Writing as Therapy: Grief Encounters

Recently I took an opportunity to write up to 300 words on grief. I was reminded of how writing is often a form of therapy for me. Below is my piece.

Grief Encounters

Grief is a changeable companion. We’ve met before, in various guises, but in the past year it has been a constant in my life. It took me a while to recognise its return, and longer still to understand that this wasn’t a fleeting visit but a long-term residency. Perhaps even permanent.

It can arrive in a myriad of ways. A sudden, breathtaking appearance, shattering everything that had seemed so solid and immutable. Or it can be insidious, trickling through in a series of gradual changes, gently undermining and invading normality. For what is grief but an affront?

The shape and feel of grief shifts over time. Thinking back, it was like a playful bear cub who comes along, thumps you so hard on the back that all air is expelled and you fall, heavily and without grace, to the ground. It then cheerfully sits on your chest, pinning you down and winding you. It knows not its strength, the damage and bruising that it causes. After a while it might wander off, find someone else to torment, but it hasn’t forgotten you. It will track you down. It has your scent.

There is a plethora of books on grieving and loss, and grief is a common experience documented in movies, music and just about anywhere you look. We grieve for matters large and small in our life, from the loss of a job, the end of a friendship, to the deep bereavement that comes with losing someone you love. Yet it retains the mystique of taboo. When you are grieving, people are often unsure of how to help despite your obvious pain. At times they don’t know what to say, so they say nothing. Or they call upon clichés. Time heals all wounds. It will get easier in time.

How do you continue on when your heart is splintered? How do you show your face, go through the absurdity of life when everything that matters most to you is ravaged? How I longed for a discrete way to show that I was broken, that I needed to be handled with great care as the slightest bump could destroy me and send me spiralling into a dark void. My senses were on high alert, everything felt altered and distorted. Nothing mattered. Grief is confronting and debilitating but it can also provide a simplified perspective when you need it most.

It took an age for me to realise that I have to accept grief into my life. It will walk beside me now, giving me a shove every now and then. I’ll never forget what I’ve lost, the wound will not heal, but by slowly understanding this I can keep living. 

Is writing a kind of therapy for you at times?

[Photo: view of the Pittwater, Sydney]

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19 thoughts on “Writing as Therapy: Grief Encounters

  1. Definitely. I am not a writer, but I have always turned to writing when I needed to get something off my chest. journals, diaries, exercise books, It has definitely been therapy for me.

  2. Yes, it is. I’m glad you’ve been able to accept your grief, because what else can you do with something that won’t go away? It’s your travelling companion now, but it sounds like it’s handling you a bit more kindly than it was

    • Thanks, Terry, and I like your wise approach regarding accepting something that won’t go away. I wish I’d cottoned on to that a little sooner! It really does get easier in time, although when you are in the midst of a difficult situation it isn’t the easiest truth to digest. Writing certainly made a big difference in my ability to manage through harder times, as well as a way to celebrate and be grateful for the better times.

    • I’m with you, Ann. Sometimes it is only by the act of putting the words down that I know what I really think or feel. It creates a special kind of clarity. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. When words reach the depth of my grief they become crushed, unrecognisable, coming to an unsettled rest at the bottom of my emotional seabed so with me, I’m afraid, all tends to remain in my head and heart. Maybe one day I shall take a pen and encourage those words, one by one, to rise to the surface. 🌊

  4. In times of loss, my mind aches to turn thoughts into rhyme. The tears flow as I write and then read them back. After that, I can sit with my feelings until I am able to fit them into a compartment in the back of my mind.

    • Thanks for sharing what helps you deal with grief, Gail. I like the idea of rhymes and can imagine that there would be a sense of calm and comfort in the creation of a rhythm or pattern or words at the time.

  5. Beautiful. Thank you. I am learning that, for me, the only way to walk through grief is to write, to draw, to create something because this reminds me that everything changes. Eventually the grief I feel will change as well. xo

    • Thank you for your comments – it is encouraging to know that I am not alone in finding ways to process grief. You are blessed, too, in being able to draw what you feel. I really enjoy seeing your posted work and find it full of inspiration 🙏

  6. During the initial shock and accompanying grief of my loss, I was unable to write which made everything feel worse. Recently, in the past few months, I got my words back. I wrote about this on my blog. Your vivid descriptions of grief’s ever-shifting shapes resonate with me.

    • I have just read your poignant post and I am so glad that you have got your words back and are able to share what grief was like in your experience. A year on, I still feel the swift shove of grief, usually without warning. It is rarer now, and the good memories outweigh the bad, but it remains with me. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

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