When her close friend died suddenly, Miriam Weinstein kept a journal about her thoughts, feelings and reactions to how people deal with death, an effort that later would evolve into a book. “I seem to be going to a lot of funerals and that seems to be the place in life where I am,” said Weinstein.
Her friend’s death was so sudden she didn’t imagine at the time that her therapeutic writing would become a published piece called, “All Set for Black, Thanks. A New Look at Mourning.”
Weinstein belongs to a few writing groups where she wrote about her friend’s death, what it was like to go to funerals, what people wear to funerals, why people wear black or don’t wear black, and after this series of essays it turned into a book. By frequently bringing her work to her writing groups she received feedback about the tone, among other aspects of the book, which she found extremely useful in the process. “I’m going to put in a plug for writing groups, I can’t see how people write without them,” said Weinstein. The book took her about a year and a half to complete.
The most difficult part of writing it was getting the tone of the book just where it needed to be. In her mind, it was a critical aspect to the book’s success. “The tone has to be right in a book like this, because you don’t want to come across too dry, depressed or mournful, but you don’t want to be too glib or silly,” she said. Weinstein believed it was necessary to have a mix of both tones in order for people to feel comfortable reading a tough subject. “It’s easier to read about it if some of it’s funny and it’s so easy to get that wrong,” said Weinstein.
Her recently published book, released on September 13, is part memoir and part how-to. Weinstein will be presenting her book on November 3, at Stanetsky-Hymanson Memorial Chapel in Salem, sponsored by the Lappin Foundation.
She begins in the first chapter with the hassle of finding appropriate funeral wear, but gets deeper into her thoughts about death from her early childhood on in the following chapters.
“I didn’t start out thinking, ‘oh, I’m going to write a book,’” said Weinstein. At a certain point her agent saw her essays and recognized that she had enough content to write one, so she merged her work together.
“When you start out on a project like this you don’t know what you’re doing,” said Weinstein. After a while, she began to get a sense of a direction for the project and became excited about creating something that didn’t exist before. “There’s no other book like this at all and if I had thought about it in the beginning maybe I would’ve thought that it was too goofy of an idea,” said Weinstein.
When Weinstein writes about her loved ones who have died, such as when she mentions her parents in the book, it naturally evokes sad feelings. “Some of it feels very warm because writing about them keeps them with me,” she said. Like many artists, her writing can be therapeutic for her to be able to talk about them as she expresses herself through her work. This relatable topic offers condolence and a little bit of laughter to others going through the grieving process.