One question I'm asked quite regularly is whether or not Losing Faith, and the loss of a sister, was based at all on real life. Well, no, not exactly. But it did have some roots in real life.
When I was sixteen, one of my best friends lived halfway across the country from me in Colorado. I've lived just outside Vancouver for all of my life, and we met when this friend of mine lived in Seattle. Our families were friends and camped together regularly for years. We had nicknames for each other - she thought salt and vinegar chips sounded like the most disgusting thing in the world, because they didn't have them in Washington at the time, so she always called me some variation of that--Vin, S&V, etc. I called her Funyuns, because we didn't have those little crunchy, curly things in Canada.
When their family decided to make the move to Colorado, it was a big change, but my friend and I were determined to keep in touch. This was before the world of email, and so we wrote each other long, handwritten letters about every detail of our daily lives. Some of our letters would be fifteen pages or longer! But I started to worry when I didn't get a letter from my friend for a long time.
I worried even more when I got a letter from her parents.
My friend had been killed by a drunk driver, and at sixteen, I didn't have much of a grid with how to process the death of a friend. The death of someone who I should have had a lot of years left with. I was angry and confused. I had so many questions, and I felt like all I could do was numb myself to those questions because there were no answers. Certainly no simple ones.
A little later in life, in my early twenties, I worked for a church that was made up largely of youth. This was not your average church - it was filled with passionate people who were seriously hurting or had been hurt. Many didn't have homes to go back to. Many had lost someone close. They would come into the service and let all their pain out through singing or dancing or sometimes just by sitting against a wall with their eyes closed.
The thing is, when they left that place, there was often more peace. I don't know for sure that they were all getting answers, but they were leaving there with something...new. And they weren't leaving there numb. I always looked back and wondered how I might have processed my friend's death differently if I'd had a better way to get it all out. Or if I'd believed in something bigger than myself.
I think this is one of the reasons I love reading about loss in books. Some of my recent favorites are THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson, ALL UNQUIET THINGS by Anna Jarzab, and FREEFALL by Mindi Scott. I love to see the different ways that the characters process their loss. I think this is such a big subject, and in some ways I'm still processing.
Have you experienced the death of someone close? What helped you deal with it? Did it change your beliefs at all? Do you have any favorite books that deal with loss and grief?