Swarm showcases local writer

Every once in a while, a writer comes along who stands out from the rest. Usually, this writer is in some publication. Susie Clark was in my creative writing class. She is the winner of the Empty Nest Award for Outstanding Writing. I am hereby including her short story, ?Surviving? in four installments. The following is the first of the four installments. - Curt Swarm, Empty Nest columnist


Grief is a funny thing....not funny haha, but funny as in peculiar.

I grew up as a carefree farm girl in a large family. I loved everything about life. I loved my family, my school activities, my music activities, and my church family. My parents taught my sisters and me to work hard and make the best of whatever situation you find yourself. Like most young girls, I had my life all planned out. I'd go to college, get married, and have a family. Like the saying goes, ?If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.?

We started out great. My husband and I were 21 years old when we got married. Three years later our beautiful son was born, and three years after that out sweet daughter. Our lives had started out perfect. Then, 13 years later we were thrown into hell when both kids were diagnosed with an extremely rare neurological disease that is always terminal. That is when our education with grief began. And it's been feet-on-the-ground education ever since, because the sadness never truly ends. You learn to adapt and go on with your life, but it forever changes you.

I've learned everyone travels the path of grief at their own pace. Men have a completely different approach to grief than women, which is why so many marriages end in divorce with the loss of a child. Men want to go in, fix whatever the problem is, and move on. With terminal illness and death, that's an impossibility. Women are the nurturers of the situation. We continue to nurture the person who is ill, so we still have a direction and purpose until the end.

I was educated about anticipatory grief. A person grieves the loss yet to come. Knowing the death that's looming on the horizon is suffocating. I experienced this part of grief profoundly.

Grief isn't just about death. Some type of grief is experienced from the loss of a job, or a lifestyle, or marriage. We just put different labels on those types. However, you are still very sad over something you have lost. My husband and I were also grieving our future, knowing our children would never grow up, go to college, get married, or have families of their own.

The first hospice social worker we met after our children were diagnosed as terminal was eager to enlighten us with statistics. She said 70 percent of all couples who lose a child end up getting divorced. Since we were losing both our children, statistically our marriage should not have survived. During the beginning of our grief process, we had our moments. Because I was with our son 24/7, I was quicker to acknowledge that he was dying. Once we were both able to accept the fact that he wasn't going to beat this rare disease, we never looked back. We were a team that nothing could break apart. We were a force that even Neimann Pick Disease couldn't separate.

For me grief has been a race. At first I was racing to care for my children. I felt as if I could stop the disease process if I just outran it. If I cared for the kids every second of every day, I might be able to stave off its progression. Nobody said grief promotes logical thinking. Of course, it didn't have any effect on the unstoppable progression of this devastating disease. It charged on its course regardless of anything I could do.

(The second installment of ?Surviving? will be posted next week.)


Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm, in Mt. Pleasant, at 319-217-0526, email him at or find him on Facebook.