Monday, October 14, 2019

Voices of Experience: The Write Way: Using the Written Word to Heal Grief

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay 
Writing creates art out of pain.  ~ Vanessa Poster

Vanessa Poster is a nonprofit fundraising consultant, teacher, and poet. She is a member of the Los Angeles Poets and Writers Collective and has studied Method Writing with Jack Grapes for more than 20 years. She is a graduate of Stanford University with a Bachelors in Humanities and a Masters in Modern Thought and Literature. Following the death of her husband in 2015, Vanessa began using her writing to explore themes of grief, love and gratitude.
In sharing her poems with others, she found the understanding, empathy and support she needed. Recognizing writing as an effective way to process feelings, find support in community and build resilience, she developed the syllabus for the writing classes she teaches today. Here she describes how readers might take advantage of her virtual classes, her LIVE workshops in Los Angeles, or during the forthcoming Journeys of Hope, Healing and Health Bereavement Cruise.

I take a bite of my scone.  It’s chocolate chip, with a crumbly satisfying mouth feel.  Carbs. Oh yes. Soothing carbs.  

The woman sitting across from me is older than me.  She has short red-blond hair and a wholesome look.  She is wearing a pale blue pant suit and a printed cotton flowered shirt. She is comfortably stocky and wears very little make-up.  Her husband recently left the table, bored by our conversation.  In this moment I face a decision.  Do I tell her I’m a widow too?  It had been a week since my husband died and I was on a cruise.

It was supposed to be the cruise to celebrate the end of my husband’s cancer treatment.  He would have loved being on the ocean, sitting on our private balcony, eating breakfast and telling me tales of sailing his father’s skiff when he was a teenager.  Instead, I’m here with my best friend from high school and she’s tucking me in at night, holding me as I weep, dragging me to fancy dinners and exploring Mexican markets together.  I am pretending he’s alive back home. “My husband died last week,” I say.  “How long was it after your husband died that you married again?  How did you make it through that first year?” 

This stranger sitting across from me was a life raft.  She was the first widow I’d spoken to in my fresh bereavement and she was a role model of triumph.  She cared.  She understood.  We connected.  I never met or spoke to her again.  Cruises are funny that way.  You make a life-long friend, a profound connection and then you sail on.  

In the year after my husband died, I took a writing class and wrote poems and stories.  I wanted to capture and record this special human being I shared 8 short years with and tell the world who he was and what he meant to me.  I also wanted to process my feelings, express them, feel them and understand them.  I read my poems to other people and received support, understanding and empathy.  Writing helped.  

So, I put together a curriculum and presented it to a local grief support center.  In addition to their support groups, I suggested, a writing class would provide people with another tool to help them find a healthy pathway through overwhelming grief.  I believe that writing provides a way to process feelings, find support in community and build resilience. 

Grieving never ends, it simply becomes part of who we are.  Writing helps us find our new identity without our loved one.  It also helps to document, remember, and memorialize those we love and the life we shared. 

My workshops are for students who have never written before as well as seasoned writers.  It helps them sort through life experiences and find meaning.  Writing creates art out of pain.  

I teach “Method Writing.” It helps you to:
1. Overcome resistance to writing  
2. Inspire creativity 
3. Deepen personal understanding of emotional experience  
4. Tell your story in a more interesting manner  
The courage it takes to share a personal piece of writing becomes the most powerful part of the class.  It is transformative not only for the reader/writer but for the listeners as well.  

When I heard about the Journeys of Hope, Healing and Health Bereavement Cruise, I realized that in a unique and very personal way, it would help me to share my own healing cruise experience with others in a formal setting that incorporates deep personal work and outright fun.  (I’m planning on doing a zipline for the first time in my life!  Yay me!!!)  This conference-on-a-cruise ship is in April 2020 and I’ll be there teaching my writing class.

The Bereavement Cruise includes every feature of a 5-star rated royal experience with the added value of additional programming available just for our group. The programming is led by top professionals, such as me, who work in the world of grief and bereavement and who will help provide you with hope, information, understanding and the support you deserve.

Won’t you join me?  Either in my LIVE class in Los Angeles, or on my conference call class, or in the Caribbean next spring for a cruise? Learn more about me and what I teach here: Journeys of Hope Interview 

© 2019 bVanessa Poster

About the Author: Vanessa teaches a monthly writing workshop at The Gathering Place in Torrance, California ~ which receives consistent praise from her students. In addition, she teaches writing twice a month over the telephone to students throughout the country. Her live class includes warm-ups, instruction, exercises, meditation, feedback, support and personal writing coaching. Her conference call includes time to share your writing, group feedback and Vanessa’s intensive written feedback. She also provides private one-on-one writing coaching and support. Vanessa’s poems have appeared in Fourth and Sycamore and The Thieving Magpie as well as Grief Dialogues, ONTHEBUS, I’ll have Wednesday, and Went To Ralphs To Get A Chicken.

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