I worked with a writer whose father had committed suicide when she was twelve years old. She was one of twelve children.
Her first writings were filled with rage and betrayal. She couldn't fathom what had driven him to suicide. As if that wasn't enough, the family lived a lie: "He died of a heart attack in his sleep."
When she completed the memoir, it was a moving story of a family tragedy, truthtelling and the power of family love. No matter how many times I've read the ending, I cried!
What allowed the writer to move from rage and confusion to love? One day, when she and I were discussing the many incidents that made her angry and left her bereft, she mentioned, with sadness, that she hadn't been allowed to go to the funeral.
"I can't tell you how much I wish I'd been able to go to the funeral," she said softly.
"So go," I suggested.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"Write the scene where you actually go to the funeral?"
"I can do that?"
"Absolutely! I told her. And she was off and running.
She wrote a wonderful scene where she and two of her younger brothers sneak out of the house and make their way to the church. Along the way, they met a strange character, a wise fool of sorts. Then they slipped into the church where the funeral was going on, and the memoir changed.
She changed. She was inspired. New storylines emerged, much of it based on fact and some on imagined scenes that allowed her to make sense of her world.
Why this "made up" adventure opened her to fertile complexities of family love, I don't know. But it did. It's part of the amazing and mysterious journey of the imagination!