Do you need an outlet or healing process for your grief?
What’s the best way to recover from grief?
How can you get over the pain of grief through writing?
Losing a loved one can be a highly traumatic experience, especially when you were very close to the deceased. Experiencing a death can leave us physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained for days, week, months or even years. That’s why it’s important to safeguard your well-being. Getting over grief by writing is a powerful way to heal, no matter your loss.
After death, life always continues, and we must find a way to pick up and go on without that person. Think about it… your loved one would not want you to experience prolonged suffering or grief. They would want you to celebrate life and all it has to offer. You also may have to take the time to support others in their grief, especially children or a surviving parent. So, moving on after grief and loss is another way to honor your loved one—by living your life… a life your loved one is no longer here to experience.
Tools to Get Over Your Grief
Your grieving process is both personal and unique to you. So, you can’t compare it to anyone else’s response to grief or loss. And you can’t compare it to any previous grief experience. Whether your loved one died suddenly or due to an extended illness, your grief may occur all at once, appear in waves, or it may take time coming to you.
How you choose to work through your grief is up to you and your comfort level. However, since this is an extraordinary time in your life, we encourage you to seek help to get through this difficult period. There are many resources available and healthy coping mechanisms to help you work through your grief. Here are some beneficial strategies you can use in managing your grief.
- Grief counselor / mental health professional
- Faith leader
- Support group
- Family, friends
- Grief books / poems
- Grief journal / writing
- Walking, running, hiking, physical activity
- Talking to your loved one out loud
- Wearing something that belonged to them
- Celebrating small, positive things
- Social / fun activities
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Setting a small goal
- Listening to upbeat music
- Touch therapy: massage, reflexology, acupuncture, acupressure, reiki
- Practicing forgiveness
- Healthy distractions
- Keeping a light on nearby (avoiding darkness, especially sitting in the dark)
- Drawing / art
- And more!
The Emotional Effects of Losing a Loved One
The emotional effects of losing a loved one may start with the five stages of grief and can go beyond that as well. The five stages of grief are depression, denial, anger, bargaining, and acceptance. Generally speaking, all people experience the five stages, but you may skip a stage or experience it only briefly. You may work through each stage in a different order and at a different pace. Some stages can last a few days while others can last months or years.
Deep sadness and depression can be marked with uncontrollable crying, numbness or no crying at all. Numbness is a defense mechanism that protects you from being overwhelmed by your emotions. You may be in shock or feel extremely nauseous. Once the shock and numbness wear off, you will start to feel your grief either in small doses or in a big way. We all must go through grief at some point; it’s not avoidable. And this is all normal.
Anger is one of the big emotions you may feel after losing a loved one. Even if they died due to an accident or illness, you may be angry with them for leaving you. It sounds a little unreasonable, but it’s a completely normal reaction. You can be angry at another person who may be responsible or partially responsible for their sudden death. Or you can be mad at the situation, doctors, God, the injustice or even the whole world.
In addition to the five stages of grief, you may also feel some other emotional effects after the death of your loved one. You may feel relieved that they are gone, especially if they were suffering and you were a primary caregiver during their final days, or if you had a conflicted relationship. It is OK to feel relief now that this period of your life and theirs has passed.
You may also feel guilt that there is something else you could have done or should have known. It’s important not to beat yourself up about the coulda, shoulda, woulda’s. You may also experience what’s called survivor’s guilt: Why him/her and not me? Second-guessing and self-blaming will have no positive effects on your well-being, and it can’t change anything that has already happened.
Grief may also vary with the age of the deceased. We are expected to grieve a child’s death or a baby’s death differently than the loss off an older parent, which may be more expected. Losing a child can cause complicated grief and increase the necessity of grief counseling. For bereaved parents there are organizations that offer support, understanding and compassion to those struggling to rebuild their lives after the death of their children.
The Physical Effects of Losing a Loved One
The physical effects of losing a loved one are wide and varied, and they will differ from one person to the next. You may be experiencing many things on this list as well as some that aren’t named here.
- Lethargy, low energy
- Trouble concentrating
- Difficulty making decisions
- Poor diet
- Wanting to be alone
- Lack of motivation
- Negative feelings
- Panic, helplessness
- Fear that the same thing will happen to you
- Muscle tightness
- Muscle weakness
- Bad dreams
- Loss of appetite
- Weight gain
- Weight loss
- Other health issues
***If you are feeling chest pain or chest discomfort and/or shortness of breath accompanied by sweating, nausea, arm pain, shoulder pain, jaw pain or pain on one side of your body, you may be experiencing a heart attack. Call 911 immediately and take an aspirin right away if recommended by your doctor.
How Writing Can Help You Process Grief
“By journaling or writing letters to someone you’ve loved and lost, you can speak with abandon and dump all those feelings and emotions you don’t want others to know about. In the process you’re also apt to discover, as I have, not only closure, but a new path and a new plan for the rest of your life.” –Barbara Brabec, author
Writing has been a cathartic method of getting through loss, whether it’s the death of a loved one or the loss of a relationship. Writing helps you get down the things on paper that you wish you could have said or done. Writing also helps you dig deeper into other issues that may be present. You can discover more about yourself in the grief process.
According to a Psychology Today article by Dr. Adrian Furnham, “Writing is also often redemptive. And it helps because it nearly always involves some commitment to change.” And according to Harvard Medical School, writing through grief helps to boost your immune system and improve your mental and emotional health.
Your writing can take on any number of forms or genres. There are no rules, just what feels right to you and what helps you heal. Try any of these forms of writing to get you on the road to healing from grief.
- Life Story
- Collecting quotes, bible verses
- And more!
You may find that while you are writing, you may want to cry, scream out loud or even laugh. These are all normal emotions that occur during the grief process. Allow yourself to fully feel each emotion without judgment as it presents itself. Writing can also give you material for an obituary, eulogy, memorial service or life review.
***Please note that writing about your grief is not meant to be a substitute for grief therapy or individual counseling. Writing is meant to be a therapeutic supplement to other productive healing methods. There should never be any shame in seeking help through our most difficult human experiences. Whatever you are going through, don’t go through it alone.
How to Write About Grief
The most important thing to note is that you don’t have to be a writer to write about grief. Let’s say that again: you don’t need to possess any writing talent at all. What you write can be for your eyes only. You don’t need to share what you write with anyone else unless you choose to. And you can keep your writing as long as you like. Sometimes it can be helpful to revisit your writing months or years later to see how far you’ve progressed.
Here are three things to keep in mind when getting over grief by writing.
First, choose where and when you’d like to write. Find a time when you have uninterrupted privacy in a comfortable place, preferably without distractions. A local coffee shop may not be conducive to grief writing. However, sitting by a window with a pretty view in the comfort and quietness of your own home may be more suitable.
Second, don’t restrict yourself on what you can write about. Let your writing flow. Whatever thoughts come to mind, get them down on paper or on your computer screen. Don’t worry about penmanship, grammar, punctuation or even making sense. Don’t edit or revise your writing. And don’t judge yourself about what you find yourself writing.
Third, grief writing is not only about passing through your grief in a healthy way, but also learning, growing, and evolving in your life journey. Every death you experience will change you in some way. So, allow the change to occur because it is also a beautiful part of life.
Need help getting started on your grief writing journey? Try these prompts.
- How you want to remember the person
- Memories of the deceased
- What you learned from him / her
- What you loved most / least about your relationship with them
- What you miss the most about him / her
- How the deceased influenced you
- How you wish they could help you today
- What you would say to them now
- Any regrets
- What you wish you could do with them
- How you are feeling each day
- Funny reminders of him / her
You can write as if you are talking to your loved one. Tell them about the good and bad things that happened that day. Talk to them about how you are feeling and what you loved and now miss about them. Ask them how they are doing. And talk about the things you still hope to accomplish in your life.
Most importantly, think of your writing as a safe haven for your emotions. It’s a place to safely express your thoughts and feelings that may be bottled up inside of you.
What Grief Can Teach You About Yourself
In the most difficult of experiences and major life changes, there are good things that emerge. We discover the things that really matter to us most: laughs, hugs, smiles, memories, experiences, and all of the small stuff. You discover how fleeting life is and that tomorrow is never a guarantee. You learn to live in the moment and not worry so much about the things you cannot control.
You also learn that your feelings are normal, and they change and evolve. You may be able to identify emotional triggers and find a way to cope with these issues when they arise. You discover who your true friends really are: the ones who stick around for the hard stuff and don’t disappear. And finally, you learn that you are a stronger person than you ever imagined. And you come out of your grief a new person.