Burning moments and magical thinking in our memoirs

It turned out that I led the memoir workshop: “Telling Healing Stories – How to Write A Compelling Memoir” on my own at the Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference last Friday. Thankfully I had the material prepared, so when my workshop mate didn’t show up, I just waded right in. I discussed the four aspects of all good literature: plot, theme, structure, and voice and gave the group a list of universal themes (which I’ll discuss in a future post). I also explained how the plot is made up of a series of events – or as they have been called – burning moments. For example, the disposition of clothes and possessions of a loved one who has died is a huge burning moment. In one of my favorite memoirs, The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion describes in meticulous detail the items in the plastic bag she brings home from the hospital after her husband died. She says, “…I remember combining the cash that had been in his pocket with the cash in my own bag, smoothing the bills, taking spe … [Read more...]

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Magical Thinking – Does It Make Sense?

On May 10 the Journeys Through Grief newsletters published my article about magical thinking in the bereaved parent issue. I thought I'd reprint it here for those of you who might have missed it. Peggy Sweeney does a fantastic job of reaching out to those who grieve, and I'd like to get the word out any way I can. Here's the link to my article on the site and the Journeys Through Grief home page. Here is my article: Magical thinking is an ancient idea that if a person hopes for something enough or performs the right actions, an event can be averted or turned around. Though this kind of thinking made no sense to me, I couldn’t stop doing it in the first months and years after my son’s suicide death. I didn’t want to believe that my son was really gone – I didn’t want to believe that it was true, that I would never see him, talk to him, or hold him again. Magical thinking was my way of hiding that reality from myself. My healing friend Joan Didion in her book The Year of … [Read more...]

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