Healing Ink: Writing Into Your Grief

A weeping willow tree, one flowery journal, two pens (in case one ran out of ink), and a box of Puffs tissues.  Those objects stayed close beside me.  In my early confusion over the loss of my son, these items never ignored my grief or told me to “get over it.”

When it grew too dark to see underneath the stringy weeping willow, I carried my pen and journal inside a house that seemed too empty, and wrote some more.  At night, I woke to grapple with turmoil, with the noises in my head, the flashbacks of the cancer ward, the cries of my son.  I wrote the ugly words “why?” and “how come?” before I could sleep again.

I scribbled through myths and cliches.  I unleashed resentment and longing.  I addressed prayers to God.

And, surprisingly, I discovered.  Some of the confusion slid away, some of the guilt abandoned me.  There was nothing I could have done to save my four-year-old’s life.  Even my love had not been strong enough to destroy that infection that flared inside his tiny body. I was human and really not as in control as I wanted to believe. I would have to live with that.

I began to understand the new me.  She was a tower of strength and compassion; she was tender and vulnerable, realistic, with just the right touch of cynicism. She needed protection from too many plastic smiles; she could not go long without a hug or sharing a story about a blue-eyed boy with an infectious laugh.

My written words healed me.  And I jumped at the opportunity to tell others.  I’d found comfort and clarity.  I smiled at my husband and three young children, and at last, I didn’t want to run my van over the cliff; I wanted to smell the peonies and taste the salt from the ocean on my skin.

The beauty about grief-writing is that no one has to read it.  You don’t have to worry about a teacher correcting your spelling or grammar.  There’s no grade, no pass or fail.  No one cares if your letters are sloppy.  It’s written by you and for you.  And, yes, it works.

  • Find a secluded place to write where you can think clearly without distraction.
  • Write, at first, for your eyes only. It doesn’t have to be shared with anyone.
  • Write to chart progress for you to read years down the road.
  • Write with the feeling, “I will survive this.”
  • Write to identify your emotions and feelings.
  • Write to help solve some of the new situations you must now face.
  • Think of your journal as a friend who never judges and who can never hurt you.
  • Write your spiritual struggles.
  • Write to rebuild your self-esteem and your self-confidence.

(From Down the Cereal Aisle:  a basket of recipes and remembrances by Alice J. Wisler)

~ Alice J. Wisler’s new blog, http://www.writingtheheartache.blogspot.com/ has articles and guest posts on the effectiveness of writing through loss and grief.  On July 17th, she will present a workshop on Writing the Heartache at the Country Inns and Suites of Raleigh-Durham, NC.

Alice Wisler

More Articles Written by Alice

Alice J. Wisler, founder of a grief-support organization, Daniel’s House Publications, is a full-time writer and author of contemporary novels. In 1997, her four-year-old son Daniel died from cancer treatments. Since then, her writing focus has been on how to help others in grief. She gives Writing the Heartache workshops across the country. Through her organization, she designs and sells comfort cards/remembrance cards and at her Carved By Heart imprint, carves personalized remembrance plaques. When she isn't writing or speaking, she is promoting her novels---Rain Song (2008), How Sweet It Is (2009), Hatteras Girl (2010), A Wedding Invitation (2011), and Still Life in Shadows (2012). Her devotional, Getting Out of Bed in the Morining, offers comfort and purpose for those dealing with grief and loss. Her cookbooks of memory---Down the Cereal Aisle, Memories Around the Table, and Slices of Sunlight, contain stories of food and memories of children who have died. In 2009, Alice married Carl in Las Vegas, and they live with her three children in Durham, NC. To Listen to Alice's Radio show To learn more about Alice visit her website: http://www.alicewisler.com and go to her blogs: http://www.alicewisler.blogspot.com and http://www.writingtheheartache.blogspot.com/

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  • Friends,

    Thanks for reading this article which also is published in Open to Hope’s newest book, Open to Hope. I wanted to clarify for new readers that the July 17th workshop was for last year (2010). This year’s Writing the Heartache All-Day Workshop will be held on July 30th at the Hampton Inn in Raleigh, NC. This will be a great opportunity to write from your heart. Please join us!

    ~ Alice