Navigating Grief Writing with Purpose

On Writing: Being Purposeful

Grief Writing Means Discovery

Writing is a path to our inside voice. In fact, all forms of creative expression can help us reflect on what we really think and feel. Writing, dreaming, painting, music, and movement are all forms of creative expression. Through a conscious effort to listen and learn from these forms of expression, we can discover our unconscious thoughts which hinder our growth. As you apply creative expression to your processing loss, and writing is one of the most accessible, you unleash grief’s hold by giving it a voice.

Anyone can write. Writing can be as simple as talking on paper. Writing can come from remembering, answering questions, retelling a story, or fantasy.  Writing can be sparse, prolific, simple, or complex. The voice can be from the first person I and me perspective or the third person he says, she says. In personal discovery writing the author may include all of the above!  You don’t even have to like to write or draw or dance to benefit from the insights which can arise from these creative processes.

Purposeful Writing

Purposeful writing has intent. Purposeful writing is focused. Purposeful writing is the process to a goal.

Writing without purpose is simply writing. And, there is nothing wrong with writing in this manner. For people who keep a daily journal of their lives, these writing may someday hold some insight. Journal writing can certainly provide a retrospective to life over time. Often people want to journal, but because there is no real intent for the writing (other than a chronicle), too many times the writing just drops off. The commitment wanes.

In purposeful writing, the author sets out to walk on a particular writer’s path today, and seeks out specific insights now, all within a short or designated period of time. Reflection is part of the writing process and deepens the writer’s understanding and the topic at hand. Purposeful writing brings meaning to intentional discovery. Even “non-writers” can find great satisfaction from focused and purposeful writing.

The gratitude journal is one form of purposeful writing. Its focus is gratitude; all of the writing is meant to help the author think around topics of gratitude and thus assimilate the positive thinking gratitude promotes. The goal is to breathe in and partake of the goodness of life through conscious writing.

There are many resources available which use purposeful writing through prompts and group discussion to help the bereaved hear and understand the impact that life, love and loss has exerted on their grief of today. This insight integrates the grief in a way through which their loved one, and the loss itself, becomes the author’s story, too. Thus, fear of forgetting or their loved one being forgotten, is lessened; the past is resolved in light of current feeling; and important memories are preserved. There is purpose to this task of focused writing.

Grief Reflection, the personal blog of Navigating Grief founder Joan Hitchens, is an example of purposeful writing. Although there are not any specific prompts, each day of writing is structured by the author to respond to grief in context to her life, work and current experience of loss. This goal means the reflections are thematic and provide insight into deeper levels of many aspects of loss, and in this case anticipated loss, itself. The goal of discovery for this purpose is to share the writing, thinking and feeling process, along with the universality of grief in order to not be alone, preserve the stories, and preempt ongoing grief by actively confronting the anguish as it occurs. By providing a purpose, writing becomes cathartic and insightful.

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