as the tears fell, so did the words. When I was done, I looked at the page and found that I had written a poem. A poem for my son. I didn’t read it over and over to check that the rhythm and rhyme were correct, or that I had the correct number of syllables in each line (my memory of poetry writing in school). This was the first poem I had written as an adult and I let it be just as it was. I now have it framed in my office. It’s also on my blog if you’d like to read it.https://sharonmariej.wordpress.com/2016/03/30/ned/
That was the start for me. As the questions buzzed endlessly in my brain like an angry swarm of wasps all day and all night, I set them free onto the page. I wrote poem after poem. And whilst I wrote, the panic subsided, I stilled. It let me get the raging turmoil out, because I just couldn’t get it out verbally. I didn’t know how to.
I started writing blog pieces to try to understand my feelings. I felt that those who knew me well and were reading my blog could have a glimpse of what life was like for me. I also hoped that someone else out there who may have been struggling would read my words and grasp onto them – let them become their lifeline. Because while I feel like I’m drowning in this vast ocean of grief, writing is the floating driftwood that I can grab onto and keeps me afloat.
I write something every day. It may only be a few lines. It may be a fistful of anger thrown onto the page. It may be the tears that stream down my face as I sit at the graveside. But whatever words they are, writing them down helps me. It helps to empty me so that I don’t shatter into a million pieces. Writing really has become my lifeline.
For the past fortnight I have finally felt able to return to writing my books. I had started writing the second ‘Grace-Ella’ before that fateful day, and have only now felt able to return to it. So each morning, whilst the house is empty, I get to escape. I get to disappear into the words on the page. I no longer have to be me. I am the characters in my story. Time stands still, even as the world outside my window turns to russets and golds, and people talk about Christmas shopping and winter. Writing takes me away from this.
Yesterday, my GP told me that real-life is too much for me to bear. She told me that the only way I will survive is by stepping out of myself and we talked about how I would do this. The answer: writing. She pleaded with me to write every day, every spare minute I have. She also asked if one of the witches in the next ‘Grace-Ella’ could have a dog instead of a cat!
So that is how writing is my lifeline. Yes, I have medication and counselling and a strong support network. But during those hours or even minutes when my mind starts to fill up with fear and panic, with sadness and guilt, I write. I don’t let it fill up with my real-life horror because I don’t have the strength to battle it. I let it fill up with magic, mayhem and mischief. I let it fill up with witches and cats (sorry Dr Gail, no dogs). And now that I’ve opened up that creative door once more, the ideas are starting to spill onto the pages of my notebooks – the book I want to write after this one, and the one I want to write after that. The ideas keep coming, the words keep flowing.
I strongly believe that words and writing can help so many of us who are suffering due to illness – physical or mental; or horrendous loss like myself. But whilst our hearts still beat we will always have words. And if we set those words free, we can set ourselves free.
I wish I could fly, I wish I could soar,
To be with you forevermore.
But without wings, here I must stay,
To battle through another day.