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“The loss we carry, a sea we must wade.”

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When day comes, we ask ourselves:
Where can we find light
In this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry, a sea we must wade.

Amanda Gorman
The Hill We Climb

Anyone who has ever walked through tough times can tell you that light isn’t always easy to find. Tough times can either make us or break us, but we exist in the in-between for the longest part of the journey. 

When we lose something we love — whether it be a job, a lover, a friend, or a family member — we are thrust into a world for which there is no simple escape. 

We exist between the tough times and the breaking or strengthening of our backs. Either outcome arrives without warning, signifying an unexpected end to our pain. It creeps up on you and pounces like a cat preying on an unsuspecting mouse. 

Loss is a strange thing. 

It has perplexed us forever. We can’t understand it, yet we must. We can’t fully grasp it, yet it sits with us daily. 

Death, in the same regard, cannot be conquered, yet we feel the need to somehow overcome it. But even in the overcoming of it, we never defeat it… we simply learn how to move forward with it. 

The loss we carry, a sea we must wade. 

For me, loss has always created a need for escape; a place to exist as my soul decides whether to strengthen or break. I lost my brother at a young age, I’ve lost former students, I’ve lost jobs that I loved, but it wasn’t until I lost my dad did the world come crashing down. The man I thought was invincible was vulnerable to kryptonite. Just like we all are. For him it was his heart. For you it may have been a family member with cancer, or the foreclosure of your house, or the divorce you didn’t see coming. 

It was here — tossed into the sea — that I turned to the one thing I knew could be mine and mine alone: writing.

I didn’t know the outcome, and I didn’t know if it would be helpful or harmful, but I knew that I needed someplace to go so that the sea didn’t overtake me. 

Writing had been a distant thought in the long-forgotten woods of childhood — something I always dreamed of doing and never fully committed to. But, after the death of my father, it became my solace… my refuge… a place to hide from the pain… and the vehicle by which I could move through the pain. 

So many of us have been… there. In that moment of pain where life is gray and the colors are muted. The world stops spinning, and the sun refuses to rise, and in those moments we have an option — especially for those of us who call words our craft, our love — to let the pain flow through our words. 

Writing through the pain gives our pain power, but it also takes away the sting. It gives us reality yet hope hangs on the end of every period. It makes the pain, the loss, the grief, the death… real. Yet it also removes the shame. 

It displays the fear, and in the moment you transfer that fear to paper, courage enters your soul. The moment you decide that tough times will not break you, will not shatter you, will not eviscerate you — you win. 

Your victory is not because you conquered your pain but because you set it free. You refused to hold it in, to let it only exist in your head and heart. The power to transfer pain to paper is a magical thing. We can’t fully understand it but we know it works. It has worked for millennia, preserving the stories of old. It has given us our heroes and shown us tragedies. It has helped us through the good times and lifted us through the bad. 

You belong to the long line of scribes who write their pain and in doing so, free not only themselves, but others. 

For me, this is true freedom. The pain may still be felt in your heart and the emotions may match your pain but it can’t hold you captive. It can’t keep you silent. It can’t dictate your state of  being.

Ms. Gorman ends her poem by saying, 

There is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it. 

Be brave enough to write through your pain. Be brave enough to set yourself free.

How has writing helped you push through hard times? Do you have any fears around writing through your pain? Has someone else’s writing ever help set you free? 


About KL Burd

KL Burd (he/him) is a YA Speculative Fiction Author and Educator living in Austin, Texas with his wonderful wife and two amazing boys. As a former teacher and coach, KL thrives on helping individuals reach their full potential, especially young and upcoming writers. Sign up for his newsletter to connect on all things writing. KL writes fiction so that underrepresented kids, especially young Black boys and girls, can see themselves in every type of story imaginable.


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