Life has not been easy for me. I was the child victim of a religious cult, my family was poor, and as an adult, I lost my firstborn daughter to Turner’s Syndrome at birth. More recently, I suffered through a divorce due to my former spouse’s extreme difficulties with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. You could say I’ve been through the ringer.
Yet, if not for these mishaps and hardships, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I wouldn’t have the same stories to tell: stories that can help to heal others who have been through similar circumstances. I wouldn’t have the same heartfelt desire to keep pushing to get those stories heard.
Creativity and persistence are good bedfellows. I’ve been creative my entire life. I’ve written poetry, songs, and stories for as long as I can remember. But it’s only been since 2001 that my writing has taken on the depth that makes it unique. In 2001, I lost my firstborn daughter, “Angel Hope.” I dealt with that loss by writing a dozen or more heartfelt songs that helped me to cope with such a tragic life event.
More recently, in 2010, I lost my father to cancer. That loss triggered a desire to write about my childhood experience as the victim of an extreme religious cult. I’d tried to write the story twice before, once in 1998, and again in 2002. Nothing clicked. My early versions felt stale and uninteresting. So I gave up both times. But in 2011, I started a blog and wrote an entire book, A Train Called Forgiveness, on my blog. Later, I used Create Space to publish the paperback version of the book.
Loss has taught me a lot about writing, especially the loss of two of the most important people in my life, my first daughter and my father. Here’s what I’ve learned about loss and love and creativity and persistence:
1. Loss is not the end: Losing a child, sibling, or spouse, is not the end. It might feel that way at the moment. In fact, it feels like your whole world stops turning for awhile. But even though the person you loved has passed on, their memory will always live on. As hard as it may be, loss is a new beginning. Coping with loss through writing is the start of a healing journy that has the potential to impact yourself and others in a positive manner.
When I wrote songs for my stillborn infant daughter, Angel Hope, it helped to express my deep hurt, my anger with God, my confusion, my pain. By writing songs about her I was recognizing her as a unique individual. I was also recognizing the thousands of couples who lose children to birth defects each year. And I was producing new creative material, practicing my art. I persisted in writing songs about Angel Hope for years to come. The last song I wrote for her was as recent as 2011.
2. Love is an expression: We express love in many ways: through deeds, touch, and words, to name a few. Words have special significance in that they can be timeless. After the loss of my Father, I knew that one way to celebrate his life was to share his spiritual journey as part of my own account. You see, dad grew spiritually after leaving the cult. I’d long forgiven him, and there is a healing wisdom in that process. Sharing that wisdom can benefit many others who have suffered similar fates. Writing the story was an act of love for my father and his legacy. At the same time, I am recording my history for my second, living daughter, eight-year old Annie. Through the series of books I’m writing, she’ll be able to read about my past when she is older.
3. Creativity and persistence go hand in hand with loss: Writing about life’s hardships and mishaps is a tough job, but it creates real stories and strong character. I’ve always been creative, but the losses I suffered taught me to use that creativity persistently. Many of us are blessed with creative minds. Some are able to persist in using our creativity to share stories that can heal others and even change the world. But everyone actually has the power to do this. It’s really not as hard as you might think. Here’s the key:
Simply write a little bit each day. Whether you’ve lost a loved one or suffered an abusive or addictive past, you can share your story. Even if you only write a paragraph or a verse each day, it’s a start. Daily writing will help you to deal with your pain and you will improve as a writer, too. In time, you’ll be ready to share your words. But don’t stop there. Rewrite your story from a fresh perspective. Each year that passes changes the perspective of our past. Share your writing with family and friends. You may want to submit your writing to blogs or even try self- publishing a book.
Your experiences are important. Your story is unique. Sharing that story gives you power, courage, and hope. Sharing your story can also help to heal those who have been on parallel journeys. I encourage you to write about your losses and your love.
– dan erickson
Dan Erickson is a writer, songwriter, and musician. He blogs about writing and writing as therapy. He is the author of two books: “A Train Called Forgiveness,” and “At the Crossing of Justice and Mercy.” His poetry is meditative and reflective and his songs, Americana. He teaches communication courses at a college in the Pacific Northwest. He’s a single dad to eight-year old, Annie. Learn more about Dan Erickson’s work at http://www.danerickson.net.”