When a loved one passes, it’s a highly emotional process and it may seem difficult to add something else to your long list of to-dos when you are emotionally drained. But many have found that writing is the one thing that helps them navigate the heavy emotions and gain perspective in a time when things seem overwhelming.
The beauty of writing is that no one has to see it. It doesn’t need to be in a specific format, and no one will assign your writing a grade. It is simply a way to narrate the journey you are on and help you get your thoughts onto paper. If you are wondering where to start, here’s what you need to know:
There are so many benefits to writing as a means of processing your grief, and this is heavily backed by research.
Harvard Medical School stated that disclosing deep emotions through writing can boost immune function as well as mood and well-being. The American Psychological Association has gone a step further and argues that it can also have benefits for those who are struggling with physical ailments. In fact, expressive writing and journal therapy are actually recognized methods for healing. So it stands to reason that journaling can have so many benefits for those who are grieving. The significance of journaling is that it provides structure and organization to your emotions as a means to process them, and slowing down to express them fully can allow you to recognize details of your emotion that you may not otherwise have noticed. This is why it’s considered so cathartic.
Another benefit of journaling is that it is a safe place to write your whole truth without judgment. In a culture that isn’t overt in the grieving process, grief can make you feel like an outsider and this makes it hard to openly communicate what you’re experiencing in your day-to-day. But when you write, there are no boundaries or people to be concerned with. You are free to explore the full range of emotion that comes with loss, and this leads to a greater sense of wellbeing.
Writing can also be a great place to find closure. It is a place to communicate with the person you have lost so that if there was anything that was left unsaid, you have the opportunity to say it, freely and unfiltered.
Finally, writing can become a mile marker on your journey – one that you can return to in order to see how you are progressing. This can allow more space for self-compassion and grace as you move through the process.
So how do you go about starting?
Types of Writing
The great thing about writing as a means to heal is that there is no one right way to write. The format you choose to write in is up to your personal preference. Whether you want to simply journal about your day and your feelings or you want to write a letter to your loved one, it all shares similar benefits. Other types of writing include…
Writing a song
Quotations or short stories
Pick a format that appeals to you, and don’t be afraid to try different formats if the first one you choose doesn’t feel quite right. Here are a few tips to guide you along the way…
Be Prepared: Grief is not predictable. Have your journal or notepad on you at all times so you can take a moment to process whenever you feel called to.
Don’t Overthink It: It is easy to overthink things or to edit ourselves before we put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. But it is important that you do not self-edit in the moment. Let go of the editor’s voice in your head and write freely what is on your mind. You may want to talk about how you are feeling in the current moment, or memories you are having about the loved one who passed, or simply things you are grateful for. Just go with your gut and let it flow.
Don’t Edit It: Write it as it comes… This means allowing yourself some grace for grammar errors, comma slip-ups, and all other mistakes in your writing. This is a time to fully allow yourself space to be and to process. Not editing can allow you to focus on what’s important: expressing your emotions.
Prompts to Start
If you are feeling stuck and aren’t quite sure where to start, below are a few prompts you can use to get you started on your journey of writing through grief.
What was positive about today?
What did you love most about them?
What does your grief feel like today?
What do you miss the most?
What did you learn from them?
How did they influence you?
What do you wish he or she would do/say?
What memories do you treasure about them?
What would you want them to know?
How do you remember the person?
Writing through the grieving process can be a way to access the healing you may be seeking. So grab your pen, find a quiet space, and make writing part of your daily routine.
Please note that writing has the potential to bring up hard and painful emotions. It is okay to let the tears flow and to feel these feelings. However, writing should not take the place of professional counseling, and we encourage you to consult with a professional if you need help processing your grief.