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Ryan, J.L. (2009). Reweaving the Self: Creative Writing in Response to Tragedy. Psychoanal. Rev., 96(3):529-538.

(2009). Psychoanalytic Review, 96(3):529-538

Reweaving the Self: Creative Writing in Response to Tragedy

Judith Lingle Ryan, Ph.D.

My bursting heart must find vent at my pen.

—Abigail Adams

and what could be more comforting than to fold grief

like a blanket-

to fold anger like a blanket,

with neat corners-to put them into a box of words?

—Mary Oliver

On August 12, 1995, our 23-year-old son, Sean, died in a climbing accident on Mt. Rainier. He and a fellow park ranger, roped together for safety, fell 1, 200 feet down an icy glacier while carrying supplies to an injured climber. No one witnessed the fall, which killed them both. Sean was a tall strawberry blond with an infectious grin and an uncommon ability to engage others. He was an earth science major in college, a passionate outdoorsman, and a musician. The youngest of our three children, he was our only son.

The sudden premature death of someone loved without measure creates a terrible rent in the fabric of the self. Initially it is experienced as a threat to the survival of the self, and the mourner's physical and psychic resources are mobilized to preserve it. Over time one's capacity to reweave the fabric of the self can emerge and become strong, but lost threads and muted colors remain, even as new patterns and hues are revealed.

Writing became for me a way of reweaving that tapestry.

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