writing grief

Getting Through It: Writing About the Landslide of Grief

By Melissa Leet

Posted: August 1, 2018

writing grief

I write to think about questions that are preoccupying me. In my novel Landslide, I consider how resilience arises out of catastrophic loss. When I started the novel, my mother and three close friends had died. My husband had battled cancer. I had gone through unexplained, early menopause which also felt like sorrow and loss. Since then, two additional friends, and Husband’s entire nuclear family—father, mother and sister—are all gone.

Landslide explores how life can irreparably change in a second. That moment of inattention causing the accident. That doctor’s appointment irreversibly altering your life. Until that second, you had one life. Then, like a landslide crashing down, that life is gone.


landslide-writing-griefWhy do bad things happen to good people? Why do we each live our own Story of Job—individually not just? Maybe, just perhaps we are all interconnected, the seven billion alive now, the people who have lived before, and those still to be born. Link by link, perhaps we all connect over space and time. Some connections are obvious—families, friends, work colleagues. Others more tenuous: the money we give our dry cleaner feeds her family just as people who use our work pay for our dishwasher soap. Then there are our connections to strangers. The balloon that escapes our hand distracts the driver who strikes the mother crossing the street. We are oblivious, but our hand still had a part. If we are all threads in one great and enormous cloth, then perhaps my difficulties are the cost of another’s gifts. Perhaps my hardships create learning that not only benefits myself and my family, but also helps people whom I will never meet.

How to Go On?

So, when bad things happen, how to go on? For me, that answer is multi-faceted. Certainly, there is the strength we draw from love, from our families, from friendship, from work. For me, too, all around I see in nature this exquisiteness, this beauty so intense that it takes my breath. I see it in the patterns of snow dust in grass, the majesty of a moose so close that my heart thumps at his unexpectedness. This beauty— the wonder of it—is also at the heart of my resilience, a reason why I ultimately once again see optimism and possibility in the swirling darkness.

With great love, there is great grief. I have found grief cannot be ignored. Grief takes time. You can try to bury it, but like acid, it corrodes. The other choice—to go through the pain—can feel impossibly hard. I have found, however, that when hurt is felt, space is made in our heart. It is not that I have emerged from my sad shrouds unaffected. Each loss has made its presence known. Still, unbelievably, one day I laugh and laugh, and I am astonished that I still know how. Then, there she is— and there she is not—my lost one, playing in my heart.

Melissa Leet

About the author

Melissa Leet is the author of Landslide, a story about nature and redemption after loss. She has a BA from Smith College, a MBA from Columbia University and a MA the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. Melissa is founder of Chinafolio, a think tank which conducts academic research on China.

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