Living with Tragedy

For the paperback publication of my young adult novel, BEFORE YOU GO, I was asked to answer a few interview questions for the back matter.

I didn’t really intend to share this here, but given recent events, and the fact I just stumbled upon it again, well, sometimes you have to trust in coincidence. Here you go:

Losing a peer when you are young is especially difficult. Do you have any advice for someone who has experienced this?

Advice? My first impulse is to give sympathy, to say how sorry I am, and to recognize that I cannot know exactly what they are going through. Life can feel impossibly hard at times. I remember when my oldest son — he’s in college now — was fighting cancer at age two. I was newly divorced, living in a stupid apartment, just a number of things going seriously haywire at the same time. My crazy “whirled.” There were days when I didn’t want to hang out or do much of anything. But here’s the thing: you do what you must do. The bare essentials. So I washed the dishes in the sink. Folded the laundry. Put on some music, flipped through a magazine, checked the scores in a baseball game, noticed how the leaves turned color outside my window. Life itself is this tremendous vital force. It leaks into everything. And if you allow it, life will pull you through. Before you know it, almost by accident, you are living again, swimming in that great river. You learn that the heavy weight you carry becomes lighter, more buoyant, and at times you temporarily forget. At the same time, the remembering is so important. Life shapes us, makes us who we are –- we endure the good and the devastating. The important thing, I think, is to keep your heart open, even though it hurts, and try to appreciate that you are loved. And, well, you put one foot in front of the other. Day by day. After a while you realize you’ve traveled a great distance. Your back has grown strong. And you are living again.

One comment

  1. Yvette Carol says:

    Exquisito. Well said, James! I think you really encapsulated grief perfectly.

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