Creative Ways of Dealing with the Loss of a Loved One
Are you finding your stress compounded by the loss of a loved one?
Posted Dec 08, 2019
There aren’t many guarantees in life, but we do know that birth and death are definitely part of the equation. Whether expected or unexpected, dealing with the loss of loved ones can be both shattering and disorienting.
I experienced my first loss at the age of 10 when my grandmother committed suicide in my childhood home. While I didn’t realize the significance of that loss at the time, looking back, I now understand how it scarred me. Since then, I’ve lost more than 10 significant figures, including my grandfather, father, friends, and mentors.
There is no perfect prescription for how to cope with the loss of a loved one, and we all have our own way of mourning and navigating challenging times such as these, but one thing is true: time does heal.
There are some days that might seem easier than others. Also, certain times of the year, such as holidays and birthdays, are often strong reminders of deceased loved ones. During those occasions, we need to do a little extra something to help ourselves cope.
Here are some things to remember about grief and dealing with the loss of a loved one:
- It’s okay to be scared.
- It’s okay to feel empty.
- It’s okay to be numb.
- It’s okay to be sad.
- It’s okay to cry.
- It’s okay to laugh.
- It’s okay to be selfish.
- It’s okay to allow yourself time to heal.
- It’s okay to allow friends to be there for you.
How to Cope with Loss
Losing a loved one changes us, so when going through challenging times such as these, some people seek the assistance of a psychotherapist. Others might call on a trusted friend or relative, and some individuals might decide to travel or turn to creative endeavors such as writing.
After a loved one dies, it’s common to ask many questions about the person’s life and death. Posing these questions and examining the answers through writing is a very effective way to deal with loss. It’s also a way to give a voice to one’s feelings and thoughts or to reclaim one’s voice after being silenced.
Grief journaling is another way to express yourself, and it offers the opportunity to freely express your emotions, which can provide a sense of relief. Journaling helps you keep a record and process your experience and grief. It’s also a way to connect your mind, body, and spirit. As you journal, it’s a good idea to note all the signals you’re hearing, feeling, and seeing. The journal is an outlet where you can express yourself and where you won’t be judged.
Some questions you can ask yourself in your journal are: What do I feel? What do I see? What do I hear? What do I sense? What do I smell? What touches me? Answering these questions is one way to tap into your emotional truth, which is writing that comes from your heart rather than entirely from your mind. Writing your emotional truth is all about honesty and expressing your feelings openly. When you’re writing with emotional truth, you’re recalling your loved ones and your experiences with them, and you’re also writing about your feelings and reactions to those experiences.
Memories and Memory
When thinking about memories you had with your loved ones, remember that for the most part, memory is fallible and unreliable. However, memory is our only tool to connect with what happened in the past. Sometimes details may get blurred or fuzzy, but one thing is for sure: what we usually remember is whether we felt good or bad in response to our experiences.
As you recall events from your past, you’ll discover certain emotional truths about yourself and your loved ones. Remember, you’re writing about your own feelings, not someone else’s.
Some Writing Prompts
- Write about a comforting memory related to your loved one.
- Write about a shared experience that brings tears to your eyes.
Storytelling is another excellent way to deal with grief, as it’s a way to re-create ourselves and our stories. Here are five steps to this process:
- Acknowledgment. It’s vital to acknowledge and experience grief and discomfort. Remember that grief is the process that helps us adjust to the loss.
- Break the silence. Releasing a painful, secretive, or untold story can be very healing.
- Acceptance. Accepting what happened is important for the healing process, and writing can help us explore and gain insight into the story.
- Making sense of the story. After writing the story, we should try to step back and see it more clearly as a way to integrate it into our lives. This facilitates healing and transformation.
- Rewriting our story and moving forward. In this stage, we recover our energy and are able to move ahead with our lives in fulfilling ways. This leads to personal transformation and reinventing ourselves in the new landscape.
There’s no right or wrong way to write a letter. The most important thing to remember is that it should be written from your heart. The most therapeutic letters offer the opportunity to reopen contact with the deceased. It’s the contact that is important, rather than seeking “closure.” Here are some prompts:
- Write about what you love and appreciate about a loved one you’ve lost.
- Write about a special memory you shared.
- Tell the person how much you miss him or her.
- Explain how you’ve grown or changed.
- Share new revelations about yourself or your loved ones.
- Write down how you continue to honor the person’s memory.
- Start out by saying, “The one question I’ve always wanted to ask you is ..."
Since the individual you’re writing about is no longer alive, you might wonder what to do with the letter after you write it. Well, you can save it on your computer, seal it in an envelope and keep in a private place, share it with a friend, keep it in your wallet or by your bedside, or have a burning ceremony.
Remember that no matter how you choose to creatively heal from the loss of your loved one, it’s the right way for you. It’s whatever feels appropriate for you at a particular time.
Happy holidays to you and yours, and remember to honor those you’ve lost this past year.