I connected with Bridget on LinkedIn and loved reading about her new book and the inspiration behind writing such a powerful title. I’m delighted she agreed to join me on my blog to chat about The Grief Handbook, out now.
Bridget McNulty is a writer, content strategist and co-founder of Sweet Life, South Africa’s largest online diabetes community. She lives in Cape Town, South Africa, with her husband, son and daughter, and loves nothing more than a cup of tea and a good book – preferably somewhere green and leafy. Find out more at https://www.bridgetmcnulty.com
Tell us a little about yourself. (How did you get started writing? What do you do when you’re not writing?)
I’ve always loved writing, but it was after studying Creative Writing at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (USA) that I really fell in love. There was a Writer’s House for the student writers where published authors from all over the country would come and talk to us and give us masterclasses – it was magic.
After I returned to South Africa from college, I wrote my first novel – Strange Nervous Laughter, which was published in South Africa and the US in 2009. And then I started Sweet Life, which was a quarterly magazine for five years and is now South Africa’s largest online diabetes community (I’m a Type 1 diabetic). That’s what I spend most of my days doing – we work closely with the National Department of Health to show that it’s possible to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.
I also have two young kids (four and six), who keep me rather busy!
Is this your first book? How many books have you written prior (if any?)
I wrote Strange Nervous Laughter when I was 25, and I wrote a short e-book about living with chronic illness – How to Live a Happy Life (with a Chronic Illness).
What genre is it, and what is it about?
It’s part-memoir, part-workbook, I suppose. It’s been classified as mental health because it deals with grief, and how to deal with it. The book intersperses my personal reflections on grief and how it felt to lose my mom, with expert opinions, practical activities and inspiring quotes and poems. The idea is that it’s an interactive journal that guides you through the process of dealing with your grief.
What or who inspired you to write this book?
My mom died very suddenly (only 13 days from diagnosis till death). In the wake of her death, I turned to books – as I always do – but I couldn’t find anything practical and empathetic. Everything I read was either too religious or too philosophical… I wanted something kind, and easy to read, with space for me to work through my own feelings. I couldn’t find it, so I wrote it.
What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
I got asked this question a lot when I wrote my first book, which is why my brother and I started Now Novel. It’s an online novel-writing course that guides aspiring writers through the process of writing a book, from start to finish.
My best advice, though, is to keep writing. Every day, keep at it. Writing is a practice more than a lightning bolt of inspiration, and the only way to get better at it is to keep working.
What do you enjoy most about writing and why?
I love being able to take big, confusing feelings and make sense of them through words.
List three interesting facts about yourself
- I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 25, a month after my novel was published.
- I really love colouring in. I’m a pretty rubbish drawer, but I think I am very good at colouring!
- People often think I’m an extrovert, because I love public speaking and I studied drama. But actually I love nothing more than lying on my bed reading, and would happily spend the whole day alone.
What is your least favourite part of the publishing/writing process?
I find the final draft tough. When you’ve read your words so many times they’ve lost all their lustre, but you have to keep plodding on to shine it till it is complete, and beautiful. I’m much better at the initial, creative phases than the final fine-tuning.
What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?
What a lovely question! Posts on social media are always so welcome (please use #griefhandbook so that I can find them!) and reviews on Goodreads help a lot. I think the most helpful thing to do, though, would be to recommend it to someone who might need it… I really just want this book to find its way to those looking for it.
What is your next project?
I’ve had a couple of people ask me already if the book applies to divorce, and other types of loss. I want to write The Loss Handbook next, which looks at different kinds of loss – divorce, retrenchment, miscarriage, loss of a pet, emigration – and interview people who have been through these kinds of losses to create a similar guide through difficult times… But it’s still a very new idea that needs lots of fleshing out!
Connect with Bridget here:
Connect on Instagram: @msbridgetmcnulty
Facebook: Bridget McNulty
LinkedIn: Bridget McNulty
Buy your copy of The Grief Handbook here:
UK: Amazon and Bookshop.org
US: Amazon and Bookshop.org
South Africa: Takealot and independent bookstores
The Grief Handbook will take you by the hand and offer empathy and compassion, helping you through what can feel like the worst days of your life.
Bridget McNulty lost her mum suddenly. She couldn’t find the support that she needed in the rawness of her immediate grief, and the loneliness felt profoundly shocking. The Grief Handbook weaves her personal experience with expert psychological insights and practical advice, to enable you to navigate your grief in your own way.
There is no one-size-fits-all recovery process for bereavement. Understanding that each experience of grief is unique, you can stop worrying about how you should be feeling. This interactive journal offers you room to explore your feelings at your own pace, helping you not to shy away from the enormity of your heartbreak.
Grief isn’t something to ‘get over’, but a loss to honour and live with. This gentle book shows us how.