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Writing your way through grief

Written by Peggy Hogan, Family Support Practitioner at Very Special Kids

I was having a counselling session one day with a parent whose little boy had died unexpectedly in the night. She had woken in the morning to find him lying silently in his bed, no longer breathing and quite cold. As she told the story of her child’s life and death and how she was struggling to live through this unthinkable loss, it became clear that she wanted to write about his short, miraculous and at times traumatic life, a life that had left a huge imprint on her own.

Writing took place in a special journal at times when she needed to spend time thinking and crying about his death but also remembering his precious life.

It was ultimately quite cathartic. It helped her to remember things she had forgotten…following the ambulance to hospital only to pass it stopped on the roadside with the awful realisation that the paramedics were working on her son to keep him alive. But it opened up funny memories too which had a wonderful, healing quality. What she has at the end of this process is a beautiful, treasured picture in words of her son’s life.

Bernadette Houghton is another parent who writes poetry and here she shares her reasons for writing:

“I started writing poems about Bren back in 2014, a few months after he died. It was a way of keeping him close; and I also wanted to remember all the little things about him that I was afraid of forgetting. Writing these poems helps me focus my grief. It doesn’t take the grief away, just gives me something to think about related to Bren.

I’ve memorized most of my poems, and when I go for walks, I recite them over in my head. This also helps to keep Bren close. “

A Very Special Kids Family Support Practitioners also uses writing as a tool to help her manage and reflect on aspects of her life. As she says, “I write to get all the feelings, frustrations, and random thoughts out of my head.   I just keep writing by hand until it comes to a natural end. I don’t edit while I’m writing. I just let the thoughts, emotions and words spill out onto the page.

Sometimes the writing itself is cathartic and I don’t need to do anymore. But sometimes I find that my writing reveals insight into a particular issue that I’ve been unconsciously thinking about.

I would recommend writing or journaling to anyone, as a way of managing emotions and clarifying thoughts.  It’s a very manageable way to nurture ourselves, and we all need some of that.”

So if you now feel inspired, get the paper, get the pen and start writing.