It’s true what Benjamin Franklin said, that “…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Grief is also certain, and while the loss we grieve and the manner in which we grieve is unique, grief itself is universal and writing is one way to process it.
Even though my mother died over thirty years ago, through writing I have a new found understanding of grief and the grieving process and a new found understanding of myself. Judith Butler writes “When we lose certain people… I not only mourn the loss, but I become inscrutable to myself.”(1) Through the writing I was able to get to know myself not as a motherless daughter, but as a daughter who had a mother for 13 years and as a daughter who survived the loss of her mother, and thrived in spite of that loss.
According to Judith Herman “Traumatic memories lack verbal narrative and context; rather, they are rendered in the form of vivid sensations and images.” (2) Creating a cohesive narrative out of a trauma is an important part of the recovery process. It is what we do at the Children’s Grief Center: give grieving children the space to tell their story, and more importantly talk about the loved one they have lost. Similarly, creative writing—using the tools of craft such as image, characterization, and plot—offers a safe way for a person to examine their own grief story and craft it in a way that can be very healing.
Through writing, we can remember our loved one(s) who have died, we can honor their memory, gain a deeper understanding of our loss, and we can create a narrative from the experience of loss that helps us heal—at least that’s been my experience, and I’d like to share that with others.
Here’s some thoughts from other writers, and some reading excerpts from their works:
(1) Butler, Judith. Precarious Life: The Power of Mourning and Violence. New York: Verso, 2004
(2) Herman, Judith. Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence—from domestic abuse to political terror. New York: Basic Books, 1997