Guest post by By Elizabeth Shara
The Six-Word Memoir process came into my life at the perfect time. I had spent months trying to express the grief and pain that was tearing my heart apart. Writing had always been my go-to for personal growth and clarity but at this point in my life, filling pages with words did nothing for me. The tear-soaked paper only reminded me how fragile my world had become.
In 2005, my beautiful son Jack Austin died. I had already survived, and even thrived, after the loss of my mom when I was fifteen years old, and my father’s death just eleven months later. I read every self-help book, attended grief workshops, found a higher power, served those who had experienced loss, and eventually created a life I knew my parents would be proud of. More importantly, I found my own path, one deeply rooted in the belief that every day I had the choice to live a gratitude-filled life.
The loss of my sweet boy felt too big to survive. Honestly, at times I wasn’t sure I wanted to, but life had other plans for me. I was pregnant and knew from the depth of my soul that I had to find a way to heal for the sake of Jack’s little brother. This innocent new life deserved a sane and fully present mother. It felt like a pact between myself and my two boys. So off I went in search of healing. The mound of grief books provided by loved ones proved too high and difficult to tackle. I couldn’t grasp more than a few sentences at a time: pregnancy hormones and shock are not a good recipe for retaining information. I have no idea who first introduced me to Six-Word Memoirs® but thank you, thank you whoever you are! I could survive six-words at a time.
Tiny fingers stopped holding my hand.
My baby died, why didn’t I?
You are alive in my heart.
I will always be Jack’s mama!
Jack’s brother is alive and well.
As my wounded heart began to heal, I was delighted how the Six-Word Memoir process propelled me into the next chapter of my life. I began volunteering at Kate’s Club in Atlanta, which is a nonprofit organization open to all children and teens, age five to eighteen, who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling, or primary caregiver.
I introduced the Six-Word concept to the kids at the clubhouse during a Saturday afternoon creative writing activity. The memoirs flowed out of the children with ease, some tears, and a good bit of healing laughter. We immediately knew that this process would resonate with our grief community. After contacting Six-Word Memoir founder, Larry Smith, he generously allowed us to bring the Six-Word process out into our community to help promote the 2016 Annual Spirit of Kate’s Club Gala. People from all over Atlanta posted their own memoir based on the theme, The Story of Us. We printed a selection on bookmarks that were given to each attendee, and the table centerpieces included the Six-Word Memoir written by Kate’s Club founder, Kate Atwood.
At its core, grief is love.
Below: A sampling from the children at Kate’s Club.
I can’t remember to forget you. – Samantha, 10
His presence was the best present. – Joseph,12
Remembering him is always the cure. – Trinity, 14
We had fun just eating sugar. – Joseph, 10
Most recently, I have been given the opportunity to work alongside a talented group of writers who are producing the Milton Literary Festival in Milton, GA. The theme is Find Your Story. Once again, the Six-Word process proved to be a wonderful way to engage with our local community. We have invited our sponsors and attendees to share their story on social media. The Share Your Story tab on the festival website is serving as an inspiration toolkit for those who are new to Six-Word Memoirs.
The Milton Literary Festival Executive Committee has had such fun creating and sharing our own memoirs that we unanimously decided to bring the experience into the festival on November 10, 2018 with a dedicated activity booth for attendees to write and post their own Six-Word Memoirs. We are looking forward to learning more about our friends, neighbors, and colleagues.
With much gratitude to the Six-Word Memoir project, I am Back in love with being alive.