May I tell you something about myself?
I once read that the impulse to write comes from an inability to cope with the world in some way. It is the result of a personal malfunction. This is certainly a less flattering take than calling it a coping mechanism. When you call it a coping mechanism, it sounds more like writing is a personal tool that we use to deal with an imperfect world or life situation. In reality, the two ways of describing it aren't so different. Either way, you as a person find yourself unable to deal with something in life, and you are free to cast the blame where you may.
When something really bad happens, I don't feel like I can cope with it. Some things just seem too big for me to handle. Once I acknowledge that this terrible thing has indeed occurred, that makes it real, and I'm not ready for it to be real.
This was the case when my mom died last May. The circumstances were chaotic to begin with. My son Lyle was born only six days before that. Not only did I have the normal hormone issues and sleep deprivation that comes from having a newborn, his birth was also a bit rough. Since he had the cord wrapped around his neck, the doctors had to get him out quickly. He had to spend a few hours in the NICU, though he ended up being fine. The rapid delivery also took it out of me, and I ended up losing a lot of blood post delivery. My hemoglobin dropped by about 25%. I felt lightheaded and weak.
Six days later when my mom passed, I was still anemic. I felt the effects of everything piling up on me at once. All I could do to get through it was focus on taking care of my kids. I poured all of my energy into that for the following weeks, because I didn't have it in me to do much else. People kept remarking about how well I was dealing with the situation. I wish that were true.
I just wasn't dealing with it at all.
I couldn't face my feelings, because I felt like my life would fall apart if I did. I had people telling me I had to stay strong for my kids. Of course I already knew that, but it felt like I didn't have permission to be a human being. And once the feelings started to catch up with me weeks later, it felt like there was a black hole opening up inside me. It made it so much harder to move through the world.
When someone dies, we're sad they're gone. We also have regrets. Things we wish we'd said, things we wish we didn't say. Those regrets pile on to make things even worse. I felt all of these things, though I refused to acknowledge it.
Writing about my feelings directly didn't feel like a viable option at the time either. It felt too real that way. So I wrote them into the lives of my characters. I put them in painful situations, and I let my poisonous feelings flow into them through my keystrokes.
It was cathartic. Of course, my writing has been somewhat dark as of late. But I'd be lying if I said it wasn't always a little on the dark side.