The Grief Project

“We just wanted to know that someone else had experienced what we were experiencing. A way of seeking community that had experienced the same pain as us.”

As most of you know, my mom died in April 2020. What you may not know, is that we were writing a book together. When my dad died in 2017, I looked for a book on grief to help me walk through that unfamiliar journey. I didn’t find one that I liked. My mom told me that she had the same experience. In 2018 we started tossing around ideas to write a grief book. My premise was that most people don’t want a clinical book on grief when they are grieving. So, we would come up with 20 or so questions to ask people, and then publish these stories. In this way, there would be stories covering many facets of grief. The loss of a parent, spouse, child, friend, grandparent, etc. When someone buys the book, they would only need to read the first chapter, the chapter that applies to the type of loss they have experienced and the last chapter.

Mom and I started forming questions that we thought would get to the heart of the matter. This was a very long process that started the summer of 2019. Then, when she moved in with me in November of 2020 we started working on it more intentionally. We thought of some and then tossed others out. We re-worded them over and over, trying to get it just right. We talked about what information would be helpful to the reader. We reflected on what would have been useful to us when we were grieving my dad (her husband).

What we had really wanted, was to read about someone else’s journey and see if mine “was normal” and what was helpful and not helpful to them. We just wanted to know that someone else had experienced what we were experiencing. A way of seeking community that had experienced the same pain as us. We ask about coping skills, healthy and unhealthy, that people used. We ask what was helpful and not helpful that other people told them. Not every grief story is about someone wonderful that we loved. We want people experiencing that to find community too. We want people who are using unhealthy coping skills to find community and maybe find better coping skills in others’ stories.

Then, in April 2020, mom unexpectedly died. And I’m left to continue on with the grief project alone. Now, with a new grief experience of my mom dying. I know that she was so excited about the book and the stories of others. I’ve posted in some social media forums asking for volunteers, and responses have been overwhelming. So many people, mostly strangers to me, wanting to share their grief story. Some have told me thank you because it gave them a chance to talk about their loved one that no one asks about anymore, some have said answering the questions have been therapeutic, some took it to their therapist to talk about. Others I have been able to refer to a therapist for help they had never had the courage to ask for. A few have read the questions and returned them, saying it was too difficult for them “to go there”. That’s okay. I get it.

My hope is that I will have the book finished next summer and a publisher will find enough value in the book to publish it. I will find value in just completing the grief project that I started with my momma. She was so encouraging. She really was a remarkable woman and I’m so fortunate that I was loved so extravagantly by both my parents.

Today is my dad’s birthday. I asked my kids to tell stories of him to their kids today. That’s how we keep the people we love with us. Telling our stories. I’d love to have your grief story included in my book. Please comment below with your email or email me at juleskilson@gmail.com and ask for the questions to complete. The more stories I have, the more people will be able to find community for their grief.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules

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