In 2013, Will Daddario experienced the loss of his father, grandmother, friend, and cat all within a span of five months. In early 2014, he and his wife were expecting their first child, a baby boy whom they were going to name Finlay, but their precious gift died during delivery. Daddario writes this short, philosophical, moving chapbook to serve as a chronicle of his grieving process and as a tribute to those he loved and lost. He introduces his writing: “While grieving, I have turned to multiple sources to guidance. What follows here is my own attempt to act as guide for others who encounter such loss, though, truthfully, the primary audience is myself.”
What struck me the most about Daddario’s handling of grief is that he was constantly moving forward in his attempt to deal with his mourning. This was, for him and his wife, a very active handling of several devastating blows, one after the other. Daddario and his wife kept their own notes on mourning and, following the example of Barthes, they wrote reflections on small pieces of paper every day for a year and placed them in a glass jar. On their son’s 2-year birthday they read through their reflections, many of which are copied here for us into his book. On August 7, 2014, for instance, Daddario’s wife wrote:
I continue to feel as though I’ve been shot through with a cannon ball, creating a huge hole in me, and that the cannonball is lodged in my body, weighing me down.
And on July 3, 2014 Daddario himself writes:
A new phase of mourning. Like Barthes says, the “emotivity” starts to subside, but the suffering remains. We are four weeks to the day after Finlay’s arrival/departure. What will the next four bring?
Another activity that Daddario and his wife do on a daily basis is to light a candle in Finlay’s room each night as the sun goes down and dedicate that quiet time of their day to reflection. And each morning they dedicated to “tear time” which allowed them to grieve for another day that would begin without their son. Daddario also uses reading as an activity that becomes a great comfort for him. He has a list of 13 pivotal books that include authors such as Roland Barthes, Anne Carson, Karen Green and the poet Rumi.
One final activity that Daddario actively engages in during his experience with grief is his focus on language and unpacking different words which now had a new meaning for him. He discusses the words solve, resolve, unresolved and buoy and how they all gave him insight into his grieving process. His analysis of the Ancient Greek word therapeuein, which Michel Foucault lectured on, was especially intriguing to me. Foucault says of this word:
Therapeuein means in Greek three things. Therapeuein means, of course, to perform a medical action whose purpose is to cure or to treat. However, therapeuein is also the activity of the servant who obeys and serves his master. Finally, therapeuein is to worship (render un culte). Now, therapeuein heauton means at the same time to give medical care to oneself, to be one’s own servant, and to devote oneself to oneself.
It is this last definition of therapeuein that Daddario truly grasps and practices throughout his grief process. His self-care is active—he writes, reads, cries, discusses, lights candles, and jogs—which all are the best methods for him of being his own servant. The biggest and most important lesson for me in this piece of writing is that in the grieving process we must each find our own soothing activities that bring us the greatest devotion to self-care.
This is a link to a conversation between Will Daddario and Kate Jaeger about To Grieve: http://uglyducklingpresse.tumblr.com/post/157616166149/who-can-read-it-kate-jaeger-in-conversation-with
This title is published by Ugly Ducking Presse, which indie press I recently discovered through their collection of poems Written in the Dark which are translated from the Russian. I am so excited to find these brave, small publishers that bring us such profound pieces of literature. What are your favorite small press finds?