Personal growth through others’ stories

As much as I have been cranking out poetry recently and will probably continue to do so for the foreseeable future, I can never put my grief over my Papa’s death out of my mind. That was the catalyst for this blog, which began with my Skeptic’s Kaddish series, written during my first year of mourning.

My grief suffuses me to the point that I can no longer perceive myself without it.

For me, that banner at the top of my blog is actually haunting. It’s a photograph of my father in Costa Rica, a year before he died… he never went anywhere without that camera of his. Looking at my blog every day, as I do, reminds me of him to the point that I sometimes find myself toying with the idea of changing the banner to something – to anything – else… but, somehow, it also comforts me; I’m a thick, frothy mess of emotions.

So while the Skeptic’s Kaddish is now primarily a poetry blog, it will forever remain anchored by that series of kaddish-related blog posts I completed more than two years ago. Most people don’t read those posts because they’re fairly heavy, but, every so often, somebody unexpectedly comes upon them and resonates to them… and that is incredibly meaningful to me.

While I first started writing about my experience of mourning for Papa for myself (first and foremost) and my family, it eventually dawned on me that sharing my reflections could be meaningful or helpful to other mourners… and since my Skeptic’s Kaddish series lives here on the Internet, anybody in the world could come across it at any time.

It goes both ways

This way

I’ve been thinking about this recently because of two unrelated events.

First, a lovely human being named Linda very recently came upon my kaddish series, and she started sharing her reflections with me in the comments. At one point, she wrote me the following, which profoundly moved me:

… your loss exacerbated my loss. I donโ€™t think thatโ€™s a bad thing, though. I didnโ€™t talk much about my loss โ€“ any of them โ€“ and thatโ€™s not necessarily healthy. What you are doing with this blog IS healthy, as you are working through your feelings. And now, so am I. Thank you. 

My exchanges with Linda have quite affected me; as I’ve said to several people recently, if my writing about my mourning experience helps only one person other than me, I would feel that it was worth it. I mean, really, what does any author most fundamentally want? We want to connect with other human beings. We want to be understood by them. We want our words to matter – to somebody.

You know, to paraphrase Jewish tradition, we Heebs like to say that “every person is an entire world unto themselves.” Linda is an entire world unto herself, and my words have somehow manage to penetrate that world. For that, I am so thankful.

That way

Another lovely human being named Eleanor connected with me here on WordPress, and I came across the series of blog posts she is writing about the abuse that she and her siblings suffered at their father’s hands as children.

Now, thankfully, I was very lucky to have two loving parents and never suffered from any childhood abuse, but Eleanor’s writing has deeply affected me. I mean, of course I have read books and watched movies with characters that suffer various forms of abuse, but it’s entirely different to read an abuse victim’s firsthand accounts of her traumatic experiences.

Eleanor’s writing is simply cutting. I look at my six-year-old daughter and cannot fathom causing her any physical harm – and I wonder how many innocent, little children around the world are being beaten every day by their parents… it’s inexpressibly horrible. Eleanor’s blog posts have left me shaken.

I mention this because Eleanor is clearly writing, in large part, for others – to raise awareness of childhood abuse. Certainly, I cannot speak for her, but I imagine that she is touched when people take the time to read her recollections and engage with her on these issues. As a writer, Eleanor, like me, wants to connect meaningfully with other human beings. She wants to be understood.

She wants her words to matter; and to me – they most definitely do.


Just the other day, our six-year-old asked us why people once did not have last names; and we explained that people’s lives used to be much more limited, in terms of how many other people they ever interacted with. Once upon a time, it was enough to know one’s fellow villagers by name and profession – ships, trains, and airplanes did not exist; very few people traveled.

Today, thanks to the Internet, one might say that, in a certain way, everything is local. Speaking personally, I never imagined that I would some day be corresponding with so many other writers from all over the globe… from more countries than I could possibly list…

And, taking it a step further, consider what it’s like to be a child in today’s era. The Internet only entered our homes when I was a teenager – I was the last generation to grow up without it… But today’s youth are growing up with their fingers at their keyboards, and, for better or worse, interacting with people of all ages from the far corners of the earth.

One could write many a cautionary article about the Internet, but I’m also struck by its sheer power – the power to touch people’s hearts – the power to amplify our voices – the power to fight against tyrants.

None of these reflections are new or revolutionary, but, from time to time, I find myself struck anew at the power of the words we write… and struck over and over again at the great distances that they are able to magically travel.

47 thoughts on “Personal growth through others’ stories”

  1. This. So much this.
    I haven’t honestly connected with many yet via my musings yet- at least not that I am aware of. (Via comments, etc.)
    But a huge part of the reason I chose to start a blog versus a private journal at this point in my life is that I am well aware that the tiniest of things can change a perspective, can inspire, can simply provide someone with a light in the dark.
    Whether I know that or not is irrelevant.
    So…thank you.

  2. What a great gift to see your papa every morning that brings comfort to your soul David; in the same way Linda and Elenor and readers find you and are finding inroads into their own longing and healing through your blog. That is quite a gift.
    I too feel like if I can affect one person with my message, words, touch or smile then I have set out what I feel that I’m meant to do.
    Beautifully said. Keep inspiring!โฃ๏ธ๐Ÿ’–

    1. I too feel like if I can affect one person with my message, words, touch or smile then I have set out what I feel that Iโ€™m meant to do.

      โค That's it exactly, Cindy. โค

  3. I love the fact that that banner picture of your father (allah yirhamhu) was taken in my country, Costa Rica. I do agree that writing out our grief is very healthy and it helps. I have done this in my poetry since 2005, and although I write about many other things, this subject keeps coming up in my thoughts and my poetry…I feel it probably always will…and that is OK..I really enjoyed your post David! โค๏ธ

  4. Well articulated ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿฟ
    I completely agree with you and now, am going to check out Eleanor’s blog posts.

    Am from Uganda, East Africa by the way๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฌ
    That’s how far your posts have reached๐Ÿ˜…

  5. I hear you. I lost my mom in 2008 and I still miss her every day. My dadโ€™s passing in 2013 was expected and easier. But my mom? I will never stop mourning her ๐Ÿ’”

      1. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and lasted only 4 months afterward. Her family is so long-lived, but she died at 76. It doesn’t seem that young, but to us it was. Such a terrible disease!

        1. WOW. That’s awful, Paula.

          One of the hardest things for me about my Papa’s death is that he died so unexpectedly and relatively young – 70. His parents both lived into their nineties! I’ll never get over the shock of his death.


  6. Thank you for sharing your personal story. I too am moved by all the people that I have had the honor of talking too. The words expressed every day on blogs inspires and moves me.

  7. Every time you describe a word, you find a new meaning in it.

    We’re lucky to live the writer life.๐Ÿ˜Š

  8. Thanks for sharing your reflections David. I am sorry for your grief but, indeed, writing is a very healthy way to heal. I lost my father in 2018 – he was only 55 and I was devastated. I think grief, especially the intense grief you share about, is a direct reflection of love. That is a beautiful thing, no matter how painful the emotions can be.

  9. I’d like to write about my childhood abusees, I’m not ready yet. I wrote a book of poetry that talks about it, what it’s like how it affected my adult life. It got accepted to be published but I changed my mind, talking about it fulls me with anxiety.

  10. A very eloquent and relatable post, David. โค The stories are touching. I think that the motivations for most writers are just as you have articulated. I also think it is awesome to be able to effortlessly share everyday life experiences with people in faraway places.

    Worldwide communication seems to have the potential to unite people for causes like climate change and fighting pandemics. It seems that mass communication would favor human rights and democracy, and I hope that it accomplishes all of these things. An indication of this is that authoritarian governments suppress the media to remain in power. It is a very exciting thing to hear and be heard.

  11. Beautiful that your blog had that effect on a reader. I agree about the want to connect with others. For me, finishing a story or poem feels rewarding, as does putting it out in the world … and when someone says the piece affected them, that’s deeply rewarding. In reading books written by others, I’ve clicked with the sense of “I’ve felt that, too — I’m not alone in the world about that.” If a reader says that about one of our writings, that’s beautiful indeed.

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