Tag Archives: death

Fragments: Fiction from theory

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Over the last few weeks, I’ve found myself reflecting upon my journey as an author. A journey that has had many twists, turns and been a really valuable process of development; it still is. I don’t think, for one moment, that this process will ever stop in terms of development.

There are, of course, the gardening books. I’ve diversified into fiction, and experimented with both fiction and non-fiction. A lot has happened over the course of six, soon to be seven books.

There has been a big career change that has straddled across those texts, across the last five years. I’ve been a teacher for ten years, and throughout that journey, I undertook another in parallel. I trained to become a person-centred counsellor. A process, that isn’t for the faint-hearted. I can safely say, that I am not the same person who started out on a level two listening skills course all those years ago. I think it was 2012, my memory escapes me!

In 2017, in I published the book that you see above. I spent 2015-2016 writing it whilst studying and teaching. I’ve written before, as to my reasons why. I experienced two significant bereavements through the course of writing that book; these impacted upon so many different aspects of my life and being. To write about a book about that process was somewhat interesting, and I guess-in hindsight-an aspect of grieving. I know that after the second bereavement, I found it physically impossible to pick up a pen to write. I had to give myself permission to finish what I had started, to complete a cycle, move on and through what I had experienced.

Fragments is a work of fiction, yes. It does however, have some basis in theory. Mourning and bereavement, to be more specific. To this day, I remember learning about Worden and his four tasks of mourning, to be acutely aware of how Fragments was written with those four ideas in mind. I kept them in mind, as things that ebb and flow. I don’t, for one moment, profess to be an expert. There are some, that say all counselling is about loss. This is certainly something that has echoed and permeated through my practice, and I can see how that would be the case.

The principles:

  1. To accept the reality off loss
  2. To work through, process the pain of grief
  3. To adjust to the world without the deceased
  4. To emotionally relocate the deceased whilst embarking on a new life.

Each of these four things is a part of the fabric of Fragments. Each of the six stories touches on these four principles. Each of the stories is also linked by Marcy the counsellor. A character, who herself, has a story about grief. There had to be a counsellor, I was training to be one, I saw one too.  I tried to distill into the pages, what I was learning, experiencing and feeling.

The characters are deliberately diverse, they reflect real life. There is Nandini, an elderly woman of Indian-ascent. A character who has a very private grief, a process that she struggle with on many levels. She is someone who might not, in real life, go to counselling. It pains me, makes me angry too, that there are communities out there, for whom counselling is unavailable, or not part of their frame of reference; it’s not the done thing. Nandini echoes to me. She is the type of client that I would want to support in my private practice-another story, another day-to help improve access to talking therapies and also the stigma around mental health.

I deliberately wrote about Chris, who loses his dog, Adelphi. Man’s best friend, a relationship just as important as all others; this had to be written too. There are children; teenagers, actually who feel pain and need someone to talk to.

That’s the key here. To talk.

People tend to pull faces at me, when I say that I’ve written about grief. My response is always the same. We don’t talk about grief, we hide it; so why not read about it? I could, very easily, attach a health warning. I choose not to. I see value in what I’ve written. I see, know, that it’s not an easy book; it’s long too. I also think that talking, about grief, is important. It is part of those four stages, least of all part of my practice as a counsellor. It’s not a textbook, not by any length of chalk. I’ve never intended it to be one either, but it does have a purpose. It certainly had one for me.

I hope that by reading it, someone else will find that too.

You’ll need tissue.

And a big mug of tea.

Look after yourself, though.

You’re important.

 

Three and Six: the place to pause

As I approach the Spring Equinox, I’m taking the tine to take stock. Taking the time to pause, absorb the magic that hangs in the air and process how cycles are completing. Processing how things have changed a great deal in the last two years.

This week, is certainly significant and for a number of reasons.

As you read this, I’m either sat at my desk, fiddling with a pen and notebooks. braving the bracing wind and pacing the plot or snuggled up beneath a blanket with a book, Buffy or something similar. (As I type, I’m watching the box set of Endeavour…..so that’s more likely, to be honest.)

I’m having a break, a pit stop; a gentle rest, after what has felt  like a never-ending Spring term. I am also very, very close to the end of my training hours for the Level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling. It’s a matter of touching distance and a handful of hours.

Cycles are definitely ending, new ones are waiting in the wind. There is a great deal of anticipation in the air, as something of a tipping point arises with the potential for forward movement.

Today, Tuesday 19th March, is two years since Fragments was published, since it went live on Kindle. As my first foray into fiction, this is a book that is very, very important. This week, also sees the release of book six and the journey between three and six , it completely blows my mind as to how it has unfolded.

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There is big difference between Fragments and the two gardening books, least of all because of being fiction and non-fiction. The two gardening books, are like sunlight on a page; they both bulge and burst with it. Fragments has a certain big, black grey cloud presence to it.

Yet, some grey clouds do have a silver lining. There is a silver lining to Fragments, it’s a thread that runs all the way through to be knotted at the ending. The ending of the book itself, and also where I am now with book six due for imminent release.  It was never my intention to write a heavy, hard going book. So I wrestled with working towards endings that felt appropriate for the narratives explored.

I had a vague plan for how Fragments would go, I used a grief model to have a skeleton and wove the plan around it. The model was important to me; I wanted to have something to pin the book to in relation to Counselling, my understanding and development at the time too. In hindsight, I know that fragments is filled with sadness, darkness and is brimming with emotion. On the other hand, there is light at the end. It’s a glimmer, faint, but it brews, blooms and becomes far greater than one ever imagined

Each of the six stories is important. The Anands, are a family of mixed heritage. Daniel and Caleb are a gay, married couple. Maya and Aldo, Michael and Sophie are two sets of parents who are grieving children at different ages.  Matthew’s bond with grandparent is broken, Albie copes with the loss of his wife and Chris is without man’s best friend.

These are real, everyday people that are all around us.

Fragments was book-ended by bereavements. One, occurred six months before I started to write, the second three months towards the end. At the time, that was a surreal episode of life imitating art, and I couldn’t write at that point. Physically picking up my pen at that point, was painful beyond measure. Writing Fragments was a fevered and frenzied experience. Each and every chapter was like a vivid day dream as it played out in my head and I used my pens to keep up. The whole writing process was a lot like directing and watching a movie; I might as well have had a camera in my hand.

There are two bits, I can imagine really very clearly on screen. Michael breaking up the nursery and Maya in the Ladies toilet. Even down to the camera angles, edit and panning.

In writing it all down, I got there eventually. I had to; Fragments was not going to be left an unfinished, twelve cylinder symphony. This was a book, that had to happen, had to be out in the universe. Not just for me, but anyone who might want to read it.

There is abject, absolute heartbreak in Fragments. If you read it carefully, you can probably read, see and feel the moment my heart goes crack from top to bottom.

The crack starts to heal with Retreating to Peace. By Kangana, the crack is gone and I’ve acknowledged where the bruises were. It has taken Postcards From Peace to buff the shine back and know the dents are no more.

All six books, move towards an unexpected silver lining. Books six, comes out on Friday. It’s no accident that this is around the Equinox, this is a phase change in writing of a sort. I will be writing, definitely. Just in a different frame of mind, I guess.