Ongoing lessons in impermanence

Early morning (2008)

The process of writing the book has taken an emotional toll. And you might think this reaction is odd, but: I’m surprised. I had thought, “It’s my story anyway, I already lived it, shouldn’t be hard to just write stuff down.”

So, as with everything, yes and no.  The writing part was easy.  The difficult part was the evening or morning following a big writing burst.  I felt like I had run a marathon or had been chopping wood all day or had been teaching an all-day workshop.   The writing has not been energizing as some writers might experience; it’s been draining. (Which is different than saying it hasn’t been satisfying, which it has been.)  Now that I’ve been away from the text for a while (it’s in my editor’s hands) I feel an internal collapse.  I went straight from intensively writing to the holiday in London (which included Owen’s birthday), and now a busy week of work-related tasks.  Plus Angus’ birthday is on Monday and I still don’t know what to get for him, which is really irritating me.  All distractions from the simple truth that I am still so sad.

Puppy (2008)

Just over 10 months since Owen’s death and my sorrow has not lessened.  At all.  It surfaces less frequently and I am quite functional – so much so that no one asks me how I am doing anymore.  But the pot bubbled over last night (figuratively) and I cried until I couldn’t breathe.  It wasn’t optional – I suppose I had put my sadness aside for too long and it was going to have its time with or without me.

The sadness brought with it something else I know to be true but rarely look at it:  I hate everything about this.  I hate that Owen died, I hate that he is gone, I hate that this is happening to me.  And worst of all, there’s a feeling that fills me with despair and desperation:  I wish things were different.


Arts and Crafts (2008)

I learned so much from my life with Owen.  I grieved briefly for the child I didn’t get and quickly moved on.  I accepted and eventually embraced my new reality.  I thought my life lessons were hard won and I felt richly rewarded for ‘getting it’.  I congratulated myself for discovering life’s big secret:  wishing things are different is what creates unhappiness.  Change it or accept it.  In Owen’s case, acceptance was the only option. And to be really enlightened about it: I celebrated his life, his differences, his weirdness.  Not because of their charms (although charming they were) but because it was real and happening and actual fact.  Love what is!

And now, infuriatingly, my options are the same.

On many levels I have accepted Owen’s death, but embrace?  Really?  A superhuman, or non-human, feat.  Surely.  Could it be I might eventually love what is?  Sure sounds a lot more peaceful than this.




  1. Jen, this post has left me very quiet. I can’t just get up and forget about it. I am sat here, thinking about your words, your wisdom, your family. Thinking about how to, ‘love what is’. Thank you so much for sharing with us…

  2. 10 months is not long…not long enough. Nor is 10 years. But you will be okay.

  3. Simply loving what is…seems to me like standing next to a wild fire in the Grand Canyon and trying to enjoy the wild flowers on the rim…any wildfire eventually subsides, and given long enough will allow for new growth, but it leaves its mark nonetheless, and can’t help but shape the future.

  4. I have heard many writers talk about how gruelling it was to ‘relive’ painful, traumatic events in a way that allows you to write them down. I’ve often thought of things I’d like to write about (not related to Ben) but I wouldn’t because I don’t want to go back to that time mentally/emotionally. I don’t want to put myself in a place where I have to feel everything again in order to record it. So it doesn’t surprise me one bit that the book would be an emotional rollercoaster and take so much out of you.

    What you wrote about your feelings of hating this and wishing things were different was so honest and real. I did an interview with a therapist about cognitive behaviour therapy recently and I wonder if you could soften that thought about wishing things were different by saying something like — I wish Owen was alive but this is what I have to deal with now. In saying that there is some acceptance that you can’t change the situation.

    I always remember Jon Kabat Zinn’s comment: Let go of the tendency that we all have to wish things were different from how they are right now. And allow things to be exactly as you find them. And allow yourself to be exactly as you are.

    But it seems to me that the last sentence there is about giving yourself permission to feel everything you are feeling — including wishing things were different!

    I’m very glad you shared this post. xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxooxox

  5. Like Louise, I am grateful that you’ve shared this post and your very raw and honest feelings. As a writer, I find what you’ve done nearly herculean. It took me ten years to write anything at all about my daughter — and even then, the process was long and emotional. Blessings to you and continued strength and courage. Owen glows from your pages here, even to those of us who never had the privilege of knowing him.

  6. Jen
    I have tried writing Jacob’s life story in a baby book for our family for future reference. However I have not even made it past his 2nd birthday. I too find the process draining and daunting. I love that I have had him and have made it through so much with him….but to relive all experiences is utterly exhausting. I will try to revisit the book this year and to put more words onto the pages….then I will take a long deserving break until the next time.

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