Claire Bidwell Smith is more than the author behind the incredible new memoir, “The Rules of Inheritance,” which chronicles a youth spent coping with the loss of both of her parents to cancer by the time she was 25. She is also a therapist specializing in grief in Los Angeles. She talked to Metro about how one profession informed the other.
Do you find that writing helps with the grief process?
I think writing is an incredibly useful tool for moving through grief. It’s something I always encourage the people I counsel to do, whether it’s in the form of writing remembrances of a loved one or writing actual letters to the person they’ve lost. The act of writing is like opening a door in your head to all the things that you can sometimes be afraid to say or think. But the thing about grief is that it just doesn’t go away until you really sit with it, until you really let yourself experience it. Therefore, taking time to write about all the things you might be hesitant to let yourself feel is a great way to move through the emotions.
Why did you pick the title “The Rules of Inheritance”?
“The Rules of Inheritance” refers to a few things. The rules part refers to the five stages of grief I reference in the book, and to the way that no matter what, there are certain motions a person has to go through in order to move through grief. As for inheritance, I felt that I inherited so much from my parents. In some ways I simply inherited a lot of grief and sadness over their loss, but in other ways I inherited this wonderful legacy of the kind of people they were.
Did your training as a grief therapist help or hinder your creative process?
I think my training as a therapist absolutely helped with this book. On one hand, it helped me to understand myself and the process of grief on a much deeper level, one that really enabled me to write this book. On the other hand, I think that therapy and writing have a bit in common. As a therapist, I work to help people to understand the narrative of their lives, and often I help them to reshape it. In that regard, being a therapist was a really unique way to better understand all the ways that we tell our stories.