Last week we discussed the 7 Ways to Writing Through Grief. Here’s a link to it, if you’d like to take a look at it. Today we’re going to look at the seven stages of writing through grief.
If you’ve lost a loved one, a job, a pet or even a material item, you’ve probably grieved. There are all kinds of medical literature arguing the number of stages of grief and how long each stage should last. Just remember: no matter who or what you've lost, they are precious to you.
Shock, Denial, and Bargaining. Last week I talked about losing my friend after an illness. She’d been sick for a while, but hadn’t let anyone know how serious it was. Actually, I'm not sure she knew herself. For two Sundays following her death, I sat up in the choir loft and cried. The entire service. I couldn’t help it, I didn’t get to say goodbye to her.
If you've gotten stuck because a loved one has died or a job or marriage has ended, then try writing a letter. Nothing can truly help except God and time, but this is a way to say goodbye and to acknowledge that your life has changed. It can be a formal letter, a simple a list of what made her/him special or anything that helps you process that hole in your life. In addition to being a writer, I'm also an artist.
In the past, I've also drawn or painted portraits of the one who died, but you can do anything that helps you commemorate their life and the impact they had. This helps so much and may let you skip the next step.
Guilt, Anger, and Depression. In the case of my friend, I kept wishing that I’d insisted she go to the doctor. Then I got angry at her doctors, thinking they should’ve known what was wrong with her. When I cried those two Sundays, I'd gotten stuck on my loss. I kept asking, "why?"
We don't know God's will. We never can, but we can write these thoughts out, too. This can also be a letter, a list of adjectives describing your feelings, or better yet, add full descriptions of the guilt, anger and sadness you feel to your emotion journal. As I said last week, refer to this journal later on for true-to-life reactions and feelings as you write later.
If you're stuck in this stage, then examine your relationship with the deceased. How did you treat them? Was something left unfinished? What can help you resolve the issues you had? You can still talk to him or her, write a letter or even write and sing a song to them. Instead of asking "why did they die," ask "why am I stuck?"
Hope/Acceptance is the final stage. That’s where our mind and heart has finally reached a point of healing. As Christians, we have the hope that we’ll see our loved one again and the acceptance that we can go on without them.
Add these thoughts to your letter or as another entry in your emotion journal, not only for your books but to complete your healing.
Writers and other creatives sometimes experience emotions more intensely. By expressing out our feelings, it not only helps our brains process these feelings, but it also helps us create rich characters that can also help others heal later on.
Have you found anything that has helped you heal after a devastating loss?
Angela Arndt was a corporate trainer before health issues sidelined her. These days she’s active in her local church, ACFW and a regular contributor to MBT's Weekly Spark. In addition to being a team member of Seriously Write and she'd love you to join her on her personal website.
Angie is represented by Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary Agency. She’s currently working on a series of novels set in small Southern towns. She and her husband live in the middle of a big wood outside a small town in South Carolina.