Monday, July 21, 2014

Writing As a Healing Tool in Grief

[Updated September 13, 2017]

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We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand. ~ C. Day-Lewis

Because grief is an intensely personal experience, your personal grieving style will be unique to you and your individual personality. You may find it helpful to return to activities of self-expression that satisfy or relax you, or discover new ones that bring you comfort and relief,
such as walking, hiking, playing golf, fishing, meditating, writing or journaling; engaging in hobbies (carpentry, gardening, photography, collecting) or arts and crafts (painting, drawing, modeling, woodworking); listening to or making music; or simply talking and crying.

Writing is one of the oldest methods of self-exploration, self-expression and self-discovery. An ongoing workbook, diary or journal can be a trusted friend, available to listen to you at no cost, 24 hours a day, regardless of what mood you’re in. It accepts whatever you have to say, from the ordinary to the profound, and never chastises you for what you said. You might try using a three-ring or spiral notebook, rather than a bound journal so special that you’ll never want to write in it. Write as often as possible, but not as a chore. Once you get your pen moving, your thoughts will follow. You might begin with a meaningful quotation you found or a thought you want to remember.

Writing offers you the opportunity to
  • Reflect on the meaning and significance of death in your life as it applies to your inner self.
  • Write your feelings down as a map of your journey toward healing.
  • Separate and sort through all the confusion and conflicting emotions that surface after a loss.
  • Obtain the relief that comes when you can express your thoughts and feelings and know that you have put them down somewhere.
  • Awaken your memories.
  • See in your writing, in black and white, what’s happening inside yourself.
  • Pay closer attention to your life.
  • Let off steam, release tension and express creative urges in a safe and harmless way.
  • Develop a deeper understanding of yourself and others.
  • Clarify what you’re thinking and feeling, as you move from thinking to writing it down.
  • Alleviate any concern about losing your ideas and thoughts, since you’ll have them for further reflection.
  • Make room for new avenues of thinking as you leave space inside you for other thoughts.
  • Express yourself in complete privacy, since this writing is for your eyes only. (This is not for public consumption, nor is it meant to be a “finished” piece that requires neatness, precision, good grammar, correct spelling and complete sentences.)
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Suggested Topics for Writing:
  • A narrative of whatever thoughts, feelings and observations may enter your mind. 
  • A composition: a poem or story, a prayer or psalm.
  • Drawings or other visual materials (dreams, fantasies, diagrams).
  • Illustrations, clippings from magazines, newspapers.
  • Personally meaningful quotes you’ve read or heard.
  • “Bright ideas” for brainstorming all possible alternatives to problems.
  • An inner dialogue (imaginary conversation) between yourself and your loved one.
  • A conversation with your dead loved one, taking both parts.
    • A special memory you have about the person. 
    • What you miss most about the person and your relationship. 
    • What you wish you’d said or hadn’t said. 
    • What you’d like to ask the person. 
    • What you wish you’d done or hadn’t done together. 
    • What you’ve had the hardest time dealing with. 
    • Ways in which the person will continue to live on in you. 
    • Special ways you have for keeping your memories of the person alive.
Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below.
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© by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, DCC

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