What is the most difficult part of going through grief? Is it the hollow feeling inside that never goes away? Or is it the suffocation experienced each time you feel like you want to vent your frustrations but can’t seem to? The more you think about it, the more the feeling grows until everything, thoughts, food, and the reality of the situation becomes hard to swallow. It’s like you’re inflating out of proportion.
When going through grief, the most important priority is to vent out the overwhelming energy you feel inside. You can vent to someone you love, perhaps to yourself, through journalling, or maybe vent with an escape.
An escape into stories and fantasy engages you in the most whimsical of ways. It is a walk from the scorched and barren remains of charcoal and wood after a wildfire into a land of fireflies and olive trees that struck has dissipated, one by one, paving the way to the catharsis you see.
Author Laura Formentini gardens the seeds of these olive trees with her book, Twentyone Olive Trees, a compilation of her journey through grief amid the passing of her beloved son in the purest form of literature you’ll read.
But what makes her book so comforting?
Where most books are written to help you through grief, tell you the do’s and don’ts of the journey, and list statistics and facts, you end up in a mishmash of data and instructions, Twentyone Olive Trees listens to you.
As you read through the pages of the book, you feel them reaching out, taking you into a warm embrace. The truth is, with writing, it’s never black or white. Sometimes there is a subtle grey; at times, there is a mix of shades, red and blue, making lilac, and sometimes every colour you can think of, all congealed into one tone. Sometimes, it’s what’s between the lines that really catches your attention.
When you’re going through grief, you don’t want to be told, “It’s going to be okay,” you want to be heard and be in a place where you can vent without fearing being judged. Twentyone Olive Trees wants nothing more from you than to help you escape the darkness you’ve found yourself in, and confront the reality of the situation, easing your burden. With poetry, fables, and more, you find yourself laughing, crying, and thinking until you find yourself steps ahead of where you were before.
Suddenly, the energy you felt inside, cramped up, slowly oozes out, little by little. At the back of your mind, you seek comfort in knowing that the person writing these fables has been through what you are. They know what it’s like to lose a part of you that can never be replaced. And that in itself is more than a mere reader-book connection. It transcends notions of literature.
Twentyone Olive Trees is a feeling.
It is the manifestation of all the energy Laura had cramped up inside her when she was battling the overwhelming thoughts following her son’s passing. She empathises with what you are feeling on another level. This makes her book relatable, even in the most unlikely folktales. It encapsulates the beauty of storytelling.
To vent, one needs a device worthy enough to channel their emotions through. This device may vary from person to person. Laura Formentini channeled her grief in a theme that resonated with millions going through the motions.
Donning a folk aesthetic in writing today can be very difficult. It was, most certainly, a risk Laura took, but at the end of the day, the words flowed so naturally that they all added up. Apparently, the folksy aesthetic appealed to her because it brings forth our inner child in a world where everything seems too old.
As you would imagine, the catharsis Laura found was not easy. Her writing is a testimony to all those thinking they cannot survive the pangs of grief and the passing of someone very dear to them.
It is an ode to trying to make the most out of what you have, enduring the hardships of grief, and more. As Laura Formentini’s son, Blaise, would tell his mother to “rock on,” rooting for her every endeavor, Laura roots for you and your successes. That you, too, may find your way into the forest of catharsis, into the tranquility you seek. Twentyone Olive Trees is your companion, leading you towards that tranquility.
So, take the leak of faith, dwelling in the hope that this, too, shall pass. With each turn of the page, laced with love and more, lessons to carry on and stories to remember for the rest of your life, begin your journey, writing your very own story!