I'm probably doing it wrong...

I'm probably doing it wrong...
Photo by Elimende Inagella / Unsplash

Who am I?

This is where I introduce myself, tell you all about who I am and my professional goals, share my website, and define my online/technical writing persona. I’m currently living most of my professional goals by working as a philanthropy writer in Philanthropy & Alumni Engagement at my alma mater, Augusta University.

I’ve never wanted to be anything other than who I am, so my domain and website are simply named after me, Valerie Emerick. I’m using GoDaddy as my hosting platform and since I’m used to WordPress that’s what I’m using to build my site, though that could change.

I have been working as a professional writer since 2008. I graduated from Augusta University in 2013 with a bachelor of arts degree in communications and professional writing. I have had a domain and website for over a decade. My website has gone through many phases, but over the past three to five years, it’s been dormant.

We plan, God laughs

After reviewing the syllabus, one of the assignments I was most excited about was developing my online persona and rebooting my professional website. As mentioned, I already had a domain and the bones of a website under construction as I reinvented and reevaluated where I wanted to go as a writer. I figured this assignment would 1) be easy as I’ve already done most of the preliminary work outlined in the syllabus and 2) give me the motivation to finish the work I started two years ago after I scrapped my previous website to try something completely different.

But, as the Yiddish proverb goes, “Man plans, God laughs.” When I registered for Technical Writing in the Digital Age in July, I had no idea the trajectory my life was about to take.

As I live and grieve

October 4, 2023, the first day of classes, I received a phone call from my mother’s nursing home. My mother, who was diagnosed with early-onset dementia in 2016, had stopped eating and was just ingesting enough food and liquid to take her medications.

The person on the other end of the phone asked me to come to Macon to discuss the next steps with the nursing staff and administrators. So, as my mother's power of attorney, on Thursday, October 5, I made the two-plus hour drive to the nursing home, and with my brother on speaker phone, I signed paperwork requesting they not insert a feeding tube or IV fluids and to provide my mother comfort care only.

One week later, Mom was dead.

Accept the unexpected

Photo credit: Depression Kitties, Wiki, Big Mouth

Rather than drop the class and permanently move into “Debbie Downer’s den of depression,” I’ve decided to embrace the elephant in the room and lean into my grief. Both my parents and my younger sister are dead now. My sister just passed away in late January 2021 and my mother on October 12. Dad passed away in 2008. It’s just me and my brother now. That’s a heavy weight to carry.

This is not how I planned to spend my semester, but, there’s nothing quite like an existential crisis to make a person reevaluate how much time they have left and what legacy they want to leave behind.

I want to maintain a technical writing persona, but I don’t want to be a one-sided coin. I am a technical writer now and hope to continue promoting that while exercising my other skills. I don’t see why the two should be mutually exclusive.

My goal is to use my website to be a career multitasker. I want my bio and resume out there to promote my professional and technical writing accomplishments. I want to publish my portfolio to showcase my range as a writer and I want my blog to be the beginning of the memoir(s) I want to publish, or at the very least, a safe place I can go to write about the losses I have experienced. 

Grief as a discourse community

While I may not be a grief counselor or know much about psychology, I have chosen “grief support” as my discourse community.

Since my mother’s death, I’ve spent hours online searching for information about grief; what’s normal and what isn’t, what “experts” say, what personal anecdotes are out there, what are the social norms for grief, and so on. Grief, it seems, is a taboo subject in our society.

Talkin’ loud and sayin’ nothing

There’s not nearly enough open discussion about grief and while people love to say “There’s no timeline for grief,” or “Take as much time as you need,” HR rules in many work environments dictate otherwise. If a person is lucky, they may get 1-3 paid bereavement days for the loss of a spouse or immediate family member, and some places don’t provide bereavement at all. I’m fortunate to have nearly eight years in the University System of Georgia and can use as many sick days as I want to mourn the death of my mother, but what happens if I need to use my sick days for being sick?

American culture is built on resiliency. It’s okay to show emotion, but not too much emotion. It’s okay to mourn the dead but after a week or two, a person should be ready to resume regular life. I don’t think anyone should feel guilt or shame if they can’t just “get over it” in a socially acceptable amount of time.

I plan to establish my credibility by being honest and vulnerable in discussing my experiences with grief and when expert information is needed, I will rely on credible sources.

I have no idea what I’m doing, but that’s okay. Failure leads to progress if you learn from it.

Valerie Emerick

Valerie Emerick

Valerie currently works in Philanthropy & Alumni Engagement at Augusta University as a philanthropy writer. Her fifteen-year career includes technical, grant, news, and feature writing.
Augusta, Georgia