Open Wound | Author Denise Grover Swank Open Wound | Author Denise Grover Swank
Denise Grover Swank

Open Wound

I make no secret of the fact I’m a widow, which in itself seems weird. Widows are old and grey haired. I am neither of those things, although my children might disagree with the former.  I’ve found the farther in time I’m removed from the accident, the more difficult it is to tell people. It’s an old memory.  The stabbing pain I felt explaining my situation has faded. Five years later, it’s become a statistic.  A box to be checked. Widow.

Still, every so often, I’m caught off guard.

Today, I accompanied my daughter on a field trip to our local airport. The last time I was at a small airport was on the first anniversary of Darrell’s accident. I visited the sight of his plane crash, several hundred feet off the runway of Murfreesboro, Tennessee air strip.  Four years ago, I stood outside the chain link fence and stared at the bare spot of grass that was slowly regrowing after his plane exploded.  Four years ago, that airport was closure.  Today, the airport picked off a scab.

I pulled up to the hanger with an involuntary gasp, a familiar oozing pain that catch me off guard. It’s been five years, I told myself. I’m over this pain. For the most part I am. I’ve relegated my nightmare to the past. I moved away from all the memories of his accident and his hospitalization. I’m back where I grew up, where my husband and I never lived. I never confront memories of him and our life together here. And as selfish as this is, this is the way I want it. I don’t want to live in the past.  I’m not that person anymore.

But today, I was forced to confront it. After the momentary pain, the hurt faded away, like a muscle that spasms and then stops.  The wound is still there. It will always be there, but it’s not as big, not the open, festering sore it used to be.  It’s healing. I’m healing.

I’ve found these “off guard” moments usually happen in a group of incidents. (I had on on Sunday morning at church)  I’ve also discovered they usually have a higher purpose in my life.  They show me how far I’ve come. These two have done this, but something else came to mind this morning as I drove past plane after hangered plane.

I’ve taken my pain and given it to my characters.

Today, coincidently, I begin revisions on my young adult novel, TORN. The main character, Julia, loses her best friend in a car accident and struggles with her grief and guilt. Multiple characters do, actually.  Several beta readers who knew me when I grieved tell me they feel me in this book.  Julia is her own character, but they recognize the suffocating grief I lived with.

It also occurs to me that every query-able book I’ve written deals with death.  In CHOSEN, the mother deals with the implied death of her son. In TWENTY-EIGHT AND A HALF WISHES,  a repressed young woman decides to live her life to the fullest as she waits for her impending death, which she saw in a vision.  TORN, obviously, deals with Julia and her friend’s death, but also other characters and how they struggle with their own grief over another character.

It turns out I’m pretty morbid.

I also realize that I could never have done these characters justice six years ago. I need the experience of my own pain to channel into them. My characters before were dull and lifeless. My own tragedy opened the window to delving into the emotions of my characters. I’m more open and receptive. I literally feel their pain.

Life gives us experiences, good and bad. It’s up to us to figure out how to use them.

What I’m listening to: Lifehouse, Don’t Wake Me When It’s Over.  I love how music explains my life.


Categories: Writing
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Patty Blount
Patty Blount
13 years ago

I don’t think you’re morbid at all. You’re human. You’re channeling your own grief into your writing and I think that’s brave.

I’m so sorry you’re hurting but glad to hear you’re healing.

LisaKay Carlson
LisaKay Carlson
13 years ago

I want you to know that as I read your summary above, I felt that I had gotten to know you. I knew “of your circumstance” but haven’t really gotten to know you while you have been at Woods Chapel. I have always thought you seemed nice and friendly, and your children were so cute, but now I apologize for not having GOTTEN to know you better, as of yet.
Please know that I am so very glad that you are healing and mending,…God delivers ALL to us but some things are harder to move forward from than others. In your case, understandbly so!!!
I think you are an awesome Mom, as I have noticed you with your children at church,…I am glad that you have the family you have, and of course, we have always loved your brother and his family.
I will keep you in my prayers and hopefully, over the next years, we can get to know each other a little better. Thanks so much for sharing yourself with our congregation and the world!
Blessings to you AND to your family,…LisaKay C.

Brooklyn Ann
Brooklyn Ann
13 years ago

I do the same thing in my work. I write a lot about abuse, grief, and death. Not only does it give the reader an emotional connection to the characters, it helps me cope with the things I’ve been through.

And you’re right, the wound will never go away. My mom died a little over 2 years ago and it still hurts.

Hugs to you, and sorry for your loss.

Eisley Jacobs
Eisley Jacobs
13 years ago

Just *HUGS* for you my dear friend… I am blessed to call you friend.

13 years ago

I understood your post. First, the part about BEING a widow. It’s a label that fits, yet doesn’t fit you because you are so much more than just that.

I think grief is hard because once you move beyond the gaping open hole that is opened in your life, it is little knife jabs that keep on coming with no notice to prepare. With time they come less often and don’t cut so deeply, but you still feel the effects. You have done a good job of keeping your wounds from festering by moving forward. You could have literally wallowed in your grief until some part or all of you fell off from grief. I don’t see that. You’re like a tree that has been damaged,the wound is still there, but with so much new growth beyond.

This has been my version of “Deep Thoughts and Analogies” by Goldie.

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10 years ago

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