Old Wounds

A few weeks ago, I dug out the stack of journals I wrote when my mom died. I filled almost 6 books from the end of June to the end of April. Ten months of grieving, nine months of carrying my baby. Two more journals written sporadically after the birth. New moms have limited time, as you can imagine.


Opening old wounds is like peeling off a scab and watching the blood rise in tiny glossy beads. It stings, but also feels strangely satisfying.

Rereading these journals brings me right back to those early days. After only a few words, the tears that have seemingly dried up, or gone into hibernation, pour out. I welcome them, as painful as it is, because grief connects me to my mother.

It maintains and strengthens our tenuous connection, the invisible string that binds us together, from womb to body, from life to death.

I’m reading these old journals not simply for connection, but for research. As some of you know, I’m creating an online grief course for my friend Claire De Boer’s site, The Gift of Writing. The course, (tentatively) called Crossing the River, is about writing through grief. Not as a means to an end, but as a way to connect and integrate (healthy) grief into life.

This course isn’t just for those who are mourning a death. You can grieve the end of a relationship, whether it’s a break-up, divorce, estrangement, or abandonment. You can grieve infertility, the loss of a lifestyle, or a dream. In a podcast with Rob Bell, author and grief expert, David Kessler explains that grief is about change. Death is a big one, of course, but grief is how we deal and process any major change in our lives.

While writing this course, my grief has returned to me in fresh waves, but instead of rawness and confusion, it’s a release. The tears come and go and so do I. Moving forward in my life, grief is my shadow. Not a dark or scary one, but a companion that I find comfort in knowing is always there.

What are you grieving, right now?

I’ll keep you updated on the course, but if you have any questions or would like to be notified when it goes live, send me a note in comments or here: writingatthetable@gmail.com

20 thoughts on “Old Wounds

  1. I love the picture of your journals. Thank you for sharing them with us. I remember people apologizing to me for sharing their struggles in their lives because it didn’t seem as “important” as child death. What I learned is just what you wrote, all grief matters, and it does not have to be a death. The dialogue that opened up between souls when all grief is acknowledged is some of the most intimate I have known. I am excited to see opportunities for more discussion on grief, what a great project to be creating a writing course! May you have some gentle moments as you journey back and move through your memories. Be good to you, exhaustion can sneak up and clock us one when we least expect it.


    • Thank you so much, Terri, for all of this. What you wrote here about people having grief guilt and comparing grief is something I thought about touching on in this piece, but decided it merits its own post. I used to put grief in a hierarchy, too, as in my mother’s grief is less than a mother losing a child (and, well, I still believe that generally speaking), but I like how David Kessler is so completely no nonsense about NOT comparing griefs. Grief is so deeply personal and individual. That said, I think there is a type of gentle etiquette one can follow when talking about grief to another person in grief, and I’ll probably write a post about that soon.


  2. Life is hard, and for me, it’s the moments that we can’t let go of. The days that feel like we’re trying to make out a figure in the mist, and we can’t. I hear every word here, and that’s what I love about writing… the people it has brought into my life, the ones I know, I would have over daily for a minute with them, and some tea. Like you.


    • You, me, and tea is a dream date, Alexandra. Thank you for all your kindness and support. I love your metaphor about trying to make figures in the mist. I’m grateful for the genuine friendships and kindnesses I’ve encountered in my online writing life, including yours.


  3. Isn’t it amazing how our journals can bring us back so completely to those old feelings? What difficult and important work you’re doing, Dana. As another commenter said, be gentle with yourself as you go. As for me, I suppose I’m still grieving the loss of the life I’d imagined for myself, before having kids. However I seem to be finding some peace now, fighting the changes less and less, and celebrating all that this unexpected path has given me.


    • Tara, this is deep stuff: “I’m still grieving the loss of the life I’d imagined for myself, before having kids” – YES. How many of us moms grieve our before life, or our ‘what if’ life? I know I did. But it’s almost shameful to talk about it, because then we’re ungrateful, or we feel guilty for feeling grief compared to other kinds of grief. Thank you so much for sharing this here, and I’m very glad you’re finding some peace.


  4. I love that you will be doing this course, Dana. You are perfect for it. And your words here are pulling at my heart. I can only imagine the ache. I admire that you are willing to engage with it as you do. I carry a lot of grief about a particular person–please keep me updated about the course. I might be interested.


    • Thank you Kristen! Most of us carry grief about something or someone, and writing can be such a release. I’ll let you know when the course gets off the ground. We’d be lucky to have you there 🙂


  5. I love it. I could use that course.
    I was actually grieving my father recently. It doesn’t happen as often as people think. I was just thinking, “Hey wait. I never had him for very long. That SUCKS.”
    Then I thought about the fact that my life has nearly always been that way, and I have known a lot of joys.
    I’m grieving Cassidy’s car. Man, we’ve had some times with it. Cross country trip. Two newborn babies. And now.. it’s completely dead as of yesterday.


    • It’s true, it does suck, Tamara. What’s also true is that you’ve had much joy, and yet one truth does not negate or make up for the other. I’m also sorry about the car! Sounds like it has so many wonderful memories attached. I get attached to inanimate objects, too 🙂 in fact, I wrote my dad’s car a goodbye letter when I was a little kid and was so upset when I found it later inside our house. I expected it to go with the car and the new owner, ha. Thank you for chiming in here. I know you get this subject.


  6. Dana,

    I loved seeing this picture of your journals. I did not write immediately after my father passed – I couldn’t fathom it for months. I admire your ability to pen your grief immediately after your mother’s passing. You are a perfect fit for the course you are teaching and I know you will help so many people navigate uncertain terrain. xo


    • Rudri, thank you for reading, and for your very kind words. My journaling was literally pouring my heart onto the page, trying to understand my mother and her death and my new place in life. I had such trouble writing anything else – fiction, essays. It was all too raw and fresh. It took several years for my time to free up, and for my heart to heal, before I could return to my other writing.


  7. Your description of grief as a release, as a bridge to your mother, as a companion is so beautiful and hopeful. I know I try to wrestle away grief instead of accept and know it for what it is and what it can be. Your words have helped me see grief in a a whole new way. xx


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