Dealing with strong emotions is a problem for left-brain writers like me. I tell people, "I can do romance, but I can't write about it." Grief is another problem area, a lesson I've had to learn and relearn. Sometimes having a focus for grief makes me shudder inside, until I have to face it.
As my friends know, my wife and I are partial to cockatiels. We adopted our first one as a baby, naming him "Crockatiel Dundee," or "Crock" for short. His constant affection helped to sustain us through some hard times in our family. When he flew off to the Rainbow Bridge five years ago, it broke our hearts. He died from a stroke (who knew that little birds had cardiovascular accidents?) at around 2:30 in the morning. Until we could make arrangements to have him cremated, we put him on ice. When I had done that, I went outside to cry in the predawn darkness. Why did I hide my emotions? I guess it's because, ever seen my teen years, I've kept my tears out of sight of the public.
It was easier with our second cockatiel, "Bert," whom we took in when his owner could no longer care for him. He was only with us a couple of years before he, too, suffered a stroke and left us. What I remember of my reaction was not tears, but just angry words in the dark: "Damn it, Bert, you broke our hearts." Of course, anger can easily become a cover for grief. So it was with us. We're now on our third cockatiel, "Spike," a rescue bird from the Aiken County Animal Shelter. Love means accepting the possibility – or even the probability – of loss. We just try to give him as much love as we can while we have him.
One way of letting tears out in public is to write about them. My story "Bird in the Dark" in Tangled Woods and Dark Waters was done as a therapeutic exercise after "Crock" died. Tormented by guilt feelings (Did we do everything we could to save him?), I recalled a proverb which I heard from a clergyman years ago: "Faith is the bird that flies in the dark." Over millions of years of evolution, most birds (including cockatiels) have a healthy fear of darkness, which is the domain of predators. Small, with no defenses except their astonishing speed in flight, cockatiels hunker down in the hours of darkness in the safest places they can find. So what would make a cockatiel forget its conditioning and fly off into the darkness of a winter night? You can find out by reading the book.