grief, loss and transformation


Mom and Leila

i love this life. I do.

But there are times, there are things that we must, must face. we must face them head on and we must learn from them.

Two years, ago, when Mitch and I lost our babe girl Tya, I would never have thought that something good could come of this. I was lost. I was in despair, and then … I began writing.

Romaggi called me last week, my best friend from Romancing. I was bursting with fire and energy: the edits from Mystic Stillbirth were back from my editor and I couldn’t wait to tell her. She has been faithfully reading this manuscript since its infancy, and I have asked her to help me with the endless stream of changes, additions, deletions, distractions, and wonderful, marvelous spinoffs to the center of the universe that writing a memoir like this entails.

I have to admit, I love this creative process. I am absolutely enthralled. I am however, begin to struggle with how much time I see I will need to put into this chameleon project, which travels through time and space and changes names at every turn. Its first name was Salamat, the Tagalog word for Thank You in the Philippines where I was when I first started writing. This was like my nickname for an old friend, which was cozy and comfortable and meaningful to me. Salamat was my blessing.

Then came the P.E.I. Council of the Arts writing grant, and a sudden urge to translate the mysticism, which led me to the somewhat more esoteric Mystic Stillbirth, and I liked this for a few months. I felt as though when i put the book up on the internet for free, which was my original intention, that it would be easily searched by women who were going through the pains of grief, the sudden, unexpected and overwhelming loss of a nine month cargo passenger who never arrives, and who are waiting on the docks like a disappointed, troubled relative who cannot understand where their love has gone.

Then came more changes, with edits and the end of the manuscript. I began to visualize Tya, my precious one, and ponder what an incredible gift to me this memoir was from her. She was – and is – ever present in our lives. When earlier this spring, Leila and I went to Florida to visit mom and dad, we were speeding down Gulf Boulevard and Lei was playing with my phone. She smiled and burst out laughing, exclaiming, “Mom, you got a text from Tya!” and thus it’s third name was born. I liked A Text from Tya for its more literary connotations, and for months she was my living Text.

Its third, fourth, and fifth names have all been equally present, and I still feel that the winds of Mystic may change again and there may be a new theme – something that combines the female experience, loss, grief, and transformation. Mitchell always tells me that he feels that the manuscript is so much more than Mystic and Stillbirth, but for me it encompasses most of what I’m trying to do here.

Back to work.

Find me on Twitter at @moduffycobb.


  1. I agree, Mystic Stillbirth is the best title. My novel has gone through about five name changes. Earlier drafts won prizes under two different titles. The latest change was made a couple of months ago (I’ve been working on it for about 10 years). Nothing is etched in stone until the first published edition. Stand fast, but stay loose.

  2. i love this post…the window into all the names and the processing that they entail.

    i think i love the sound of your voice, working away to bring this to fruition, the most.

  3. I like both names, Text from Tya and Mystic Stillbirth….I think it will end with the last reading before it is published…when all the bits are mended and traded…and you are left with the real copy, the one that was meant to come from you…and that will be the name…the one that holds true for such an important loss in ones life. I think of you all the time. I miss you.

  4. i like what steve said, “stand fast, but stay loose”
    i might say, “hang tight, and when you let go, land lightly”
    so happy you have an editor and all is going so WELL. big hugs and big love

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