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A memoir of a father's grief

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'Kadian Journal' by Thomas Harding
'Kadian Journal' by Thomas Harding
Courtesy of publisher

Two or three weeks after his son Kadian died, Thomas Harding found himself at the checkout counter of the supermarket. It was the first time he'd been to the supermarket since his son's bicycling accident.

He looked down at the cart.

"I had four bottles of bleach and three packets of chewing gum. That's all I had," Harding remembers. "I was totally unable to carry out normal functions."

Harding, an investigative journalist, joined MPR News host Kerri Miller to talk about his path through grief, and his new book, "Kadian Journal." He started writing it in the days after his son's death. 

"It was just in my head and it had to be on paper," Harding said. The book is a way of remembering Kadian, of examining the accident and of sharing his son with people who never met him. Kadian was 14 years old when he died.

"When we lost him, I found myself unable to actually describe what was happening. I found when people spoke to me about our experience, it didn't really compute," Harding said. "They'd be well-meaning, but they'd say things like: 'There are no words.' Of course, for me, there are thousands of words to describe him, to describe what's going on, and yet, I was struggling for exactly the right words."

Harding and his wife found themselves tripping over the terms that come with death and grief. Should they say "coffin" or "casket"? 

"Do we talk about 'it'? His body?" Harding remembered asking. "Do we talk about Kadian's body?"

Harding, who was biking with his son at the time of the accident, thinks that writing and talking about these words was his way of handling the story.

"It was a moment of profound loss of control, as you can imagine," Harding said of his son's death. "Maybe that's why having these words was important. It's my way of trying to seize control of a situation that was no longer reliable, that was no longer within my reach."

For the full interview with Thomas Harding about "Kadian Journal," use the audio player above.

Kadian Journal Kadian Journal