This week has been a tough one over here at Camp McCoy.
On Thursday night, my grandmother swallowed a handful of pills and left a letter explaining why she was ending her life.
On Friday morning, my grandfather found her and called 911, where she was found unresponsive but alive.
On Saturday, I read the letter she left.
On Sunday, my grandfather made the decision to pull her off all life support.
On Monday, I explained to my kids that they would never see their great-grandmother again.
My grandmother's decision to end her life isn't as uncommon as we might like to believe. She was in poor health that grew increasingly worse in the past four months, and didn't want to wait to be bedridden. She didn't want to live in humiliation while she waited to die. She took action to end her life the way she wanted, and for all my grief and sadness, I have to respect that.
At this point, my grandmother is in hospice, surrounded by her three children, four grandchildren, two best friends, and a whole host of other folks who wanted to be with her. In reality, I'm the only one not there. I live across the country, have a husband who works 80 hours a week, and two small kids who started school. I can't up and leave my life, but it means I'm the one person who won't get to be there to say goodbye.
That's kind of a blow. I wish I lived closer. I wish I had a bank account that could take that kind of strain. I wish I had the freedom to up and leave whenever I needed to. But I don't. And I have to make my peace with the fact that I'm never going to see her again. She's asleep, and even if I was standing at her bedside, I wouldn't get to talk to her. I wouldn't get to do anything. My grandmother is gone and only this physical form of her remains.
Like most people, I am emotional and grieving. But also like most people, I still have kids, a job, bills that need to be paid. While I can take a few days off from writing and promoting (and I definitely did), I can't let my sadness overtake my life.
So today, while my grandmother is made comfortable in hospice and my family is all with her, I have to figure out how to get back to work. Admittedly, I'm better at this than most. I'm good at compartmentalizing my emotions. I don't wear my heart on my sleeve. I internalize and process for a good long while before I show any external signs. Maybe it's the writer in me.
First, I'm writing this blog post. I'm getting out my thoughts and feelings about my grandmother's suicide on paper (digitally, at least). I'm not writing a metaphor, I'm not writing about someone else's life. I'm writing about mine and directly processing my emotions. I'm sad. I'm grieving. I'm heartbroken to see my kids crying. And that's okay.
Next, I'll write a story. I can't write my paranormal romance novel when all I have inside me is negative. So I'll write a short story or novella that will let me release some of these feelings in a positive way. I'll include things that are close to me and visceral descriptions of grief and loss as my characters might experience them. And through this vicarious expression, I'll be able to focus on processing my emotions while still embracing my writing routine.
And then, it will be time to get back to work. I have a full paranormal romance novel to write, a backlist of books to promote, a blog to update, and a hundred other things to do. I'll still be sad. I'll fly home to Texas for a funeral and I'll cry with my mom and hug my dad and then I'll go home and get back to work. Because my grandmother believed in my success as a writer, and I owe it to her to keep at it. As long as it takes.
We all deal with our feelings in different ways, and no way is better or worse than another. But as writers, we tend to internalize and process. We find it harder to get back into the flow when we've been disrupted. Being a writer means handling these kinds of events with a plan and getting our butt back into the chair and getting it done. And that's just what I plan to do.
PS. This month is suicide prevention month. If you need to talk, you guys know how to reach me. :)