SPSCC professor examines grief in new book

South Puget Sound Community College Professor Nancy Miller co-authored the book “GriefLand” with her friend Armen Bacon. The book chronicles their experiences with grief and life after their personal loss of a child. The two are currently working on a sequel.

Kathryn Herron: You co-wrote this book with a friend of yours named Armen Bacon. How did the two of you meet?

Nancy Miller: We were introduced by a mutual friend who thought it would be comforting for us to talk to each other. We made a plan to meet at a coffee shop. Even though we didn’t know what the other person looked like, we recognized each other immediately. As soon as she sat down, we started talking about our kids. We wasted no time with small talk. After that first meeting, we started emailing each other nonstop. That’s really how the book got started.

KH: What drove the two of you to write this book?

NM: As a writer, I wanted to read about grief. I couldn’t find any books about the loss of a child. Armen is also a writer. I asked her why she hadn’t written anything about the loss of her son, and she couldn’t come up with a good reason. The two of us decided to fill the niche and write about what we were going through. We agreed to chronicle the first year after our children’s deaths. By that time, Alex had already been dead for four years, but Armen had held back on grieving. My own daughter, Rachel, had only been dead a few months at that point.

KH: What do you and Armen have planned next, as far as writing goes?

NM: We have another work in progress, which looks like it will be a sequel to “GriefLand.” It will showcase other people’s survival stories and experiences in a much more edgy way than the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series. We hope to show that this community is the biggest one on earth and hopefully that can help dispel myths that still prevail in our culture about the grieving process.

KH: Why do you think people should read this book? What do you hope your readers will take away from it? And, would you say it’s only for people who have lost children, or would you recommend it to anyone who has lost a loved one?

NM: I would recommend the book to anyone who has lost anything or anyone and is grieving over that loss. We are living in a culture of loss, actually, what with many people out of work, those who have lost their homes, and of course those who have lost loved ones. What my hope was as the book was released was that people would gain some small measure of comfort in realizing they are not alone and that the symptoms and thoughts they are having are completely normal. I know I felt as though I might be going insane when Rachel died, and I was looking for a book like ours, and couldn’t find one. We wrote the book to fill a perceived gap in the literature about the grief journey, what it looks like, feels like, how it can be used to reinvent oneself.

KH: What advice would you give to any South Puget Sound Community College students who happen to be aspiring authors?

NM: For our SPSCC aspiring writers, first and foremost, take the craft seriously, practice every day, and never quit. You have to have what I call that “fire in the belly” and dogged perseverance. Also, joining a writers’ group is very helpful for both feedback on writing and emotional support. We have one on campus that will be starting up soon, headed by Sarah Tavis. I can say that my students are my sanity. I’ve never seen the caliber of students as I have at SPSCC. They’re amazing. I’ve given more A’s this past quarter than I’ve ever given before, and I don’t give out A’s easily.