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Pen

In a previous post, I explained that the topic for my Loft youth class (July 14-18, 10:45-12:15) is not exactly what one thinks of for “fun” writing experiences. Frankly, if I were a parent, I probably would want to know a little more about a class titled “Will I Always Be Sad? Writing Through Grief and Loss.”

First, the class description: “Essays hinge on a transformative moment—the point in which the author changes and gains a new perspective on life. The death of a loved one is a dramatic example of a transformative moment, and can provide rich, emotional material for an essay. In this class, we will examine how essayists have written about death in a way that’s both personal and universal. We will also explore ways of writing through grief and loss in our own lives.”

Let me try to address some reasons parents might be wary of signing their teens up for this class.

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1) Why dwell on it?
Ah, Midwesterners. We like to quickly move on from loss and bury our emotions. We have a tendency to want to let other people know that we’re doing OK, even if in private we have our doubts about. But our emotions tend to seek out release valves. On the negative side, those valves might include behavioral problems, alcohol or other addictions. For me, I discovered a positive outlet through writing. On paper, my thoughts and feelings finally made sense.

"Ghost World": one of my favorite movies. I thought the emotions these girls experience came across as very real.

“Ghost World”: one of my favorite movies. I thought the emotions these girls experience came across as very real.

2) Isn’t 15, 16, or 17 years old too young to deal with such a serious topic?
I don’t think so. I think this age is a perfect time to address real-life issues. Teens this age can cope with new ideas while still in the relatively safety of friends and family and the familiar, comfortable environment of home. Better to deal with reality at this age rather than be thrust into it while away from home and in unfamiliar environments in the young adult years.

The loss of my sweet dog, Kahlil, in 2013 was heart-wrenching.

The loss of my sweet dog, Kahlil, in 2013 was heart-wrenching.

3) What kind of grief and loss are we talking about?
The death of a loved one fits this category, but I encourage everyone to think broadly about any loss that brings about a transformative moment. It could be loss through divorce and having to deal with new circumstances. It could be the loss of a beloved companion pet. It could be the loss of an important friendship.

After Kahlil died, I read Mark Doty's "Dog Years." Talk about transforming grief into literary art.

After Kahlil died, I read Mark Doty’s “Dog Years.” Talk about transforming grief into literary art.

4) Is this just going to turn into one big therapy session?
Not if I can help it! Writing can be therapeutic, but I’m more interested in teaching students how a transformative moment can be elevated into literary art. This class will focus on the literary side of writing about grief and loss and students will be provided many examples from writers who have successfully done this.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.

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