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Grow Through... Loss & Grief

Priscilla Gilman on Growing Through Multiple Losses of Her Father

Grow Through It: Loss & Grief

Former English literature professor Priscilla Gilman, author of The Critic’s Daughter, tells of losing her father multiple times in her life. First, when she was 10, her parents split up and she lost him in her daily life. She lost him as a stable, reliable parent figure when he had financial issues and struggled with depression. When she was in her early 20s, he had a heart attack and five years later he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He died in 2006 when she was 36.

These multiple losses were heart wrenching for her. Literature and her sister (and best friend) helped her get through it. Also, writing about her father and attempting to find him through writing helped her get through it.

Priscilla Gilman learned that people are complicated. There are always people in our lives that we look up to and put on a pedestal—like parents, teachers, mentors—and then we discover things about them, see them struggling. She stresses the importance of attempting to recover a sense of the person—even with their flaws—with a deeper love.

Gilman’s advice to anyone going through something similar is:

  • Try to remember and hold onto the person when they were their truest, most essential self.
  • Incorporate the person in your life (play their song, make their favorite dish, share stories about them with people in your life, and more).
  • Allow yourself to feel the full extent of the sadness in your loss. If you postpone grief, it is still there. See a therapist, talk to loved ones who knew the person, write about it, meditate, whatever will give you care and support.
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