I've been a journalist and a novelist, but writing creative nonfiction has been the hardest journey for me so far. Using journals from the time to reinforce my memory, I relived the process. I cried while writing and revising. I had nightmares as the memories came back to life long after I'd shut down my computer for the night.
So why write this? Why go through the pain again? Well, it's simple. While I was going through this as a young widow with two children to raise solo, I felt very alone. Surrounded by couples who were also young in the big scheme of things and family members who were so angry at Sean that they didn't want to discuss it, I felt like a freak...a zombie walking amongst the living. No one could "get it". To the outside world, I seemed fine while behind closed doors I unraveled. I never want another soul to feel that what they're experiencing is wrong or that they are alone on the hard road of grief and trauma recovery.
I debated for a long time about writing this story, despite the encouragement to do so. And, quite frankly, I couldn't have written it until now. It was too raw...and I was too fragile...a few years ago to tackle this project. When you're in the midst of the pain, it's impossible to view it objectively. I wouldn't have known how to go about it, in other words. Now I'm strong, entering a new phase of life, and the kids are old enough to have an opinion about me sharing our story. Am I objective in the memoir? No, probably not. Is anyone truly objective about their own life? I write it purely from my perspective, in present tense, and attempt not to make judgments. It's as honest as I can be about it, which means I also talk about my mistakes as well as my successes.
I never realized that writing creative nonfiction--which is what all memoirs are--would be so challenging. Fiction enables me to channel emotions through a character, to hide behind a filter. I've cried when writing fiction--often, in fact--but nothing like this. Free Fall is like nothing I've ever written before--and will probably ever write again.
As a writer, it's fascinating to me how challenging this truly was for me. I put it aside many times, kept it out of sight, avoided conversations about its progress...but here it is. It's time. I only hope my journey helps someone else survive their loneliest and darkest challenges as they traverse the unknown path of grief and tragedy.
“Sometimes you can’t let go of the past without facing it again.”
Coming August 2013