Cairns of Grief: Writing Through Loss

Today’s guest post is brought to you by Andi Cumbo, a great writer and even better friend. Enjoy.

Grief. I don’t even really know what that word means. Before, I always used it to explain people’s odd behaviors in times of loss – sleeping ten hours a night; losing patience at an apparent nothing; times of blaring, deep silence. Yet, I didn’t really know what I was saying. How could I?

Apparently, this is a time of grief for me. My mom died, at the age of 63, on Thanksgiving Day. Not even two months ago. She was sick for three months with this bout of metastatic melanoma, but she carried the cancer around in her body and, I think, her mind for more than 36 years, since the year before I was born. In some sense, then, I had lived with the potential for grief for years.

Then, it bowled me over. It began before Mom died when she could no longer communicate. When her words passed away, my relationship to her seemed to die also. All I had wanted was more time.

Yet, all I had were words, so I started to write . . . just little snippets for my blog, at night when the house got quieter and most everyone else was sleeping or doing a puzzle or staring into space as we were all wont to do. I would write about the thing that had gutted me most that day – Mom’s lavender eyeglasses that she rarely got to wear, the way people’s kindness warmed my spirit, how Mom’s whispers reached my ears – and I could get through that day.

People – particularly my parents’ friends – would read my words and take comfort or find tears. They would tell me they appreciated my gift, my words, and I would take strength from their own language. We slogged through together.

I still can’t define grief, even in the midst of it, maybe especially in the midst of it. But each day, I define my experience of it that day through my blog or in my journal or in the book I’ve started about Mom. Each day I pull a tiny pebble of the pain out into the light, and I write it into a gemstone (or at least I try.) There’s a massive pile of rock to take from, a cairn of grief that I will never disassemble. Yet each day, word by word, I add a piece of glory back into the cairn, a ruby of words, a sapphire of language to try to transform the darkness of grief into the light that was my mom’s life.


Andi Cumbo is a writer and writing teaching who blogs at Currently, she is working on a book about, well, she’s not sure yet. She lives with her patron saint, her dad, who has graciously taken her in so that she can write and grieve.

3 Replies to “Cairns of Grief: Writing Through Loss”

  1. Andi … nice to meet you. Good post, love the last sentence!

    Loss sucks and is so hard to process. No two days (even moments) are alike.

    Writing has also been a tool that has helped me deal with losses in life … it helps me to know what I am really thinking.

  2. I relate to you using words to polish the heavy stones into gems. I don’t believe that grief can ever be defined or categorized into stages or emotions. We all go through similar emotions, but at different times and in different ways. I hope writing can continue to be a positive outlet for you, and that whether you share it with others, or it is just for yourself, that it gives you some release. It has for me.

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