As writers, if we don't acknowledge the ubiquity of death, we avoid a significant aspect of life. People die around us daily; we read about shootings, or car accidents, or floods in the paper or on Facebook; we see stories on the news of tragic deaths both here and abroad. Sometimes the deaths are closer to home--a parent, spouse, child, or friend. These deaths affect us deeply, changing us, shaping us.
The death of a loved one is like an amputation. Gerald Sittser writes in A Grace Disguised that "catastrophic loss is like undergoing an amputation of our identity. It is not like the literal amputation of a limb. Rather it is more like the amputation of the self from the self" (Sittser 70). These losses affect us deeply and profoundly and our lives are not the same. Death amputates a part of us; it alters our gait. We need to learn to live with the amputation; we learn to walk with a new gait--one that absorbs the loss.
|Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their 9 children|
In the two novels I've written (am writing), each contains a woman dying in childbirth. Don't analyze me! Scores of women die in childbirth, even today--even in America. Centuries ago it was common for women to die in childbirth. Queen Victoria had 9 children, and during her first pregnancy her closest advisors put a plan for succession in place... in case she died in childbirth. She didn't die in childbirth, and in fact her husband Prince Albert predeceased her by 40 years. After Prince Albert's death, Queen Victoria went into mourning, and she wore black for the rest of her life. Her husband's death shaped the rest of her own life.
As you create characters, or write historical fiction, include in their personal histories and backstories the deaths that shaped them. This will add depth, complexity, and veracity to your writing.