How creative writing and poetry can heal grief

Healing power of writing and poetry

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Creative writing and poetry allows you to access your emotions and unlock some of the pain following a bereavement.

Whether you are the writer or the reader,  the written word can be the tonic you need to help you through the grieving journey. 

Who is this guide for? 

  • Anyone suffering from loss 
  • Anyone who is interested in exploring an alternative form of self-help bereavement therapy
  • Anyone who wants to know where to start in expressing their grief through creative writing

Reading time:

 3 mins


Why the written word is so important

When we were children, a kind word could ease most of life’s hurts and injustices.

Similarly, after a loved one dies, every sympathy card means so much to us, regardless of whether it contains a stock phrase of condolence, a deeply personal message or poem, or the heartfelt recognition that ‘there are no words’.  

Every word matters.

How words can release the hurt of bereavement

Words have the ability to shape our experiences and perception, especially when they speak directly to our subconscious mind. The subconscious is more in touch with our emotions than our rational, logical sense of self. When we grieve it is that tender, vulnerable self that can get locked away. 

Words have a power and magic all of their own.

  • They can validate how you are feeling, rather than minimising it.  
  • They can acknowledge a shared experience so that you feel less alone and more willing to open up to others 

  • Thecan help you to grieve by putting you in touch with your own emotions, which is an essential aspect of healing.*  

The impact of words on the mind, emotions and body 

Although the pain of your grief may be emotional or psychological in origin, it is every bit as real as physical pain and potentially as detrimental to your health.

The language that you use to talk about this pain also has an impact on your well-being.**   

Mind body and soul

Ways to write your pain and longing 

Knowing all this, you can also use words creatively to help process your own grief. **

A diary or journal gives us the opportunity to say how you really feel, warts and all, without having to consider how an audience would receive it. You can talk about regret, and anger, and the loneliness of loss – topics that may be hard for others to hear, however much they want to support us.  

Creative writing can be a letter to a loved one who has died, expressing your profound sense of loss or detailing everyday events and thoughts that you long to share with them face-to-face. It can bring you comfort and release, helping you to make sense of life’s greatest mystery: how to live fully in the shadow of death.   

The power of poetry to help you grieve

Poetry, in particular, can help you keep love at the centre of your grief and make it beautiful on the page, whether the words remain a private treasure or a keepsake to share with others. 

Poetry’s use of metaphor and imagery let you capture the essence of your loss in imaginative ways. The right words, however few, can speak volumes. 

There is sorry and beauty in poetry.

How to write about grief and loss

There’s no right or wrong way to grieve, and the same is true for creative writing.  Allow yourself the freedom to express what you need to and try to resist making changes right away.

Writing authentically puts you in touch with your own needs and helps you come to terms with your loss, one word at a time.

Write from the heart. 

Useful RESOURCES

Poetry Pharmacy

The world's first walk-in Poetry Pharmacy in Shropshire will prescribe and dispense the  stanzas you need to lift your spirits.

Consultations are also available by phone and email.

Sources:

* The Lancet:  Formulas for grief  The need to grieve 

** The Conversation:  Academic source of news and views  Talking about pain

** BBC World Service  How doctors' words can make you ill

*** Grist  The healing power of the written word 

About the Author

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Derek Thompson is a writer and author, who has written extensively about grief and the funeral industry. He thinks humour is a much-underrated commodity. And thanks to a mix-up, when his name was read out during a committal, instead of his brother’s, he has technically been to his own funeral.


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