Writing when the road is a rocky one

My mother passed away in April. As is often the case, her death was both expected and a total shock to those of us who loved her. Intellectually I knew that losing my last remaining parent would be tough. But I didn’t realize how much it would impact me emotionally. The learning curve has been steep. Five months later, I finally feel able to share some of the things I learned that have helped me continue to function professionally, as well as personally.

There will be good days and bad days

We all have these but a significant loss definitely makes them more pronounced. At first most days were difficult. By that I mean simple things seemed to take three times as long to accomplish, I was forgetful and easily distracted, and I often felt exhausted and depleted-definitely not my usual disposition!

The main problem for me has been that (surprise!) the bad days can’t be scheduled in to fit the times when you can take a day, or even a few hours, off. They are random and unpredictable, in both their appearance and duration. I quickly realized that I was going to need to come up with a few strategies that would allow me to keep making those deadlines and generating article ideas.

Start every writing project as far ahead of its deadline as you are able to

Doing this ensures that you won’t have to scramble, making yourself even more anxious.

Write everything down

In the initial stages of grief, the list is your friend. Also the Post-it note!

Don’t limit your journaling

In normal times I write in my journal first thing in the morning and that’s it. Currently I use it as a way to write out any issues or thoughts that are negatively impacting my ability to write at my highest level. If I really feel stuck, I often write three simple words at the end of my entry that I’m sure you’ll all recognize: Just do it!! Surprisingly, sometimes that’s all it takes to regain the motivation I need to finish whatever I’m working on.

Keep a list of career-related tasks that require focus, not creativity

I’ve discovered that during my darker hours, balancing my QuickBooks, shredding old papers, computing my mileage, or editing something I’ve already written the second draft on can help me regain my equilibrium.

 If all else fails, take a break

For me this is often exercise-a hike with the dog, a swim, or a bike ride. Call or go out to lunch with a supportive friend. Clean or cook something. Or just give in to the feelings and take a nap on the couch.

Treat yourself frequently

Buy that latest novel you’ve been dying to read. Or have a bowl of your favorite ice cream. Schedule a massage or a manicure. Go to a movie. Whatever brings a smile to your face and lightens your heart. One day you will write about the loss and all the feelings that accompany it. But, for now, just writing is enough.

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