How To Use Writing to Work Through Grief

Grief comes for many reasons… the loss of a child, a parent, or friend. It also comes from the loss of what “could have been” – the marriage that didn’t last due to divorce, a health issue that keeps you from doing loved activities, moving from active partner in a relationship to active caregiver. In all these instances, writing can help us process the pain and move forward into our new role. For me, when my mother died, I started a blog to help me feel better by sharing and hopefully helping others.

I was fortunate enough to sit down with John DeDakis who bravely shared his story of his son’s death due to drug addition and how he used writing to help him process and move through the grief. I met John a few years ago when I attended one of his workshops on writing. John is a journalist, novelist, and writing coach and a former Senior Copy Editor for CNN and White House correspondent. He is the author of five novels in the Lark Chadwick mystery-suspense-thriller series, Bullet in the Chamber, as well as his most recent novel, Fake, which is a winner of the 2020 Reviewers Choice Award. John regularly teaches novel writing at literary centers, writers’ conferences, and bookstores around the country and abroad.

John suggested that professional guidance is helpful and said that Wendt Center for Loss & Healing was where he found a supportive environment. Journaling is a good first step to understanding your feelings and “don’t write for anyone but yourself” to start. It doesn’t have to be perfect grammar or even make sense as it’s a way to get your feelings on paper.

“You don’t want to be falling apart all the time – you want to be a functioning member of society – but profound grief has a profound emotional impact and if you are the kind of person who tends to keep it inside and tough it out, it doesn’t make the grief go away. It just keeps it bottled up inside which can be corrosive. It will find a way out, and that can be counter-productive, as we will anesthetize our grief by using sex, or alcohol, or work — or anything — to escape from the pain.”

The fear of not being with that person again is scary, but writing can be a first step in healing by allowing us process and move towards our new positive and fulfilling life.

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