For the record, Tuesday is the other day I’m thinking about scrapping. It would give me the time I need for other things and I also often don’t feel like writing a blog post on Tuesdays.
That all being said, I figured that today I could talk about writing about delicate subjects.
Now, I’ve done this a number of times. One of the writing gigs I got was because I could write about such things as palliative care with the right level of delicacy. This is something I have learned because of my past social work education.
And it transferred well to handling a sensitive topic for my play Crisis.
That’s not to say I always get the tone right. Tone is so very complicated because it’s not just about the situation, but the specific character in the situation.
For example, when writing about a death in the family there can be a wide range of ways someone might respond depending on their relationship to the deceased, what is going on in their life at the time, and a myriad of other factors. Some people will collapse to the ground sobbing. Another might immediately reach for something that soothes them like drugs or alcohol. Others may simply frown and say that it’s unfortunate then launch into some wild story of the shenanigans they used to get into when they were young. Get several of those people together in a funeral scene and that makes for some possible story conflict.
I unfortunately have a lot of experience with death. My first funeral happened when I was 6 years old. It was my grand mother, though we were raised believing she was our aunt. And after that, nearly every year someone passed away in my family. That’s one of the realities of having a large family. My dad had 15 brothers and sisters. My mom had about half that. Well, technically they were all her aunts and uncles. Anyway, I’ve spent a lot of time at wakes and not really at the funeral itself.
Some topics are so delicate that many recommend staying away from entirely. Topics like any kind of theorizing about what causes autism, for example. I’m unsure that is helpful though. Perhaps the more theories out there, the more people are working on finding a solution?
Back to the death thing. It’s odd to me that movies and TV focus mainly on showing people as sad. I’ve been to wakes where the spouse was utterly devastated and died soon after of a broken heart. I’ve been to others where the wife was completely fine and even relieved to see their loved one was no longer suffering. I’ve also seen a twin at their twin’s wake and that is sadder than anything else I’ve ever seen.
My own first experience was strange. My “aunt” was always yelling at me. I was a little bit of a wild child who climbed on the cupboards to get to the cookies 🙂
Anyway, I slept through all the commotion. She had died in our home and her home care nurse found her. My brother later woke me up and told me, but being so young I didn’t really get it. Until the funeral ceremony when everyone around me was crying. That’s when I figured out that I’d never see her again. I cried then and didn’t understand how I could be sad when she was almost always mean to me. Hell of a thing to learn about at six years old.
These days though, I’m usually the one that can keep it together and be strong for others. My brothers are not so strong and I usually have to help them through it.
I think it’s hard to nail delicate subjects unless you’ve experienced similar situations. And the way people handle things like the grief process can be different too. There is usually a part that involves guilt where someone feels like if they had only done something like check why their neighbour’s gate was open, maybe he could’ve been saved. People often feel angry too. Like their loved one should have known the path they took would lead where it did.
Anyway, I find a lot of movies and such don’t capture all this as well as it could. The Notebook did capture some of it really well. We certainly see the anger portion in John Wick and The Punisher. Shock is something also usually captured, but I’m not sure I’ve seen many that go through the entire cycle.
Something, I suppose, that I’ll ensure I do in my own writing.