Journaling Through Grief
Your powerful story-words hold seeds of brilliance to what ails you.
Your visionary qualities and the best of your stories, even sorrowful ones, contain access points for healing and creativity.
Keeping a journal is cathartic. It unburdens you from your woes, lifts you in times of grief, and helps release what no longer belongs in your life.
Not all people come to journaling through pain, but many do. There are several studies that report the healing benefits of keeping a journal. When people write about their stress, crisis, illness and dis-ease, recovery time is reduced and healing is speeded. Even if writing feels uncomfortable at first, after an initial period of writing, suffering and grief subside.
William Shakespeare said it best when he wrote: Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the o’er fraught heart and bids it break.
A long time ago an actress friend of mine said, “Pain is pain, whether it is a pinprick you suffer or a broken leg. At the end of the day, it’s still pain.” She didn’t differentiate between the degrees that people suffer. Her heart was compassionately open to all levels of anguish people endure. And so, too, grief is grief, and loss is loss, whether you have lost a beloved, whether you are in-transition between jobs, moving from one home to another, whether you have lost your health, your sense of purpose, or are grieving the devastation of war. I tell the people in my classes to write. I cannot explain the phenomena except to say it works. I tell them the empty blank page is like God, able to hear your every word and thought, feeling and prayer. Capable of turning tears into strength, sadness into laughter, sorrows to joy.
Grief is an emotion that needs a witness in order to heal.
What that means is that you need to find someone or something that hears you or that you feel hears you deeply. That accepts and sees you in your grief, with love. Having a witness provides you with an avenue and means for releasing the sorrow, the grief, the anger, the burden, the worry and fear, the loss and the tears. Holding it inside so very close to one’s heart without a witness keeps you locked in loneliness and “whispers the o’er fraught heart and bids it break.” Having a witness helps you to see your way out of the darkness.
Grief is an emotion that needs some form of expression.
The form of expression and even the witness can be words on a page, a story, a poem or song, paint on a canvas, singing to a tree, carving a stone or talking to God. I know two women whose husbands were tragically killed in separate motorcycle accidents. One opened a store after her husband died. The other woman launched a non-profit. After my father passed from cancer, my brother became interested in learning about alternative cancer treatments. During the next ten years he researched and then launched www.latestagecancer.com serving to disseminate information for those diagnosed with late stage cancer, offering alternatives and hope.
You can pen a book, shoot a film, or build an empire and create something, anything, to serve others in their time of need and to remind yourself that in your grief you are not alone. In journaling you do not die with your feelings of loss, but slowly they are transformed so something beautiful may grow from your pain.
That’s the way writing often starts, a disaster or a catastrophe of some sort, as happened to me… And I think that’s the basis for my continued interest in writing, because by writing I rescue myself under all sorts of conditions, whatever it may be that has upset me, then I can write and it relieves the feeling of distress.
—William Carlos Williams