After finishing David Grossman’s moving novel To the End of The Land, about the anguish of a mother over the possible death of her son written as Grossman grieved the loss of his son during an Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I began thinking about other writers who used the writing process to help make sense of their loss.
Chilean writer, Isabel Allende, author of The House of the Spirits (1985) and Daughter of Fortune (1999), is one who came to mind. Her anguished letters written at her daughter’s hospital bedside became the memoir, Paula (1994). The loss of a child is the most significant and traumatic death of a family member, the most personal loss any individual can face. Paula Frias, 26, falls ill and lapses into a coma, and ultimately dies at age 28. Allende finds solace in the letters she writes to her daughter. Her letters tell the story of her family history she plans to share with her daughter when she awakens. These letters become the basis for her memoir, it begins with, “Listen Paula, I am going to tell you a story so that when you wake up you will not feel so lost.”
The process of writing helped her move from the depths of grief to a celebration of her daughter’s life. She explained: “I had a choice…Was I going to commit suicide? Sue the hospital? Or was I going to write a book that would heal me?” (Hornblower) The act of writing became an act of hope to combat her feelings of anger, guilt, fear and despair.
In honor of her daughter, Allende started the Isabel Allende Foundation. Read more about their story at http://www.isabelallendefoundation.org/iaf.php.
Maier, Linda. “Mourning Becomes Paula: The Writing Process as Therapy for Isabel Allende.” Hispania, Vol. 86, No. 2 (May, 2003), pp. 237-243
Hornblower, Margot. “Grief and Rebirth.” Rev. of Paula, by Isabel Allende. Time 10, July 1995: 65
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