The death of someone close to us can be traumatic and devastating. It stays with us for months, years even and it can completely cripple us. Luckily, we have a great coping and healing mechanism at our fingertips, and that’s writing. Research has shown that writing during the grieving process can improve a person’s immune system and their emotional and mental health. It can be difficult to get started because of the powerful emotions it triggers, but in the end, there are therapeutic benefits of letting your emotions out.
It's important to realize that writing is not meant to replace professional therapy. It’s simply a tool for self-expression, self-discovery, and creating a safe place to feel your emotions without judgment. It is especially helpful for people dealing with the death of a loved one where there is a lack of closure, or a feeling that things were left unsaid.
Writing and Healing
After experiencing a loss, writing how you feel and your thoughts is a good way to express yourself without barriers or judgment, which isn’t always possible in the world today. You can also self-explore and slowly start to rebuild your inner strength. Writing when grieving allows healing because you can reflect in a safe space about life and death and put all your thoughts and emotions out there.
It's also good for sorting through emotions that may be conflicting, writing down thoughts about yourself and your relationship with the person who passed, share what you’d like to tell them, and eventually get closure. It’s a possibility for a fresh start and to make space in your mind and heart for other feelings, and simply be yourself in private writing.
Types of Writing
There’s more than just journaling as a writing form to help the grief healing process. Other types of writing can be useful depending on what you want to get from it, whether it’s feeling, apologizing, reminiscing, or being creative. Don’t judge yourself and your writing, just let the words come to you. These forms of writing include a letter, which can be very therapeutic in speaking directly to the person about what you want to express. This can also be difficult to write but in a healthy way, as you will be experiencing intense emotions.
You can also write a memoir and keep it private if it’s for grieving purposes, or publish it if you want to share your thoughts about that person’s life. This type of writing helps you remember all the special events and happy times you have together, and serves as a tribute for that person. There’s also poetry or a Haiku which is a good way to express deep feelings without explicitly stating them, or a different point of view. For this option, don’t feel any pressure and just write creatively from the heart so you can truly express what you want to.
You can also write a reflection about the person who passed and yourself and how you interpret life and death. Contemplate the concepts and write whatever crosses your mind, to better appreciate the fleetingness and fragility of life. You can also reflect on what the other person said or did that stick with you the most. What did they last say to you and what wise words or advice did that person give you? This can be a good bridge to revisit some wisdom from your loved one.
Finally, you can write a fictional story about the two of you, a fictional world where you live together and associated stories where you’re both there for each other instead of being grieving and sad. This is a great option if you’re the kind of person with a vivid imagination and you’ve already made it through the reflective stage.
Tips for Writing Without Pressure
Writing therapeutically is a safe activity and must be done spontaneously, without fear. If you find that you often have to think things through before you write them, you should follow some fearless writing tips. Don’t think, just feel and write. You need to remember that you’re not writing for anyone else, so it doesn’t need to make grammatical or coherent sense. You should write in one go without pauses to think or reflect. This gives your feelings a chance to come out without effort. Don’t stop to reread what you’ve written or criticize it, just keep going forward. In the same vein, don’t stop to edit or review your work – it won’t be perfect so just accept what you’ve written as your emotional truth. You’re allowed to cry, shout, and write whatever during the grieving process. It’s about accepting your mistakes and your process.
You might be struggling to think of where to start. For some ideas and inspiration, think and write about what you loved most about that person and your relationship, what you miss the most about them, what they helped you learn, and how they influenced you. You can also write things you want to say, or wish that they would say or know, or even things you regret or wanted to do with them. Share your best memories, and how you remember them.
You need to give yourself time to grieve. There is no fixed calendar for grief and moving on, or a specific way that grief looks. Let yourself feel and heal at your own pace, and don’t judge yourself. Write throughout the process, and you’ll find that it helps you heal.