Almost everyone who lives to maturity experiences the loss of a loved one, be they partner, relative or friend. I have known the loss of parents, grandparents, close family and friends – enough to feel the keenest of empathy for anyone else going through that disorienting, painful and lonely time. Enough, I hope, to find the ‘right’ words to say – or none, if appropriate – the ‘right’ things to do, according to the person; a huge hug, a squeeze of the hand, company, phone calls, letters – and knowing when to hold back.
During my first marriage, my grandfather, James Norris, died and, soon after, a beloved family pet, a Dalmatian called Lady, was put to sleep. I kept my grief for both on hold, remember crying quietly into the washing up water because my then husband had lost both his parents and a beloved aunt by the age of thirty. How could I indulge in my pain in front of him? Yet, had I been another person looking in on the situation, I might have known how to help the grieving me. Since then, I have learned many ways of understanding the loss and grieving process, have listened to the experience of others and, I hope, been able to do / say the ‘right’ thing for them. It leaves me wondering, though, how many people I have let in enough to do the same for me.
The oddest loss I have ever felt is the loss of characters. I have written many scripts and short stories, have published one novel and am working on two others and many of the characters have an emotional resonance with my life. Yet there is one character who has left me missing her, for whom I will always yearn, even though her story was not finished. She is, I know, partly a composite of many other people and the problems she faces are those that have faced friends and acquaintances over many years. But there is something else about this character that I cannot define. Maybe she is a person I need in my life, one I have created to answer questions, the comforter I would love to have – an older person, now that I am an adult, with whom I could always be a little girl. Several readers of the book have singled her out as a friend / aunt they would love to have. I have no doubt that the psychological implications are crystal clear for them and me.
In case you’re wondering, she is Maggie Harkin in Terrible With Raisins my only, so far, published novel.
Maggie – if you’re out there… here I am.