A Sorrowful Tale

“There has not been enough sorrow in my life,” my mother said to me over the phone as she drove back from a writing retreat. “There are people who have such harrowing stories and I don’t think my life has been sad enough to write about.”

There is something unique about reading real stories by real people. You read about how they overcome adversity and how they triumph despite every statistic being against them. Holocaust survivors, war refugees, cancer sufferers … Unhappy endings are unwelcome; we want to believe in something great, something amazing, and we want to believe that it can happen to us since it has happened to a “real” person already. We don’t want to read about hopelessness and despair unless it ends happily, with optimism for the future and a smiling face upturned to the sun.

Do I have to feel sorrow before I can write about it? How do we judge whose sorrow is more sorrowful; how do we judge whose sorrow is worthier of telling? Do we have to suffer in order to have a story to tell? Does life have to have sorrow in order for it to have meaning?

“Why can’t you write about joy and love and happiness?” I asked, and she sighed in response.

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4 comments on “A Sorrowful Tale

  1. “Do I have to feel sorrow before I can write about it? How do we judge whose sorrow is more sorrowful; how do we judge whose sorrow is worthier of telling? Do we have to suffer in order to have a story to tell? Does life have to have sorrow in order for it to have meaning?”

    Here are my own answers to your 5 questions –
    1. Yes, pretty sure you do.
    2. As my gynaecologist said (to an over-eager prospective father, who didn’t wait for his wife’s reply when asked, “How are you managing labour, Mrs X?” by saying “She’s going great!”), “Don’t mess with someone else’s pain, Mr X!”
    3. We most certainly cannot judge, we can merely identify with it if it resonates with our own.
    4. Heavens no. Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.
    5. Strangely enough, I think the answer is “yes”. Life is made up of light and dark. If sorrow is part of the darkness, then it exists for us to shine our light on it – or not – and make life a richer experience.

    With love

  2. Short, but intriguing. Your personal thoughts read like a short story in their own right.

    However, I am the kind of person who DOES like to read about hopelessness and despair, happy ending be damned.

    I’m just weird like that. 😉

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