"Called to the bedside of their dying mother, three sisters reluctantly return to their childhood home in northern Minnesota. What should be a reunion of love and warmth is tainted by the ghosts of their childhood; their parents' farm is a place of painful memories. With their mother in a coma, Helene leaves behind a shell of a marriage in Atlanta---her country club lifestyle not at all what it seems. Alice has finally fled an abusive husband but is afraid her failing courage will put her children in danger. Waking up beside yet another stranger, Suzanne can no longer deny how an alcohol addiction may destroy everything she's worked for---an addiction that barely masks the terrible wounds on her soul. They may have escaped the farm, but Helene, Alice, and Suzanne find they are still perpetuating a cycle of pain, abuse, alcoholism, anger, fear, and bitterness. Seeing themselves through each other's eyes, the sisters are forced to confront their demons. Will they be able to tread through the wreckage of the past to create lives filled with hope, love, and triumph? "
When I decided to tackle the subject of abuse in a novel, I knew I had to include incest because such a large number of women (and men) have experienced what many of us consider to be unthinkable. Once I had done my research and interviewed a wide segment of women, I knew I needed to create a character who was strong in so many aspects of life yet still traumatized by the abuse she had suffered at the hands of her father. Suzanne became that perfect character. This scene was tough to write because I can't imagine a child being so harmed by someone who is supposed to love and take care of them, yet Suzanne (and many real women and men) have been.
I really enjoyed writing this scene. Helene, Alice, and Suzanne are all such messes when they stay closed up in their own lives. But, when they start to open up and share, they find out that every life has its issues. Because of their dysfunctional childhood, they never really learned to share with each other, and as the process begins, they all grow.
Helene's husband was unfaithful and she had known about it for many years, but said nothing. It's easy to feel disgust at her for that decision and to sit on the outside and say "If he cheated, I'd leave him in an instant," or "If he cheated, I'd. . ." As I was developing Helene's character, I talked to a lot of woman about infidelity and what they would do. The ones who had never experienced it were pretty certain about what their actions would be, yet those who admitted to experiencing it, talked about the many layers of feelings and choices that exist when someone you love and who has or does love you has cheated. Life, as most of us realize, is never as simple in the middle of pain as it is when we're looking from the outside.
I love this small section of the book because it says so much in such few lines. As I was writing the book, I realized that many of us have a concept of what an alcoholic, or any addict for that matter, looks like. Before the book, my concept of an alcoholic was someone who was drunk all the time, slovenly in their appearance, and totally out of touch with life. Then I started my research and my concept flew right out the window. As Annette says in this small section of the book, "They look like you and me." There are many highly functioning people dealing with addictions, often masking their pain behind the rituals of daily routine and staying functional. It was an eye-opening lesson for me. My character, Suzanne, taught me a lot of life, people, and dealing with pain.
The largest struggle I had when writing this book was with the rate of change that my characters would experience. In my research, I talked to women of all ages who had gone through a myriad of experiences and traumas during their childhoods and their lives. Some of the women - 20, 30, 40, and even 50 years later - were still dealing with and stuck in the aftermath of their traumas. Then there were other women who, while they would never forget the trauma, had moved on, gathering the lessons their experiences taught them, and using those lessons and the strength they had gained, to help create a wonderful life. Those are the women I chose to use as examples for my characters. Most of those positive women said the same thing - in different words: They had reached a breaking point. A point where they hit bottom and acknowledged that they could no longer keep doing what they'd been doing. That they chose to no longer live that way. When that happens, change can and does come quickly. There's a saying that I heard years ago, and I'm not sure where, but it has strongly impacted my life. "To change your life. Change your mind." That's what my characters chose to do.
Back in the 70s there was a book called "The Total Woman" written by Marabel Morgan. One of the suggestions she offered to help bring romance into a relationship was to wrap yourself in plastic wrap and meet your husband at the door. Even back then my writer's mind would often take scenarios and run with them, wondering "what if". When I was writing "Family Inheritance," I decided to see what would happen if the plastic wrap scenario ran amuck. This snippet was the result.
When I was researching the tough subjects covered in this novel, I learned that communities and cultures often create environments where abuse is just accepted as "what is." To get that fact across, I chose to create a scene between two friends. And this was the result.
I've often wondered when someone slips into a coma if their soul has chosen to stay around for a while. And, if by the choice of staying, even if the body is in a coma, can the lives around them be touched and changed. Because of that curiosity, my writer's mind decided to create a scenario where the soul was told not to come yet because there was still work to do. The wonderful thing about being a fiction writer is that we can create any scenario we want, it doesn't have to actually exist in reality.
When someone is grieving over the loss of a loved one, it is often hard to know how to be there for them, even though we want to. With the poetry and verse she wrote during her own journey through the grief of losing her son, along with beautiful photography that supports the emotion of her words, Terri Ann Leidich has created a book that can speak for us. Designed to be a gift to someone in grief, this book puts words to emotions, gives feelings to the confusion and lends hope at a time that can feel hopeless. Whether it is a gift to yourself or a gift to someone you care about who is suffering the pain of loss, this book will offer understanding, hope, support and love.
Grief is like a roller coaster. There are moments when you are heading upward out of the abyss and glinting pieces of sunlight. But just as suddenly you are hurled downward into the depths of the darkness and pain that feels like it will never end and that you will not survive the experience. This verse was written in one of those dark times during the early years of my journey through the grief of losing my son.
When Terri Ann Leidich's twenty-year-old son was suddenly killed in a vehicle accident, she was thrown into the roller coaster agony of grief. Adapted from the journal she kept through the experience of her horrendous loss, this book is a roadmap for parents who have lost children, as well as for those who are on the sidelines, watching the agony of someone they care about and not knowing what to do or how to help. Terri Ann's ability to put emotions and experiences into words that everyone can understand and relate to can shine as a beacon of hope and understanding during a time of excruciating pain.
My son's death was caused by the negligence of another driver who was arrested and charged. In the beginning, I was told that we would be able to attend his arraignment and speak to the judge. It sounded pretty cut and dried to me, but it turned out to be just another nightmare.
It was January 25, 1992, 233 days after my son's death and my anger was once more at the forefront. To the outside world, a person in grief should be "getting over it" seven months after the death. So many times I heard the words "Rob would want you to move on," but grief and the anger over our loss isn't something we just "get over." It's a process that we have to move through - at our own pace. Not only was I angry at the loss of my son as I knew him then, I was angry at all the future experiences that I had lost, and that isn't something I could get over in a mere seven months. Each person has their own timetable and their own process. What people in grief want and need is love and patience.
My son's visitation was a gut-wrenching experience for me. Not only because I was laying my son's body to rest but because I was also witnessing the shock and pain on his friend's faces as they realized that they were not invincible --- that there was no guarantee that they would live forever. That reality seemed to age them before my very eyes. That night, I also began to notice that dealing with grief is a very individual experience. We all have rituals or ways of dealing with death that help us, yet may not be understood by others. For my son's friends, being able to see his body was important. I had chosen a closed coffin because many of the major bones in my son's body had been broken in the accident, but for his friends, how he looked was not as important as just being able to see him and place personal mementos next to him. Sometimes in grief, what feels right for one person can be painful for another. It was the beginning of a long journey for me of learning about grief and grieving.
Unless you've gone through the horrific pain of grief, it's hard to understand that the simplest thing can cause gut wrenching pain. A simple gesture of answering the phone at work and hearing a co-worker's son ask for his mom was like a knife piercing through my chest as the realization hit me that I'd never hear my son's voice again. The pain is real and it is long lasting. The saddest part of all was that there were very few people who were just "with me" through the pain. Most wanted to "fix it" or tell me that Rob wouldn't want me to feel that way. Words like that are sharp blades slicing right through to the soul.
When someone we love dies, the memories that we have of them become valued treasures. In the early stages of grief, they are bittersweet because the pain of loss is still so sharp. Now, these many years later, I am so thankful that I recorded the memories I have of my son, first in my journal and then in this book, so I have help remembering even the smallest things.
When I was in the throes of early grief, I just kept kept moving, doing, performing. To the outside world, it looked like strength but in reality it was pure survival. The most poignant piece of this excerpt for me is the sentence "I'm acting and reacting, but if I stopped to feel, I would die." I'm so grateful that I kept a journal during those first years of grief because if I hadn't, I would not have been able to capture the raw pain, the rote behaviors, and the surreal feelings that the early stages of grief trap us in.
A parent doesn't expect to lose a child. In fact, it is every parent's worst nightmare. Mine began on an ordinary Friday night. When I went into my bedroom to get ready to go to a friend's graduation, I had no idea that when I left my son sitting in the living room it would be the last time I saw him alive. Yet, our souls somehow know. I felt so sad that evening and kept telling my husband I felt like I had just lost my best friend and couldn't figure out why. A few hours later, I understood.
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