For those of you who have read my newest release, The Fall (The Ballad of Emery Brooks, #2), you may have noticed that the book was dedicated to someone named Cymp. Cymp is the nickname given to the woman who would now be my mother-in-law, who passed away unexpectedly at the young age of 56 back in 2019, just a few weeks after I started writing The Fall.
The Fall, for the most part, is a book that is mainly about grief, and learning to move on after losing someone close to you. So, how did I survive writing The Fall when I was going through grief of my own?
It wasn’t easy.
Note: You may not want to read this post if you haven’t yet read The Crush (The Ballad of Emery Brooks, #1), but are planning on doing so. This post will contain some spoilers for that book.
I’ve been putting off writing this post for a while, because I know I’ll get emotional. First, let me start off by telling you a little about Cymp. She was the epitome of what we in the South refer to as a “good woman”. She loved people with all her heart, even though she had to put up with a lot of aggravating circumstances in her life. She did anything she could for anyone. She was an amazing cook, and I’m really happy to see that my husband inherited those genes from her and is picking up her legacy in the kitchen. She was super sassy, another trait my husband inherited, that I really love. She loved the grand-kids she got to meet while she was here on earth with all her heart, and took amazing care of them. Besides my husband, she was the one person in his family who I was closest to.
She would’ve been the best mother-in-law to me, and the best Granny C to any children God allows Josh and I to have in the future. And I miss her every single day.
How My Grief Mirrored Emery’s
The Unexpected Loss
In The Crush, Emery loses three souls she cares about by the end of the novel. Emery didn’t lose her boyfriend’s momma like I did, but there was an unexpected loss in the book that evoked some similar emotions in me as it did Emery.
Prior to 2019, I had dealt with my fair share of losses. All of my grandparents passed away by 2015, when I was just 21 years old. I’ve had aunts, uncles, and family friends, pass away. But, if I remember correctly, all of those were expected. Medical issues were involved. Most were older in age, or had been dealing with issues for a while, so I had time to process that the loss was coming before it hit.
Unexpected losses, however, hit you like a bullet to the heart. Even if you have a relationship with God, you’ll question WHY He allowed it to happen. And if you’re like me, you’ll debate God’s plan for it–something none of us will ever understand–for months on end. You’ll question your faith for months on end.
I don’t mean for this post to sound cynical, but this is just how unexpected loss is. It’s cynical. And Satan will use it to wear you down to your lowest possible state, if you relinquish your faith in God. My friend, please heed my warning, and have faith in Him, even when it seems like the bleakness of life will never end.
The Grief Timeline
If I remember correctly, Emery processes the unexpected loss of someone she loves for about a year and a half in The Fall before she starts to return to who she was before her loved one’s death. She struggles with her music, and her outlooks of love, and God, during this time.
It took about that long for me as well. My mother-in-law passed away in July 2019, and while I was (by God’s grace alone) able to write the first draft of The Fall during my grieving period, and started writing The Dream, I dealt with a lot of personal faith issues and cynicism outside of writing from the time of her death until October 2020. October 2020, if you’ve read my nonfiction book for Christian authors, Writing by Faith: Following God’s Calling to be a Christian Author, was also a difficult period in my life. I was still grieving Cymp, my faith was shaky, at best, and I published The Crush that month, totally convinced it would take off as a bestseller.
The results were far from that. I was already depressed, and the release flopping just added to those negative feelings. It was the worst season of my life to date. I felt like God couldn’t stand me, because nothing was going “right” by my standards. A lot of what Emery felt in the first 33% of The Fall, with both her outlook on her faith and her dreams, was how I felt during this season. In my edits for The Fall, once I finally surrendered all my grief and depression to God, I worked to have Emery react in a similar way with her music, because it wasn’t as pronounced when I wrote the first draft.
Finding Hope Again
In Emery’s situation, I feel like it was easier for her to find hope again, since she could eventually move on to find someone else to fill that same role in her life as the person who passed away. However, I can’t say the same for myself.
I’ll never have another mother-in-law. She didn’t even get to see her son and I get engaged or married. My future kids will only meet one of their grandmas: my momma. And that–the finality of Cymp’s death, the nevers that come with it–made it extremely hard for me to write about Emery having hope in moving on when I was still struggling to fathom what a future would look like, when everything seemed so bleak for me when we lost Cymp.
Have I found hope again? I’ll be blatantly honest here. My husband’s family has not been the same since his momma’s passing. There’s been a lot of hurt. Everyone processes grief in different ways, and not all those ways are constructive, and, unfortunately, they don’t always involve Jesus. It’s been difficult to watch, and accept, at times. That also didn’t make writing about hope in The Fall any easier, because sometimes, hope is hard to see in the fog of Satan’s influence.
But, I know that Cymp is with Jesus, looking down on us. I know that Josh and I will keep her memory alive as much as we can, and that we’ll tell our future kids all about her, and how much she’d love them. I know that as long as Josh and I seek Jesus in our individual lives, and in our marriage, that we’ll see Cymp again in Heaven. Our future kids will too. But, it really hurts me that they’ll never get to meet her here on earth. It’s hard enough for me now, knowing Josh lost three our of four of his grandparents early in life too, not having my own grandparents around, and now coming to terms that our future kids will come into the world experiencing a similar hurt. It sucks. But there’s nothing we can do about it but surrender that hurt to God.
I know my future kids will be loved by the grandparents they’re able to meet. I also know there will always be a void, with Cymp’s absence. We’ll never stop missing her. Grief still hits us in waves now, three years later, and it will continue to do so. The ultimate hope we have though, again, is that we’ll see her in Heaven.
Writing about grief, while going through grief, is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Part of me was tempted to just announce that I decided to keep The Crush a standalone, so I wouldn’t have to keep revisiting Emery’s grief during edits. But, another part of me wanted to share what realistic grief is like, and how we can still have faith that God will get us through the toughest times of our life. I hope and pray that’s what readers find in The Fall.
Talk to Me, Arrowheads!
Have you ever had a traumatic experience that affected your writing or faith? If you feel able, please share about that season to help others who may be struggling. ❤
Aim high, stay strong, and always hit your mark.