Instead of Dying: Poetry Collection Explores Mourning Process

Jan 11, 2018

Lauren Haldeman is a poet and illustrator who lives in Iowa City. She’s a Writer’s Workshop graduate and the winner of the Colorado Prize for Poetry.

On this Talk of Iowa segment, she talks about how her latest poetry collection, Instead of Dying, was inspired in part by the death of her younger brother, Ryan.

“What I learned in the deep grief of losing him was that, even though days would be terrible, long, headache-filled, nausea-filled painful days in a haze, there would still be bits of joy and there’d still be things that were silly and strange and wild and wonderful inside those days,” she says, “and that in order to notice those, I had to fully be with the other stuff too.”

Haldeman says that she didn’t know how to grieve, how to experience intense loss and pain, before she lost her brother. This collection of poems is her figuring it out.

“I think what writing does is separate your thoughts from the inside of your head and gives you a little distance to see what you’re actually feeling and what you’re actually thinking," she says. "It’s a processing technique. I mean, all of grief is processing. You’re trying to update your operating system to catch up with reality, and you’re also trying to update that system to handle what has happened.”

Haldeman features her daughter in the collection as well.

"One of the big sadnesses of losing him was that my daughter won’t know him, but I love that they’re together in the book.”