Why You Should Write When Mourning

Writing is a form of self-expression that can be a major factor in how you cope with the death of your loved one. This can be especially important as a supplement to having a small support system or if you live alone. It may also be a special skill you possess that can give you additional satisfaction when expressing yourself.

On the other hand, anyone can write. You don’t have to be a good writer or speller to use writing as a potent tool to cope with the death of a loved one. Nor do you have to write a lot each time you sit down with pen in hand. Simply write what you feel at the time is the basic rule.

So why is it important for you to consider writing as a coping technique? Think about the following.

1. Writing consistently leads to healing. It helps you obtain and understand new insights and ideas that often surface when alone and in a contemplative mode. It can jar your memory. You may discover a tinge of anger, hidden resentment, or even clarify some of your guilt feelings.

2. Writing a letter to the deceased loved one can be an excellent way to finish unfinished business. Many people have written about their sorrow over not having been with the loved one at the moment of death or for things that were said in haste. Others write to tell of their love and concern.

3. Write to the person who has been most faithful and understanding of your needs. It can also be therapeutic to tell your best friend or family member in writing how much you appreciate all that has been done and that you love him/her. Be sure to give specific illustrations of how their support was comforting.

4. Write a letter to God. Ask for assistance in trying to find meaning in the death of your loved one, which is an important task in dealing with your grief. You may wish to ask for a sign that your loved one is okay or for the courage and strength to make the adjustment to life without the physical presence of the loved one.

5. Consider a daily diary. You may want to consider starting a daily diary where you record and reflect on your day, and the most difficult as well as the most helpful things that occurred. Daily writing can be especially useful as you look back over earlier entries and realize how far you have come in your efforts to adjust.

6. List the inspirational and loving statements that you can remember your loved one saying. As you review your life and relationship with the loved one, writing down key phrases or ideas that were spoken can give much information to mull over with regard to how you would like to keep his/her memory alive in your life.

7. Write to clarify your goals. You can also write out the way you will deal with certain issues associated with reinvesting in life. Developing a plan to deal with your new life (the concept of a new life is an important one to adopt) can give you needed direction and a sense of accomplishment. It can be especially useful to make a “to do” list at the close of each day as a guide for the following day. This structure is also useful in limiting the time spent on focusing only on your loss.

It is critical to understand that the more attention you give to your loss the more power you give it to dominate life. Since the grief process is a series of making choices, at some point in your mourning it becomes essential to decide whether you will be continuously loss oriented or restoration oriented. Loving in separation and reinvesting in life are not mutually exclusive. Together they are part of moving forward.

Through trial and error decide when it is best for you to write. Some like to do it in the morning, others before they retire for the day. By using writing as an outlet for your thoughts and feelings, it will also help physically because every thought and emotion affects you at the cellular level as well. You will never forget your beloved, and writing will insure that this is so.

Dr. Lou LaGrand is a grief counselor and the author of eight books, the most recent, the popular Love Lives On: Learning from the Extraordinary Encounters of the Bereaved. He is known world-wide for his research on the Extraordinary Experiences of the bereaved (after-death communication phenomena) and is one of the founders of Hospice of the St. Lawrence Valley, Inc.  His free monthly ezine website is http://www.extraordinarygriefexperiences.com

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  • Clara Hinton says:

    Thanks so much for this topic! When I was 15, my 13-year-old sister died. I had no clue she was dying because nobody told me, so the shock was one that I’d never want to go through again. It took me years and years to be able to talk about her death and my grief.

    I believe that we have certain “inborn” coping skills that come to us when in deep grief, and writing seems to be one of those skills. I began journaling–in fact, maybe intuitively I knew something was very wrong because I wrote letters to my sister daily for six months before her death, but never gave them to her. In looking back, I had already begun my grief work and I didn’t even know it.

    Since that time, I’ve suffered the death of my mother, six miscarriages, and one stillbirth. I ended up writing a book, Silent Grief, but prior to that I kept little bits of journals, but that was the most healing thing I could have ever done because those brief journal entries became my tracking device for my grief journey.

    I am a great advocate of journaling, writing letters, and just jotting down feelings. All of those are ways that help us do the hardest work we’ll ever be called on to do–work through grief.

  • Philip Davis says:

    I didn’t write a book when my mother died, but it was my job to deliver the eulogy. After the eulogy, I looked at my four pages of typed notes and decided I needed to keep those pages. After reading your post, I thought maybe when we are closely connected to a death we should write our own eulogy, even if we don’t actually need to deliver one. It is easy to do and a great excersize.

    On another note, we helped a lady publish a book of poetry she wrote after her daughter committed suicide. Poetry is another way to express our inner thoughts and is not as daunting as trying to sit down and write a full-length book.