Three Things I Discovered From Writing About Shame and Grief

Last week, my debut novel was released. It’s called Somewhere Above It All, and it is the story of a grieving young widow who dares to conquer her troubled past by attempting to summit Mount Kilimanjaro after her husband dies from opioid abuse. In essence, it’s a story of facing really hard things and learning to live again. Anyone who has followed my writing journey knows that I’m not afraid to take on difficult subjects. After all, I once had a website where I blogged about some of my own grueling life experiences and all of the excruciating feelings that came along with them—like shame and grief. 

When I crafted my book’s main character, Marren Halleck, I wanted to create someone who has experienced these emotions—the kind that most people would never admit to feeling and are terrified to talk about. I wanted to take readers into Marren’s world, where they would live her grief and shame right along with her. And in writing about Marren’s journey, I also wanted to convey what I learned about feeling these same emotions in my own life. Here are three things I discovered along the way:

1. Left unacknowledged, shame and grief will lock you up and hold you prisoner.

Most people don’t want to talk about or admit that they feel shame and grief, because they’re not pretty. And these days, it’s not cool to be ugly, especially online. I know in my own life, I tried to hide behind a wall of perfection on social media, never letting anyone know that things weren’t actually perfect. But this wall was just a prison, and I wasn’t free. It wasn’t until I went through an embarrassing divorce that I was finally able to begin to tear down the wall and let others see my imperfection—I began to acknowledge my shame and grief by blogging about them, balancing honesty and privacy. Only then did I feel free to live a genuine life. Cue in Marren, as this is exactly what she experiences.

2. It’s no shame to feel ashamed or to grieve your losses in your own way.

So manyothers want to judge our imperfect paths, which can make us feel even worse about what we are going through and how we are coping. In the book, certain characters make Marren feel ashamed for how she handles her grief process. Some suggest that she moves on with her life too fast. In my own experience, I learned that grief is very different for everyone. So we shouldn’t cower to those who judge how we decide to grieve. The waysin which we handle shame and grief are ours to decide.

3. Shame and grief don’t have to define who you are. 

No matter what has happened in your life, you don’t have to be defined by shame and grief. This is the most important message that I hope readers will take away from Somewhere Above It All. In spite of her past and her struggle to live with her husband’s death, Marren’s future is still something that she can look forward to and even feel very happy about. Shame and grief are debilitating feelings, but they aren’t total barriers to happiness. 

In sum, I hope that readers will enjoy my book and will take heart in these three encouraging things that I learned from writing it. I hope they will come along with Marren on her emotional journey to find new beginnings and that they will cheer for her all the way. And most of all, I hope that the story will inspire readers in ways they have never before known. Happy reading to all!