Writing About Your Mother
Hello Memoir People, I'm relatively new here; I've been on the site for years, but am only recently more active. I'll jump in, and you'll tell me if I'm breaking protocol. I'm working on nearly two-year blog about my mother's twelve year journey with dementia. My mom died a year ago this month, and I now feel more comfortable writing about some of the more intimate details. I know there's no right answer to questions of privacy, but I wonder if anyone else is struggling with "reveals" about a family member, now deceased. Thanks!
  • It's a tough call. I don't know what others do, but I tend to use the real name and get permission first. In a situation where the person is deceased, it's your conscience and comfort level. Legally, you can't be sued for defamation of character or slander if the person is deceased. In the case of your mother, you never have to mention her name if you always call her "Mom."
  • I think it's important you write your truth. You can decide later whether or not your are comfortable sharing it. The main thing is to get it down because there's a tremendous amount of healing in doing so.
  • I can't say "struggling," though I know there's no way to not feel conflicted about these things. In my memoir, the parts about my brother were written before he developed Alzheimer's, and they were very forgiving toward him and I tried to soften his character traits a little. At first I had some concern was that he might try to sue me, because that would be his nature. (It would have been unsuccessful of course, for I have proof, but I did dread any ugliness.) Now that he is ill, I don't plan to change it. Even though I was generous, he still comes off as a selfish, controlling, parasitic personality, but in fact, well, he always was. Part of the epiphany of my book is my own overcoming of the fears and sense of low self-worth and victimization he taught me, that would unconsciously follow me into my marriage and beyond. Forgiveness is often an undercurrent of memiors like mine, because it's something we all must come to terms with in some degree, in every life. It was my choice to skim over some of the worst things about him, but not to try to make him something he wasn't. Likewise, there were deep unhealed wounds from my birth-mother, who allowed him to physically and psychologically torture me, for reasons I never knew until I wrote this book, and they revealed themselves to me and my readers at the same time. Memoir is the most personal kind of writing, So I, myself personally, (not professiopnally because I would not try to advise you there) would recommend that you simply be as honest and unrestrained emotionally as you can - in your first drafts. Later you can change and modify them as you want, but getting that first, raw truth about it all will show you so much about yourself, and will truly help to heal things in the long run. Truth is the essence and life-blood of memoir. Don't skimp on you own agonizing honesty here. That's what rewrites are for. But right now, allow yourself the absolute right to feel what you feel, even if it might not be beautiful. Understanding yourself, at this deep level, It will move you toward a clearer and truer understanding of everything.
  • I'm new to memoir writing...I'd like to write an essay about my minor daughter going through some struggles. I guess its the same problem about reveals.