Writing after a Loved One Dies


Michael was very supportive of my writing endeavors.


My family took the picture to the left a year before my husband Mike went into the nursing home. You hold onto the good days when you get them, and Christmas, 2009 was one of them. When he passed on January 29, the pain of losing him shot through my heart like an arrow. I wondered how this would affect my writing and other activities.

When my mother died in 1990, an instructor advised me to keep a daily journal. This journal evolved into fiction pieces, and months later, I submitted them for publication. In 1995, after my father died, I sat down and penned a short story in three hours. It got published within a week. Losing Mike has come with its own circumstances, though.

I seldom discussed Mike on social media, but if one wanted a true measure of my grief, they only had to look at my checkbook entries for March. I’ve had to scribble out and rewrite most of the entries, and it was hard to read what I’d written when I had to balance the checkbook. The writing dried up as well; I have written only two or three blogs during the last six months. It was like my internal gadget for blog making had gone into hibernation. As it was, the handling of Mike’s estate and increased need for sleep left no time for blogging. On my days off from work, I had numerous appointments lined up with the lawyer, the bank, insurance folks, etc. By 7:30 at night, I was ready for bed. Thankfully, I had previously pulled together Night to Dawn 29, and my authors have been understanding regarding other projects.

The story writing did a big slowdown, too. I’ve been trying to work on a sequel to When Blood Reigns, which should see a fall, 2016 release. I began writing it with visions of Alexis and Yeron setting up house and beating down the renegades. The thing was, when I attempted to write from Alexis’s point of view, I managed only a few paragraphs at a time. The appointments and the phone calls that came with them got in the way.

I found a lot of help from my writer’s support group in Hatboro and The Writers’ Coffeehouse. This has helped get the words moving. Night to Dawn 30 has gone together without a hitch; NTD released Sandy DeLuca’s Lupo Mannaro, and I’ve just released a new edition of Rod Marsden’s Ghost Dance. I will likely do a blog tour after my book When Blood Reigns goes live, so there should be more blogs coming.

The parade of Mylar balloons has grown, although the intense heat we have now has laid some to rest. At any supermarket, you’ll find a balloon or two trailing me to the cashier’s line. I tried getting around the writer’s block by introducing a new character into the book, one who likes balloons. She was supposed to be a secondary character, but … she’s taking over the book. When I work on a chapter that involves this character (she’s also dealing with grief), the words flow like balloons do toward me at the markets. Perhaps I am journalizing after all. In any case, I find myself jumping around and writing the material from her point of view. I anticipate completing this book, but it’s liable to turn out way different from what I had imagined.

This leaves me to wonder how grief affected other writers. Did you find yourself changing genres or going off on a different tangent? Did you keep a journal? I’d be interested in hearing your experiences.

Ghost dance, a horror tale written by Rod Marsden.

About Barbara Custer

Author of: Twilight Healer Steel Rose Life Raft: Earth City of Brotherly Death Close Liaisons Infinite Sight When Blood Reigns Infinite Sight Publisher / Editor of Night to Dawn Books & Magazine
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  1. Barbara! What timing it was that I found your blog. I recently (7/29) lost my father who was my best friend and I’ve always been a daddy’s girl. Mom has the beginning of Alzheimer’s so she has needed a lot of my care since dad passed away. I went from writing every day to caring for her every day (even moving in with her to help her). I was missing my dad very much but had to remain strong for mom. A friend suggested I start keeping a ‘secret’ journal and even writing letters to dad about the rough days. This has helped me tremendously!! The three of us (hubby too) are planning to move to Las Vegas by the end of this year (God willing) and I’m worried I will lose more and more of him. Now-a-days I can just go to his sanctuary, the garage, and sit in there and ‘feel’ him and write to him. I’m worried when we move that I won’t have those places anymore. My writing has slowed down to the depression and constant care for mom. When it’s not so fresh, I plan on jumping back on the horse and take time out for me everyday to do what I need to do. Kinda like my ‘time in the corner’ you might say. Thank you for letting me know I’m not the only one having writing trouble after dads passing!! Best wishes for you and treat yourself to an extra balloon today for being my inspiration! Thank You!!!

    • I’m ahead of you – I just added another balloon to my collection. 🙂 Whatever you do, make sure you take time out for yourself, even if it’s to go to the mall for a walk. I cared for Mike for several years before he went into the nursing home, and I was getting burned out fast. A wise caregiver gave me that advice and it helped. I still do get tired easily but it’s not as bad as it was, and I’m starting to write a little more. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I wish you well with this.

  2. I will try again to leave a comment. When my mother passed away I wrote one vampire short story about the loss of not speaking to her on the phone every Sunday. In Ghost Dance and other fiction I remembered the old Ramsgate Baths south of Sydney that were such an important part of my childhood. My mother grew up with those Baths and wanted us to grow up with them too. They were demolished inn the 1970s to make way for a car park for a supermarket but they still exist so strong in my memory. Remembering the Baths was my way of handling my mother no longer being around. She gave so much but what she gave with taking us to the Baths was the best part of her own childhood..

  3. I wrote a vampire short story soon after my mother passed away. I also included the old Ramsgate Baths in my stories including Ghost Dance. The Baths, south of Sydney, required two bus trips to get to when I was young but my mother determined to share that part of her childhood with her offspring. They were part of a world we didn’t know was vanishing at the time.There were the pools but there was also the fish and chip shop that made the best banana fritters in the universe. Of course one must not forget the old pinball arcade with its distorting mirrors and its fortune teller machine.Many years later when the movie BIG came out we remembered that machine even though it was a gypsy woman fortune teller in our Ramsgate rather than a wizard handing out the cards.The Baths were demolished inn the 1970s to make way for a car park for a supermarket. Even so my mother, my childhood still remains connected to those wonderful baths and in remembering them and writing about them I remember her. Yes it can be hard to get back in the saddle after a personal loss.But all good troopers with ink in their blood find a way. My thoughts at any rate.

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on how grief affected your writing. I know that Mike is still with you in spirit. One thing I did after my mom died (she was my best friend) was dedicate another book to her. I’d dedicated one to her before and she loved that. I will always remember how she taught me to love writing and reading. This piece was thought-provoking as are all you entries.

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