Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Writing About Depressing Stuff


I’ve written before about how writing about grief can affect you, but I think it’s worth revisiting, in a little broader sense.

There are people who cringe when I tell them what most of my writing is about. I understand their feeling that grief is “depressing”. But there are many whose work could be classified that way:

            Hospice volunteers

            AIDS outreach workers

            Oncologists

            First responders

I had a friend whose job was to fire people in her company (I hate “lay off” – let’s call it what it is). I thought she had an incredibly depressing job, but she didn’t think so. She was so considerate about how she handled each person that they often wound up sympathizing with her.

I’ve also met writers whose memoirs deal with horrific tales of neglect, addiction, abuse and suicide. Yet not one of them seemed unhappy.

What do these people have in common? I think aside from their professions, or book topics, it’s attitude.

They’ve found a way to define themselves as helpers. They use their experience to inform and empower others. They don’t feel sorry for themselves or complain about how hard they have it. They focus on serving people, often on the worst day of their lives.

So, when you watch a tragedy unfold on TV, think of them: the reporters struggling for words, the first responders taking a break and realizing what they just witnessed, the Red Cross volunteers comforting victims.

Their job is a whole lot more depressing than mine, and probably yours, too. But you won’t hear them complain.

Because they’re the ones asking “How can I help you?”

1 comment:

Nigel George said...

Interesting Ive just written a blog piece on 'Is it morbid to talk about death?' To be morbid is to have an unhealthy interest in something. Having an interest in other peoples experiences of death can be a very positive thing. Particularly if it helps someone come to terms with that death