In 2009, when I was 5 months pregnant, the awful news came through that my father had terminal cancer. Those were dark days. Despite the fact that my father was given 12-18 months as a life prognosis, he fought hard and died 37 months later.
I was saddened and infinitely grieved. Although a few of my sisters will be horrified by this thought, the truth is for me, by the time he died, I’d already done my mourning. It was just a matter of closing the final chapter of the book.
In the end, I was actually away on holidays when my sister called me and said, “The doctors are saying 24 hours. Are you going to come home early?” I hung up in shock and discussed it with my husband. The airline only had two seats left, and there were four of us. I couldn’t leave my husband with the two kids. Apart from the fact my 2yo was suffering from extreme separation anxiety, my husband was my support system. I rang my sister back and told her I was not cutting my holiday short. I’d already said all my goodbyes, and Dad would understand.
Dad, however, was a fighter. 50 hours later, when my flight came in, he was still hanging on. Two days later he finally went. I was there in the end.
The psychologists tell us there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
I agree and think that I moved through them all before he died.
People would often say to me, when they heard that my dad was terminal, “At least you got to say goodbye. It is better than the sudden death.” I nodded and believed them, as I didn’t have anything to compare it to.
28 days after Dad died, my youngest nephew was killed in a tragic accident.
Those stages of grief were once again passed through – and I spent a lot of time asking why? Why did this terrible thing have to happen to such a little boy who never did anything wrong?
I now had something to compare – was the long drawn out goodbye harder? Or the short and unexpected death?
Emotionally, the years of grief I experienced with Dad was huge, compared to the shock of my nephew’s death. Yes, I got to say goodbye with Dad, but with a tragic accident, you’re often left wondering, “if only…”
The same emotions (5 stages of grief) are experienced with a wide variety of losses.
Wikipedia says,“Kübler-Ross originally developed this model based on her observations of people suffering from terminal illness. She later expanded her theory to apply to any form of catastrophic personal loss, such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a job or income, major rejection, the end of a relationship or divorce, drug addiction, incarceration, the onset of a disease or chronic illness, an infertility diagnosis, as well as many tragedies and disasters (and even minor losses).”
I think this is very true. Recently a close social media friend suddenly and unexpectedly cut off all communication with me. I was left with no explanation, no warning, no nothing. Just up and gone one day – unfriended and blocked. Rather like an unexpected death, this was an unforeseen death of our friendship. Even worse, this was a suicide, with me left wondering if I could’ve done something to prevent this? Were there warning signs I missed? Could this person at least left me a note of explanation? Or maybe, just maybe, if this person had thought to talk to someone, this drastic action could’ve been avoided?
At first I couldn’t believe it. I checked again and again (stage one of grief). Then I got angry (stage two of grief). I stormed outside and did something else away from the computer while I seethed and thought bad things about this person. I plotted revenge, planned awful deeds and was a generally bad person. Then I calmed down some. Maybe it was a mistake? (stage 3) I’ll check the computer again…
By the time my husband came home, I was in depression (stage 4). I cried to him, wailing that I didn’t know what was wrong, why this happened, and was I really such a bad person? Some five hours after I found out about the death of our friendship, I was accepting it. Sometimes people just don’t see eye-to-eye. Even though I was still completely confused about the why, I realised that some people don’t treat the bonds of friendship the same way I do.
And that’s okay. Because we’re all different. Lesson learned, Renae. Move along. Acceptance (stage 5).
The moral of the story has to do with reviews – the bond that connects authors and readers. This bond has two ends – with the author on one end, and the reader on the other. This is a symbiotic bond, as one cannot exist without the other.
The bond between the two is sometimes thick, sometimes weak. Sometimes there is miscommunication along the bond. Sometimes the reader doesn’t get the story. Sometimes the author is offended by the review. And a bad read and a bad review can sever the bond, leaving both parties with a grieving process.
Writing a bad review, and getting a bad review, will leave both ends of the bond with 5 stages to work through: Disbelief, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
To a reader, I will ask you to stop before you pen a bad review. I’ve read negative reviews (both of my books, and of others) and can tell that some readers are still at stage one of disbelief (I can’t believe this book was not as good as the one before!), some are at stage two (I hated that the character was treated this way), while some are all the way to stage three (I’m returning this book because I really can’t believe it was this bad). To a reader who has read a book that doesn’t agree with them, I always want to ask them why? Was it because the book didn’t turn out like you wanted expected (ie the plot line was different)? Was it the editing? Or was it truthfully a bad book?
Look – I’m not saying don’t write a bad review. It’s a reader’s right, after all, and I am completely respectful of that. All I’m suggesting is write the review once you’ve thought about it. I like to read reviews that have full explanations for why the reader didn’t enjoy the book. I’m a reader too, and often I want to know from a review, was it something so terrible with the book? Or was it that the reader doesn’t like characters who cheat, and this book had an unfaithful partner? Was there a negative aspect that will trip me up too (I hate cliff-hangers!) or will it be something I can forgive as a character flaw?
To an author reading a bad review, you will go through the five stages of grief too. (How dare they write this? They’re just idiots. If only I’d rewritten that phrase. I’m just a bad, bad writer.) The first four stages, summed up in four lines. It’s okay to feel like this. But it’s not okay to act on it. It’s when we act in anger that all sorts of repercussions hit.
To both the reader and the author, I have this piece of advice – take a step back and remember we are all different. It’s okay to have a difference of opinion. Be angry, be sad. But be accepting of each other before you act.
Because tonight I sit here still grieving (although accepting) the loss of a wonderful father. I still grieve and only occasionally ask why? when I think about a child’s life taken from our family in such tragic circumstances. But it’s the friend I grieve (although accept) that I regret. Because what was done in anger or impetuousness, cannot be undone. However, perhaps it could’ve been prevented if that one person could’ve stopped, taken a step back and remembered: we are all different – and that’s okay.
How to contact Renae: