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Essays recount the loss of a daughter and preserve the memories of her life

Aug 11, 2015

Credit Courtesy of the author

That writing major you took in college could become the lifeline that helps you cope with loss and pain years later.

That's what Gabriella Burman of Huntington Woods is finding.

She turned the pain and anguish over the death of her young daughter into a collection of seven essays titled "Michaela." The essays were published as a chapbook by the Michigan Writers Cooperative Press.

Michaela was born with special needs. Her diagnosis was cerebral palsy.

"My husband and I threw ourselves into her care and our lives became so full of purpose and meaning and I always called it an elevated existence, that writing almost seemed kind of trivial," Burman says.

Michaela's first year was full of difficulties and Burman says she rejected writing. She didn’t want to document the pain and suffering they were experiencing. But after Michaela died, Burman says writing was "kind of like a buoy, like a lifeline."

She wanted to capture Michaela's beauty and resilience for her two other daughters, who were only two weeks old and just over two years old when Michaela died.

Burman describes her daughters as her only source of comfort through the experience and she shifted her focus to caring for them.

Burman wanted to perpetuate Michaela’s existence through the writing, saying, “I have a difficult time with mortality, myself, and I wanted to keep her alive as best I can and she lives in the writing.”

But she also didn't want to reduce her to words on a page.

"People need to remember that it's ok to continue to speak about the dead and to evoke her name because it's the avoidance that causes more sorrow," Burman says, advising people to speak to those grieving about who they've lost.

“You just want your loved ones to be remembered.”