Book Review: Braving the Fire
Some folks I know with chronic illness prickle a little bit when I refer to the grieving process I went through (and occasionally delve back into) when I accepted that migraine disease is a part of my life that will most likely always be with me. People tend to think of grief as something that accompanies a death of a loved one, but this emotion can accompany lots of different life changes, from a health diagnosis to a divorce to a job loss to a death.
As a writer for Migraine.com (and, before that, solo writer for my own blog that was hosted independently, The Migraine Girl), I came to discover how healing it was for me to write about living day to day with this disease. There are times when I feel at peace with my various health diagnoses, and there are times when I feel as if I’m starting at square one, trying to accept the reality of my life as a Person With Health Issues.
Jessica Handler’s new book, Braving the Fire: A Guide to Writing About Grief and Loss, came into my life at a perfect time. I read it right as the holiday season was approaching. As the owner of a retail store, holiday season is our busiest season, and I knew that I had some insane workdays ahead. This meant that writing my posts for Migraine.com fell by the wayside even more than usual and that I would put my personal health on the back burner in order to make sure the health of the bookstore was maintained. (I know how foolish it is to put work ahead of personal health. Goodness knows I write about that a lot! It’s important to put on your proverbial oxygen mask before assisting others and all that, but I tend to forget that lesson periodically.)
One night after work, I opened Handler’s book and began reading about the power of writing through grief. About the difference between writing for yourself and writing for others. About how difficult and terrible some writing days can be, when you are faced with just your memories of days gone by and have the choice of dealing with your emotions on paper or walking away and closing the door on those emotions.
When you're in mourning (about the death of a loved one, about the end of a relationship, about the end of a way of life, about finally accepting a life-altering diagnosis, etc.), it sometimes seems easy to hide from your grief and push it aside. Handler's non-intimidating, positive how-to book helps you think more about the benefits of writing through your pain to the other side, whether or not you ever intend to share your writing with others.
I suspect that many of the people who visit Migraine.com are just observers, readers who take time with lots of different articles and rarely comment. That is fine—we are here to meet anyone and everyone who finds her way to us. On the other hand, there are thousands of you who do make the choice to respond to posts, share your own stories, and ask questions. I have read comments from so many of you who at last feel validated and legitimate. Sharing your stories in a safe environment can alter your perspective forever.
If your life has been dramatically altered due to migraine and/or other illness, I recommend you get your hands on a copy of Handler’s book and see if writing through grief might be an effective way for you to feel more at peace with your situation. Even if you never share your words with others, just writing down your thoughts can help immensely with your stress levels and your mental health.
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?