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Harry Potter | Bethany Suckrow
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On Grief and Friendship and Asking for What You Need.

My friend’s dad died last weekend. He had cancer. She and I were texting back and forth a few days after, about how to cope with it, about how to tell people. I found myself imparting the same advice that others gave to me when mom died, almost two years ago now. Enough time has passed that I can see with clarity the relationships and words of wisdom that helped me, and the ones that didn’t. It felt so healing and sacred to be able to offer that to someone else after all of the love and wisdom I have received. So I thought I’d share some of it with you today in honor of my friend who is burying her father today, and just beginning this journey of grief.

First of all, ask for what you need. It sounds simple, but it’s often the hardest part of grieving, or at least it was for me. I had been seeing my therapist for about three years before mom died, and she gave me this advice fairly early on. It took me a long time, even with my very best friends, to articulate what I needed, in part because I didn’t know what I needed, and in part because I was terrified of uttering those needs aloud. I think I was scared that by talking about it and asking for help, it meant somehow that I was giving up on mom, and giving up on myself. I would be admitting that we were not going to be okay, at least in the everyone’s healthy/no one’s dead or heartbroken kind of way. But there came a point, between all the hospital visits and emotional meltdowns, when I couldn’t hide the not-okayness anymore.

Usually, these conversations happened after we had just finished watching a really sad movie and were already crying, and then I’d be like “umm, yeah, so … things are really bad right now and I’m not just crying over the movie … I think my mom is dying, and umm, can you like, make sure I get out of bed and live my life after she dies, please? Can you make sure that I go places and do things and eat good food? Can you tell all of our friends for me that my mom died?”

I am profoundly blessed to have the kind of friends that wrapped me in their arms, cried with me, gave of themselves in ways beyond what I could even ask.

So remember that grief is the time to lean into your friendships, because the good ones can take it.

You will have friends that get squirmy when you start to talk about the hospital visits and test results or hospice care and funeral arrangements and grief. You will have friends that don’t call or write or show up for the wake. You will have friends that promise to be there and then just aren’t. You will have friends that want to be there to offer you comfort and support, but for some reason, it always seems that you wind up comforting them instead. No matter how hard I tried to be honest and gracious and patient and forgiving with those friends, some of them just couldn’t handle it. It was one of my worst fears, and it came true. And you know what I realized? It’s okay to let go of those relationships, or at least hold them much more loosely. Because there will be friends that never leave your side, friends that surprise you with their nearness, friendships that are forged through your loss, and those are the ones that will help you survive.

The morning that my mom died I called my husband and texted my three closest friends. I didn’t have to take on the daunting task of telling everyone I knew; they did it for me.

A couple of days later, my best friend called me on her way to the shopping mall. She was going to buy something to wear to the funeral service.

“Do you need anything? A dress to wear tomorrow? Tights? Waterproof mascara? Anything?” she asked me.

I didn’t need any of that stuff, I told her. But that gesture, small and practical as it was, filled another ineffable need : to know that I was thought of and cared for and loved.

And I didn’t wind up needing my husband and friends to drag me out of my bed or make me eat or make me live my life, but they did something equally important : they reminded me that it was okay not to be okay.

Instead of not being able to get out of bed in the morning or turning into a catatonic vegetable, I kicked into hyperdrive. After being so close to death’s presence, I suddenly had a tremendous energy for life. I poured myself into my art and my writing and my work, and for a while that was good. But what goes up must come down, and my friends were there to help me slow my pace and admit that I wasn’t okay.

Do the thing you feel strong enough to do, and we’ll help you with the rest,” they told me.

Almost two years later, I’m still learning to practice that profound vulnerability of asking for help, of admitting when I’m not strong or okay enough to handle things. Sometimes, all I feel strong enough to do is watch Harry Potter and eat my weight in ice cream. I feel way less pathetic when my husband and bffs are sitting there with me.

Grief comes in waves, usually prompted by the ebb and flow of life experiences. All of those firsts without the one you love. All of those moments when someone unwittingly makes a comment about cancer or death. Ride it out. Let it take you deep, and let it pull you to the surface again. Don’t fight it. Someday, you’ll find yourself on the shore. Someday, you’ll find yourself reaching in to help someone else out of the water.

Guest Post | Conversations with Ourselves.

Today I’m over at Preston’s blog, returning the favor for his post a few weeks ago. Subject? Conversations with Ourselves, in which I imagine : if I could go back, what would I tell myself…

“My heart feels heavy and a wave of exhaustion washes over me. I stare at the page, but the words won’t sink in. I yawn and lean back and close my eyes for a moment.

And then my closet door opens, and she is standing there.

I am surprised, jaw open. Harry mid-spell tumbles to the floor with a thud. It takes me a moment, cogs turning wildly at the unfamiliar familiar, but then I see it, like a stereogram, a cosmic optical illusion, a wrinkle in time, Hermione’s time-turner is real : she is me, but I am not yet her.

‘Can I join you?’ she asks.” (Keep Reading)

book·ish : It All Ends 7.15.

As I write this, I realize I was kidding myself to think that what I feel for this beloved series would ever fit in a single blog post. But then, if you’ve been reading my blog and know me at all, you are likely a fan of the series, too. In which case, we both know that emotional connections to stories like Harry Potter cannot be explained in words.
Yes, I am tearing up even as I write this. Because the series that accompanied my adolescence, the characters that even now speak to me about bravery, friendship, and love that concurs death, are about to light the silver screen for the final time.
The books will always be here. The movies will be playing over and over for years to come. Still, there’s something about seeing this series come to a close that puts things in perspective: I am a grown-up now. Life moves on. I am no longer that 13-year-old, frizzy-haired, introverted word-nerd reading
The Goblet of Fire under my covers at 3 a.m.

Source: eblekage.tumblr.com via Bethany on Pinterest

The small, shining faces of Harry [Daniel Radcliffe], Ron [Rupert Grint] and Hermione [Emma Watson] seem adorably dwarfed and baby-ish in retrospect. Next to their matured versions, we have proof that although it feels like just yesterday, 10 years worth of yesterdays have passed since they first appeared in The Sorcerer’s Stone in 2001.
A lot has happened.

For them and for us.
We’ve grown, too, together and in our own ways. Just like these fictional characters that feel so deeply real, we have struggled to hold our world together, to step forward when no one else will, to accept those very different from ourselves, to understand our enemies, to cling to love and friendship in our darkest moments, to decide who we are and who we could be. And we’ve survived, too.
So Jo, thank you for giving my generation a renewed love for reading, a true understanding for the power of literature to influence lives.
Whitney, dear cousin, thank you for all the times you let me come over and read the newest installment within 24 hours, and for helping me sneak off to the theater to see the latest film.
Harry, it’s been a pleasure. Expecto Patronum.
~


book·ish/ˈbo͝okiSH/Adjective


1. (of a person or way of life) Devoted to reading and studying rather than worldly interests.
2. (of language or writing) Literary in style or allusion.
3. (of art and all manner of lovely things) devoted to the written word as a form of art and as a way of seeing the world.
4. (of SheWritesandRights.blogspot.com) anything of the aforementioned characteristics as they are found on the interwebs and reposted by Bethany, because bookish and writerly things always give reason for amusement.

Stranger than Fiction

I’ve decided to stop fighting it.
What exactly? I was driving home yesterday contemplating, once again, my writing woes. My ever-encouraging twitter friend, Friederike, tweeted a word to me the other day:
“Very often, our characters tell us what they are up to. We must take our time and wait a little to find out what they want.”
And then, in response to my whiny, “But what to do while I wait for them to speak to me?” Friederike said, “Have a coffee and watch your soul while you are waiting for your characters to do the work.”
Again, an all too wise response to my needlessly worrisome writing self. At that point, I was asking myself what characters are speaking to me. Do I even have any? I was never planning on being a fiction writer. But is that what she meant, and does fiction versus nonfiction make any difference here?
In the midst of my brain working through this idea, my ears were half-listening to my car radio, which was faithfully playing NPR’s All Things Considered. The host was interviewing a writer that just published a new novel. What was his inspiration and theme behind the book, she asked? I was suddenly all ears.
The writer explained that his work centered around the belief that home is not always where we are most welcome or a place that we can take refuge from a misunderstanding world. What happens to people who live with that discord?
For reasons I cannot explain, his description of pulling together his ideas into a novel pulled together my own disjointed ideas about what it means to write.
I’ve been fighting for a long time the idea that I should write fiction. It seems to me that any attempt I’ve made is not literary, but a deep-seeded and irresistible need to reconcile misunderstandings in my life – people, experiences, memories, social, political and religious issues. Every version of my fiction has been some attempt to tie those things together so that I can make sense of them, or remove them from myself. Like Dumbledore’s Penseive, my writing extracts those things that will not rest within myself until they’ve poured out of me onto the page in black and white, where I can examine every detail. (Kudos to J.K. Rowling for that concept. I wonder if she ever thought about that in terms of her own writing experience?)
This isn’t right, I tell myself. Great writers don’t turn their lives into fiction for a good story. There’s always that speculation that something within their works – a character or a scene or a setting is a fictionalized, dramatized version of something real to the author. But many authors would, and have, denied those theories outright. And then the critics and readers idolize them: “He’s just that genius that the work is entirely fictional!”
Underneath the guise of literary genius, every good piece of writing has soul, and what is soul but personality, your collection of beliefs, experiences, passions, and talents that are not quite like anyone else’s?
This is what I’m not going to fight anymore: you, dear readers, friends, loves of my life (and people I might not necessarily get along with) are the interesting characters that fill my thoughts and speak to me. Experiences and memories, you are a part of who I am. I am passionate about you. I am inspired by you. I know you and you know me. You drive me to words. Black, white, gray, and every color and shade in between. You speak to my soul, and I’m listening, truly listening now.
After all, life is stranger than fiction, right? So don’t be surprised if some version of you lies within my words. I won’t be surprised, anymore. I may not pen the great American novel any time soon, or ever, but this is what I know.
I won’t go against the grain anymore, for you are ingrained in me.