Kristi Petersen Schoonover, a ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, is a three-time Norman Mailer Writer’s Colony resident. Her dark emerging YA thriller, Bad Apple is coming from Vagabondage Press Books in September. Haunt her at www.kristipetersenschoonover.com.
Recently, a friend’s father died. Both of my parents are gone, so I suppose that’s why I felt compelled to send, instead of a Hallmark, an honest letter about this specific kind of grief.
I wrote on how she could expect to feel—about how I’d felt. The piece ended with “All you’ll see is the absence of things—an empty cup, the Father of the Bride’s vacant chair. Everyone will live a romance while you are trapped in a ghost story. And that’s okay.”
Once it was mailed, I felt better, and it hit me that I’d never allowed for, much less expressed, my own grief.
Soon after, though, I was horrified by the letter’s inappropriateness. I waited for the severing call.
It never came. Instead, she said, “You understood exactly what I was feeling—and gave me permission to feel it.”
I’d never felt such a strong connection to a reader. It was because I’d indulged in something our society discourages: sadness. It’s expected we ignore the absence, pish posh the ghost story and fast forward.
Yet if we do, we remain haunted.
When we honor sadness, we fill the cup, offer Dad’s chair to another. We fill an absence in ourselves—and, more importantly, we fill an absence in our readers.