Writing to Become Whole

My mother died when I was in high school. I felt like an outsider because none of my friends had experienced death up close. We were carefree teenagers; death was something very far from us. I wanted to be normal—to go out and party, have fun and not feel this incredible weight within me. But I had been somewhere that I couldn’t explain to anyone, let alone myself.

“I will not be divided from her or from myself/By myths of separation.” This is a line by Adrienne Rich and the epitaph for my book. At the End of Words. Writing it was a way for me to reconcile my desire to live my life as a “normal person” and stop feeling the pain of separation from my mother, but to not forget about her at the same time. But if remembering someone is painful, that’s a very hard thing to do.

I tried to do the college student thing—go to class, go to parties, hang out in the dorms—but I felt underneath that something was very wrong. It would surface now and then and I would feel like I was going crazy. I couldn’t integrate into my every day life the deep feelings inside of me—those of missing my mother and of knowing in some small way that death is real—without feeling that I would be sucked into a black hole of depression and would become even more separate from myself, my life and my friends.

Writing the book helped me to bring those conflicting elements together under the same roof, to live with all of them within me. I realize now that by living, by breathing and by writing, I am carrying my mother with me; she (and her death) are as much a part of me as any other aspect of my life. Writing was how I became whole again.

Miriam Stone is the author of At the End of Words: A Daughter’s Memoir (Candlewick), winner of the 2004 International Reading Association Children’s Book Award in Young Adult Nonfiction. She lives in Brooklyn, where she works as freelance writer and editor, contributing often to LILITH, and is completing a novel.