Monday, May 5, 2008

Healing Through Writing

I've written before about the usefulness of journaling during grief, but there are other forms of writing that you can employ. I wrote early on that writing a long letter to Deb using the format in The Grief Recovery Handbook proved to be a major milestone in my grieving. I'm sure that at some level writing this blog is helpful as well, even though I'm writing this more for the benefit of others as opposed to myself.

What writing should you consider?

The more I read Dr LaGrande's work, the more impressed I am. Here's another of his excellent articles, this one specifically about what to write and why. Once you've finished reading it, please consider taking 30 seconds and writing a comment on my blog ;-) Thanks!

Why You Should Write When Mourning
Writing is a form of self-expression that can be a major factor in how you cope with the death of your loved one. This can be especially important as a supplement to having a small support system or if you live alone. It may also be a special skill you possess that can give you additional satisfaction when expressing yourself.

On the other hand, anyone can write. You don't have to be a good writer or speller to use writing as a potent tool to cope with the death of a loved one. Nor do you have to write a lot each time you sit down with pen in hand. Simply write what you feel at the time is the basic rule.

So why is it important for you to consider writing as a coping technique? Think about the following.

1. Writing consistently leads to healing. It helps you obtain and understand new insights and ideas that often surface when alone and in a contemplative mode. It can jar your memory. You may discover a tinge of anger, hidden resentment, or even clarify some of your guilt feelings.

2. Writing a letter to the deceased loved one can be an excellent way to finish unfinished business. Many people have written about their sorrow over not having been with the loved one at the moment of death or for things that were said in haste. Others write to tell of their love and concern.

3. Write to the person who has been most faithful and understanding of your needs. It can also be therapeutic to tell your best friend or family member in writing how much you appreciate all that has been done and that you love him/her. Be sure to give specific illustrations of how their support was comforting.

4. Write a letter to God. Ask for assistance in trying to find meaning in the death of your loved one, which is an important task in dealing with your grief. You may wish to ask for a sign that your loved one is okay or for the courage and strength to make the adjustment to life without the physical presence of the loved one.

5. Consider a daily diary. You may want to consider starting a daily diary where you record and reflect on your day, and the most difficult as well as the most helpful things that occurred. Daily writing can be especially useful as you look back over earlier entries and realize how far you have come in your efforts to adjust.

6. List the inspirational and loving statements that you can remember your loved one saying. As you review your life and relationship with the loved one, writing down key phrases or ideas that were spoken can give much information to mull over with regard to how you would like to keep his/her memory alive in your life.

7. Write to clarify your goals. You can also write out the way you will deal with certain issues associated with reinvesting in life. Developing a plan to deal with your new life (the concept of a new life is an important one to adopt) can give you needed direction and a sense of accomplishment. It can be especially useful to make a "to do" list at the close of each day as a guide for the following day. This structure is also useful in limiting the time spent on focusing only on your loss.

It is critical to understand that the more attention you give to your loss the more power you give it to dominate life. Since the grief process is a series of making choices, at some point in your mourning it becomes essential to decide whether you will be continuously loss oriented or restoration oriented. Loving in separation and reinvesting in life are not mutually exclusive. Together they are part of moving forward.

Through trial and error decide when it is best for you to write. Some like to do it in the morning, others before they retire for the day. By using writing as an outlet for your thoughts and feelings, it will also help physically because every thought and emotion affects you at the cellular level as well. You will never forget your beloved, and writing will insure that this is so.

Dr. LaGrand is a grief counselor and the author of eight books, the most recent, the popular Love Lives On: Learning from the Extraordinary Encounters of the Bereaved. He is known world-wide for his research on the Extraordinary Experiences of the bereaved (after-death communication phenomena) and is one of the founders of Hospice of the St. Lawrence Valley, Inc. His free monthly ezine website is


Anonymous said...

I totally agree with this. I have been keeping a journal for years and it only felt natural after my husband died. I record all of my dreams of him and other deceased family members, and any paranormal activities. Recently I have include the conflicts going on in my life, so later I can reflect and see how I have grown from that experience.

Anonymous said...

I wish that I could write. I have been a professional journalist for many years, but since the death of my husband, nearly one year ago, I have not been able to write at all. I haven't even been able to keep a journal or diary. I'm puzzled by this. Each time that I attempt to write anything personal I'm faced with a blank page and a blank mind.