Kelly Cervantes talks about loss and navigating the highs and lows of grief with her new book, 'Normal Broken'
Kelly Cervantes didn't necessarily set out to write a workbook on grief.
The writer and advocate, who lost her daughter Adelaide to a rare form of epilepsy days before her 4th birthday in 2019, found catharsis in writing about what she was going through during some of the earliest, darkest days that followed.
"My mother is a therapist and had sent me I don't know how many books on healing after grief," Cervantes tells PEOPLE. "I would make it through the prologue or the first couple of chapters and then just get frustrated. I discovered that what I needed wasn't a clinical way to work through my grief ... I really just wanted a friend to sit with me in the dark and be like, 'This really freaking sucks and it's okay that it sucks and it's going to suck for a really long time.' "
Out of that came Cervantes' debut book, Normal Broken, which walks through the ups and downs of parenting a medically complex child (while also raising son Jackson, welcoming daughter Anessa by adoption and navigating husband Miguel Cervantes' schedule in Broadway's Hamilton) and giving readers a place to write their own thoughts and feelings on grief.
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"My specific story is mine, but the generalized experience is not unique to me," explains Cervantes, who has documented the past several years on her blog, Inchstones. "Reliving the moments I write about suck, but sharing them for me isn't hard because it makes me feel less vulnerable: I know that there are so many people out there that are going to see themselves in this and they're going to connect, and know they're not alone in feeling the way they feel. Someone else is going to feel a little more normal in all of this, because grief is super duper normal even though often, no one wants to be around it or acknowledge it, which we know is not healthy."
Cervantes touches on how everyone processes in their own way — "Even within my own family, we were all grieving so differently," she says of her husband and son — and how one can feel different re-entering the world after a traumatic event.
"I didn't feel like I fit into my normal social circles anymore — I felt like I no longer fit anywhere," she says. "I was looking for a place for someone to be like, 'I see you and it's okay.' "
For those who are trying to help a friend or loved one through grief, Cervantes says "it's tough — there isn't a rule book to play by because everyone responds to grief so differently."
That said, "I don't think I've ever met anyone that didn't want to talk about a loved one they're deeply missing. And sometimes the best way we can help is not by just saying, 'I'm here for you,' but stepping in and finding little ways that you can help, like, 'Hey I'll pick up Jackson and bring him home from soccer practice this evening so it's not something you have to think about.' But if the help is declined, that's okay, too. Just keep offering the help, be there and check in."
Walking through this darkness is "scary," Cervantes admits. "I'm never going to be who I was before. This has forever changed me, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing."
Adding that she'll likely struggle with guilt — which she believes can go hand-in-hand with grief — for "the rest of my life," she adds that "I'm stronger now, I see the world differently. I move through it with more understanding, more awareness, and I think those things make me more empathetic."
For those looking to come to a similar place, Cervantes is hopeful the book will unlock such understanding. "Maybe there is someone out there who hasn't tried writing as a healing tool, and this will prompt them to realize that it does help to get all of those wild, anxiety-ridden thoughts out of their head and onto paper."
Normal Broken is available on Amazon and in bookstores now.
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Read the original article on People.