Friday, 25 October 2013

How a book group helped mend my broken heart


Last night saw the final session with our current book group and it got me thinking about how, unknown to them, our meetings over the year have helped me to put myself back together.
In March, instead of attending the first official meeting of our newly formed book group, I was in hospital following a silent miscarriage. I lost my baby at 12 weeks, 6 days and the grief and heartbreak ripped me apart. I was hurting, lost, scared by advice that said the pain would never go away and wondering if I would ever learn to cope. I found myself questioning the big stuff, religion, life, death because I needed something to alleviate the pain I was feeling.
When all I wanted to do each night was cry away the grief that had been building throughout the day, I found myself stuck with the book group obligation. The group was in it's infancy and I was committed to making it work. There's something about a good book group that brings the books to life and, through podcasts, we wanted to take the essence of these discussions and make them available for all. No matter what had happened in my private life, I didn't want to back down from this commitment.
Books have always been my comfort in times of need and it was the books from the club that reached out and pulled me back. There were some I couldn't do, a surprising amount mentioned miscarriage, and once that happened I wouldn't read further (In the Kingdom of Men, Where'd you go Bernadette, Norwegian by Night). But for the rest talking about the books was a way to put my grief aside. When you've read the same book as someone else the conversation is easy and when it's a whole group of like-minded book lovers, the conversation is endless.
The time spent reading the books was time spent not crying or endlessly daydreaming about what might have been and I learnt from the characters. Hattie, who lost her baby twins to pneumonia and went on to have 9 more to try and fill the gap but never really succeeded, Harry from May We Be Forgiven who stumbled through life doing crazy things but captivating the reader anyway and most of all Sally and Larry and Charity and Sid, the two central couples in Crossing to Safety, a novel which shows a full lifetimes of ups and downs and celebrates the small things.
So my fragile heart became heavy when we said our goodbyes particularly as this group of women (and one man) will never quite know just how much emotional strength I took from our meetings. Next week we meet our new group of readers and I am seriously looking forward to the adventures we will discover together within the pages of some really good books.

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