Why I became a writer

When my son Paul died in 1999 at age twenty-seven, I took the advice of several people to see a therapist. The one I chose to see led a survivors of suicide support group sponsored by the Didi Hirsch Mental Health center. The group met once a week for six weeks and consisted of people who had lost friends, loved ones, and acquaintances to suicide. There was one other mother in the group who also lost a son – she found his body hanging from their second floor stair well. She hated the group as much as I did and was brave enough to quit after two or three sessions. I lasted the whole six weeks. But after I went to a private session with the leader – who finally admitted to me that she didn’t lose anyone one she loved to suicide, I quit her too. I made up my mind not to see anyone who had not experienced the kind of loss I was going through.

That’s when I turned to writing.

Four months after Paul died I began going to Jack Grapes’ writing class. I went every Wednesday morning and sat in the living room of his house reading a piece I had written and then listening to others read theirs. Jack called every written piece a poem. I liked that even though I knew I was writing essays.

After a while he began encouraging me to write more. Tell your entire story in a book before someone beats you to it, he said, and I listened to him. Through those months and years in his class, I created a memoir in poetry and prose, called Leaving the Hall Light On, that told my son’s mental illness story, how he killed himself, how my husband and grieved differently, how we were able to make our love life and marriage better, and how we gave each other enough space so we could move on with our lives for the rest of the time we had together. I didn’t need a therapist. I had a loving husband and my writing, which was respected and read since I chose to become a writer in the year 2000.

Bob died in 2020 of a nasty blood infection called sepsis. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the writing support I had when Paul died although I still write a poem and a journal entry every day. I’ve had two poetry chapbooks published since he died. The latest one is called Then and Now – the Then part has poems about him from before he died; the Now part is about how I’ve lived on since he died. Right now I’m thinking about writing a poem about one of my last dreams about him. I heard the doorbell ring. I got up to open the door. and there he was standing there and telling me how good it was to see me because he’d been looking all over for me. I brought him inside where we could be together again. Definitely not a possibility but a happy event to write about anyway.


  1. Joyce Goldberg says

    Loved this! As another mother who lost a son to suicide it touched me deeply as I too didn’t like group therapy,

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