When my beloved daughter, Allie, died suddenly from the flu and my life fell apart, I initially thought I could never recover. Fortunately, I was wrong about that. But I was also surprised at some of the things that helped me make sense of it all and helped me remember that I am actually a strong, resilient being at my core level.
Writing was one tool that I used to work my way out of a personal hell in which I dwelled for three years. From that effort came two books, Loving Allie, Transforming the Journey of Loss, and Loving Spirit, Self-help for the Journey of Loss.
In Loving Allie, my intention was not only to tell our personal story, but to also help Allie’s closest friends come to terms with her death at age 28. For many of them it was their first experience with the death of a loved one and they were struggling as I was. In the Jewish tradition there is a concept called mitzvah therapy, where you heal yourself by helping others. I started writing mythical birth stories as a kind of mitzvah therapy. Not only did they surprise and delight Allie’s dear friends, who received theirs on their birthday following her death, they were a joy for me to create, thus helping us all heal.
Many people have now asked me how to create a mythical birth story and here are the four key steps for doing one of your own.
1. Focus on the person whose story this will be. Find something about them that is unique, funny, or interesting and weave your tale around their life. For example, one of the birth stories in Loving Allie is for Anthony Pristyak, a high school classmate of Allie’s who shared her passion for all things theatrical, including song and dance.
2. Let your imagination run wild with possibilities for how to capture their essence. Because Anthony was so talented, his birth story was framed with a wild tale of how he ended up being the biological offspring of Fred Astaire, Rupert Everett, Pavarotti, Mr. Rogers, and Louis C.K., in short the perfect man.
3. Make love for the recipient your central message. Anthony’s birth story was a tale that explained why he is so gorgeous, talented, wry, intellectual, kind, funny and can sing and dance. It ends by weaving the threads into a knot that is clearly tied with love and an honoring of Anthony for the man he is and the role he played in Allie’s life.
4. Make the giving of your story a special occasion. Because it is a birth story, obviously the birthday of the recipient is the ideal time for the gift. But whenever you do give it, embellish the gift in whatever way seems appropriate. You could have it printed and framed, or write it on a scroll, or read it to them in an honoring ceremony, etc. The seventeen friends of Allie’s initially got theirs from me for their birthdays and they also received a personal call in which Will and I sang Happy Birthday to each of them and then I read their story aloud. With their permission, each of their stories was then published in the book and we sent them a published copy.
Loving Allie has a total of seventeen such mythological stories interspersed with the true story of our life and our loss. I encourage you to read them if you need inspiration to write one for someone you love.
And if you do write one, please share it with me. I’d love to read it! You can email me at [email protected].