Writing Through Grief, Part 1

(and other ways of working through it)

In this series about writing through grief (and other ways of working through it), we will explore:

Some of these postings are quite long, but I hope that in them you may find a few gems that will help you through your journey with grief. And please remember to add your own thoughts, ideas, and prompts in the comments. Thank you so much.

Introduction to this series:

In the past few months, I have journeyed through the grief of losing a child to suicide, and 2 days later, a beloved sister-in-law to health issues. Today, in fact, as I was writing this, I learned of the unexpected passing of a beautiful niece, and my heart is breaking again. In recent years, I have lost my parents, aunts and uncles, and many other loved ones, relations and friends, both on my side of our family and on my husband’s side (which has in our 40 plus years together become my side as well). (And yes, it seems loss is one of the parts of life that increases as we age). While loss often deals with death, there is also loss in many other ways, such as through dementia, broken relationships, even cruel lies and gossip. Loss can be caused through financial changes, loss of jobs or other aspects of life, failure, broken hopes, separation from groups that were an important part of one’s life, physical changes, mental illness, war, and much more. And all these losses result in grief of one kind or another.

As an editor who often works with writers who are dealing with loss and grief, I have often had the privilege of working with them as they deal with their grief through writing about their experiences of loss—and the memories of life, positive or negative, that came before the loss. Some of the writers have just written through their loss and then, as healing occurs, have set that writing aside. Others have decided to share their journey by publishing their writing in a variety of ways—books, short stories, poetry, and so on; or speaking of it with others, or being part of grief groups, or going beyond writing to other forms of the arts (drawing, painting, dance, theatre, crafts, etc.), or through volunteering, and so on.

As I have gone through these experiences with dealing with grief, I have listed prompts that have helped me think through grief, and I have been able to share these ideas with others who are grieving and wish to use writing (and other methods) to help them move through their journey. Yes, I am most definitely still working through grief myself; I imagine it never completely ends in this lifetime, but I believe it can become less painful, and that through our own grieving process, we can help others who are grieving. In the following posts, I will be sharing prompts and ideas that have come from my own experiences with grief, and from the discussions I’ve had during my work with writers exploring their grief, as well as with others who are journeying through grief. And I have collected writing prompts and ideas from other writers that apply to grief as well, whether that was what they intended specifically or not.

I hope that as you work through your own journeys of grief, some of these thoughts and ideas will help you too, whether you are a writer or not. And I would be so grateful if you added your own experiences and ideas in the comments, to help others, too (including me!). Grief is part of the universal human experience. Let us help each other journey through it.

I will start, in the next post in this series, with ideas for holidays or other special occasions that are especially times of grief; then in following posts in the series, I will share some ideas of my own; and finally, share some ideas that have been gleaned from and been inspired by others. I hope you will find them helpful, and I encourage to share your own thoughts, ideas, and prompts with the rest of us, in the comments.

8 thoughts on “Writing Through Grief, Part 1

  1. scrittoralinda says:

    Dear Norma, prayers said for you and your husband — please take Christmas for what it is meant to be: Jesus coming in to our lives. Lean on him and ask for his help in all things — thoughts, feelings, getting up in the morning, trying to rest, having your day and keeping on keeping on, all of it — is all we can do. It is enough. Let God do the rest. I cannot imagine your pain.

    Yes write through it but don’t read it after, it all comes back just like you can read a novel and feel the same reactions every time you re-read.

    The email address looks weird: ….


    • norma j hill - penandpapermama says:

      Thank you so much, Linda. Yes, you are right, He is the reason for Christmas, and the One who wants to carry us through. I do feel that “writing through” our grief can really help, but it is wise, after writing, to usually set it aside for a time. Then we can decide whether or not to re-read … and to share, perhaps. There are things I have written that I know I don’t ever want to read again. There are others that I read later only for myself. And things that (sometimes) I am even joyful to share. Some of the writing I did immediately following my daughter’s death has continued to be a great comfort to me as time has passed, and many others have told me it has helped them. Perhaps that is because it shared my spiritual response and the way our Creator and Lord held my hand through each moment. (Some of that writing is posted here: https://penandpapermamatoo.com/in-memory-of-our-daughter-robyn-petra-hill/ ). (and yes, I’ll definitely check out that wierd email address thing!)


      • Heather MacDonald says:

        Hi Norma… Really appreciated the insights you shared inn your article. Since I started writing over five years ago I’ve been plagued by grief and distraction due to an adult son who struggles with addiction and mental health issues. I know this at times blocks my creativity and motivation. I will be following with great interest. Wishing you and yours a peaceful holiday season.


      • norma j hill - penandpapermama says:

        Hi Heather! I too wish you a peaceful holiday season, and that perhaps some of the prompts, thoughts, and ideas I’ve gathered here will help you resolve the grief and distraction you are dealing with. I’ve been there and I know its so difficult. I pray, too, that your son might be able to overcome his struggles.


    • norma j hill - penandpapermama says:

      Yes, it may well be. I understand your fear as I lived through something very similar as I watched my beloved mom sink deeper and deeper into dementia over many years until it seemed like the mom I knew and loved was gone, and only her shell remained. Yet at some moments I would see sparks of light break through the darkness, in rare moments when her eyes would brighten for a few seconds, or when she’d most unexpectedly gasp out my name long after I thought she no longer knew me. During that time, I wrote a lot of “family stories” and illustrated them with the many snapshots she and dad had taken, and that was helpful for me. I also occasionally wrote about some of the “moments” when I saw “my mom”–like this one a day or two before the angels came for her: https://penandpapermamatoo.com/miracle-stories/mom-and-the-angels/ and another time reflecting on her legacy even as she lingered on: https://penandpapermamatoo.com/creative-writing-a-to-z-challenge/m-is-for-ministry-and-mom/ Perhaps these pieces–and some of the prompts in the posts I’ll be putting up over the next few day–will encourage you to write about losing your son.

      Liked by 1 person

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