There Is No Map for Grief: On the Work of Art

This post by Lidia Yuknavitch originally appeared on The Millions on 7/8/15.

Trauma brought me to the page, it is that simple.

When my daughter died in the belly world of me, I became a writer — so that all the words that cannot name grief, all the words threatening to erupt from my belly and uterus did not explode up and through my skull and face and shatter the very world and sky.

Oceans of other people’s compassions have washed over me, but those of us who have lost children, we are a living dead tribe. We smile and nod and thank people for their concerns and efforts. The labor of our lives is actually quite simple: stay alive. So that others might go on.

Wounds make artists. I wrote a book from the body of my dead girl.

There is no map for grief, but there are bridges to others.

When I was 30 and finishing a dissertation on war and narrative, a box arrived via UPS to the door of my home. The sender was my aunt — my father’s sister — a woman I had become estranged from over the years for her ill treatment and unkind words toward me, my sister, and my mother. The box was about the size of a small television. I removed the brown paper and tape carefully…then wondered why I had been careful? The cardboard box under the brown paper had a red lid. I wondered why. When I opened the red lid a hundred photos and yellowed papers and documents spread before me like hands. Nothing from my aunt — there was no explanation for what was inside the box.


Read the full post on The Millions.