How to start writing about grief: Words of advice from the online community

I put a question out across social media recently, asking if writing about lost loved ones helps people with their grief. It’s something that has been beneficial to me, that’s for sure. A myriad of messages dropped into my inbox with many using the written form – words about their loved one, to their loved one, about their feelings in general – as a much-loved, creative outlet for grief.

One response stood out to me, though. It was from Glyn. Glyn, who lost his dad 2 years ago, explained, ‘I haven’t tried writing about my grief yet, but journaling has been recommended to me…just a bit stuck how to start….’

With such a supportive online community of grievers, creatives and mental health advocates, I invited folk to share any nuggets of advice to help Glyn, and others, put pen to paper.

Kind, insightful tips flooded the comments section on how to get started with grief writing, and you can have a read through them all here…

I’ve turned journalling into writing directly to my late mum, and very much in the style of how I would normally talk to her – it makes me feel some sort of connection with her still and also helps to get those feelings out – i know it’s silly but it feels like she’s actually listening somehow.

I hope it helps. It feels weird at first (as does everything when losing someone we love), especially seeing your feelings on a page like that but hopefully it will keep that bond between you and Dad, and help you learn more and engage with the things you’re going through.

@teresamalteasar

Maybe the next time you are reminded of your loved one, through something unexpected, a song you hear, art you see etc, you could write that down and how it made you feel, where the memory comes from, or other instances that relate to it. Then you might be able to naturally extend it.

@FEELINGSUELESS

I found it so hard to start journaling as it just became another thing I was worried I would do wrong. My suggestion would be to start with a simple prompt such as ‘today I feel/am stressed about/excited for…because…’ and just let your stream of thoughts take over. Someone once told me that when you think you’ve written it all, keep going. It’s only then that the stuff that needs to come out, comes out. Sometimes I’ve set a timer for 3 minutes and encouraged myself to just keep writing without stopping until that goes off. Once it goes off I’m involved so carry on but it’s that challenge to just keep going that gets me started. Sending hugs.

@imperfectionsandreflections

Perhaps just start with a single memory of the person you miss or the last time you were with them. Or write how you feel today and why. Nothing should feel forced. Write when it feels natural to do so & write what feels natural.

Emotions can overwhelm you & that’s ok. Small steps will help to make it less overwhelming. But essentially do what is right for you. Look after yourself & don’t give yourself a hard time over anything you do or feel.

@STINGING_BELLE

Echoing what @stinging_belle said and to add: I’m sure you’ll already have a notebook to write in, but I went to the stationary shop and bought a pack of exercise books. Then just wrote the date in the margin. I just write a stream of unconsciousness sometimes, it takes the pressure off having to write anything in particular. Big support to you.

@ADAMORILEY

I SOMETIMES FIND A QUOTE I LIKE ONLINE, WRITE THAT DOWN AND THEN GO FROM THERE.

LISTS CAN SOMETIMES BE A NICE PLACE TO START TOO.

@CLURFRANCES

I started just writing randomly, not worrying about what would happen to it, where it would go, if it even made sense!

I try to do it every day, even for just half an hour. When you start you probably won’t be able to stop!

@GRIEFISODD

Strange to read a book before starting but I read The New Diary by Tristane Rainer and was so inspired. She studied journaling for 8 years and wrote the book with tonnes of amazing ideas – starting a diary is one of the best things I ever did.

@BENDOVER84

Sometimes I find it’s easier to draw or do a mixture of both (e.g. I am a fan of a spider diagram so I can write down all my feelings about a situation). Sometimes it’s nice to write about something that went well/could have gone better or something that I’m grateful for or something I wish I could share with my late partner. I have also in the past written as though it’s a letter to my late partner saying all of the things I wished I’d had the chance to say.

There’s no right or wrong way so just start and see where it takes you! Good luck.

@erniecustard

Write an open letter to the person. Just start anywhere… how your day, week, month has been going…. something that happened that reminded you of them or made them pop into your head. Just start writing. Once you start you end up writing things you didn’t even realise you were thinking. I said an open letter, you don’t have to finish it, just write as often and for as long as you want to. My letter took up a whole A4 notebook eventually! Good luck x

ELAINE COX

How about writing it in the form of a memoir of that person’s life?

HONEY ANDERSON

What about writing down a moment, quote or joke that you shared which you might be thinking/ have thought about that day?

Katy Stephenson

Dear Glyn – I’m so excited to hear you’ve purchased a notebook! Good luck. x

Dear contributors – thank you so much for your words.

Dear readers – please feel free to share these gems with anyone you think would appreciate!

Oh, and for further support, you can check out this grief writing course and spoken word course via Talk About Loss!


Note to previous blog subscribers: Hello! I’ll be honest – you used to get these blog post updates via email. Can’t tell if that’s still the case. If so, please remember that you can unsubscribe at any point!
I also think there may have been some changes with the commenting function. If you would like to contact me or share your story, the best way is via my social channels or 60postcards@gmail.com. Thanks so much xX

Published by rachaelchadwick

Communications Consultant. Writer and Author of 60 Postcards. Deep passion for postcards and the power of a handwritten note. Born and raised in Dorset, now an honourary Londoner.

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