The five words that best describe Love at the Center of Grief: rollercoaster journey–heartwrenching, laughable–hope.
Highlight from the book:
Tonight my damaged heart hammers, fearful with hope, wondering if Hayden will be at the “Back to School Grief Bash.” Positioned in front of the single-story redbrick structure the sign states: Welcome to the Summerfort Grief Center: A Place to Heal, A Place to Hope, A Place to Belong.
A repurposed Methodist church on the outskirts of Summerfort, Missouri, exists as a hub of grief. The Summerfort Grief Center, at times, is my home away from home and where I met Hayden. Since I’m a regular, I had a personalized prompt waiting for me inside at check-in. Gretchen, please describe ways in which grief might challenge you as you head to Summerfort High School this year.
Pretending I’m still reading, I plop down on the sofa. Using quick sideways peeks, I’m well aware Hayden’s lounging at the other end of the couch. Our school colors accentuate and match the hue of Hayden’s cloudy blue-grey eyes. After this evening’s visual, I’ve decided I’ll become a Summerfort Eagle’s football fan. Seeing Hayden in his practice T-shirt and shorts gets me challenging school spirit. Go Summerfort Eagles!
Five teens and Mrs. Marks, our group facilitator, make up attendees. After going over the rules, Mrs. Marks says, “Gretchen, let’s start with you.”
“Hi. I’m Gretchen. My mom died of a stroke when I was six, almost seven. I remember she and I were planning my upcoming birthday. She’s been gone almost eight years. I’ve been coming here on and off for the different age groups and special events ever since. It helps me a lot. Sometimes I feel okay. Other days I don’t think I will ever feel normal again. Going into high school seems big. There are lots of questions I wish I could ask my mom right now.” I see everyone nod in agreement.
With Miles and Hayden as the only boys present, I conclude Hayden’s the one responsible for stirring the air with a woodsy pine scent.
“I’m Hayden. Like Gretchen, my mom also died, but with uterine cancer. Yet we experienced our mothers’ deaths around the same age and time frame.” He glances my way.
My heart leaps into my throat at the way Hayden says, Gretchen. That deep, masculine, southern drawl, each word seeping out of his mouth with such slow precision as the letter of my name go across those thick kissable lips.
… Because of the impact Death has on a heart, I worry that in the wake of Death, is Grief going to alter my ability ever truly to love permanently? And the question inside my folder tonight toys with me. I’m scared to attend high school. I’m scared to trust. I’m scared to love. Grief is scary business.
The purpose of my book is to share grief resources. Grief is universal, and it will impact everyone at some point in life. After losing my parents, I wanted a way to help others. This 8-year-old child’s words (Lost & Found Grief Center) touched my heart: “Are there other kids here whose moms have died? Do they dress up for Halloween? Do they still have Thanksgiving? What about Christmas? How do they have presents? How are they ever happy again?”
Themes in the book:
Grief changes the whole dynamic of a family and a person’s role within that family. In times of grief, people tend to pull away from love when they need it most. Often, the outside world doesn’t know how to respond to the pain of others appropriately. My characters help each other through these issues. Teens without moms face many sad and awkward moments at school and through the holidays, remembering their mothers. School bullies often use grief-stricken moments as an easy target. How might we overcome some of the sufferings and honor a person’s life instead of the heartache?
Character Fun/Difficult Moments:
Writing the love scenes between Gretchen and Hayden brought me a lot of laughs. First loves can be so dramatic. Both of them come off so awkward and funny at times. I enjoyed their internal dialogue so much. It’s a joy to write the characters’ deep thoughts.
For me to channel their grief was both easy and difficult. Some days I spent in tears writing scenes as Hayden and Gretchen poured out their souls to their moms in a grief diary. It made me long for my own mother, so I channeled those hurts with words. Both Gretchen and Hayden experience a bully at school. Even Hayden and Gretchen’s widowed dads go through grief transformations.
I thought my timid personality would keep me from becoming a writer. It took tons of courage to put myself out there. As long as I wrote from the heart, I decided that the right audience would find and embrace me. I’m busy working on the sequel, “Beyond the Center of Grief.”
Cindy McIntyre authored Eulogies Unspoken: Stories of Worth, Caring for Dad: With Love and Tomatoes, and Love at the Center of Grief. She’s been teaching for twenty years. The loss of her parents led to volunteering at Lost & Found Grief Center. Originally from Illinois, she now calls Missouri home.
Link to my Amazon page:
Or to my website: http://www.missouriauthorcindymcintyre.com