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Exploring Grief and Loss

Is this workshop for me?

  • Someone close to me has died, person or pet, present or in the past
  • Loss through Illness and or aging
  • Loss of a job, a relationship, a home, status
  • Loss of future dreams
  • ‘ I don’t know who I am’

Coping with grief and loss

I found in the midst of winter there was in me an invincible spring – Albert Camus

Loss is a fundamental part of life which starts with our first cry at birth. Some losses are relatively easy to manage and others last a lifetime. Many losses are positive and mark a transition forward, such as the loss of our first tooth, some losses are natural yet painful like the loss of elderly parents and other losses are unexpected, traumatic, and painful.

Whatever our losses, there is never a clear step by step process we can follow to ease our pain. Grief is more like learning to ride the wave rather than try to out run it. Sometimes our feelings of loss are predictable other times we are shocked by the intensity. Sometimes losses are layered one upon the other, other times it is a singular event.

This workshop is open to anyone who wants to discover how writing can help us identify, mourn and integrate life’s losses. These losses include: people by death or separation, jobs, health, youth, objects, places, status, money, future dreams, past memories and sometimes even a feeling that we have lost ourselves.

Identifying, understanding and naming loss

Grief and loss are such personal experiences and they change over a lifetime. The way we process grief and loss varies between individuals and cultures and within individuals. Sometimes it is a personal event and other loss is more global such as key moments in history like 9/11 or environmental change.

Loss and Grief in a time frame

  • Past
  • Present
  • Future (anticipatory grief)

Types of Loss

  • Relationships
  • Objects
  • Sense of Self in present or past
  • Values, Dreams,
  • Health – ours or those we love
  • Aging including loss of future, loss of abilities
  • Financial,
  • Psychological, physical, mental
  • I feel lost…
  • Loss of trust, safety
  • Individual, community, global

Healing Through Writing

It is well documented that expressive writing can help people adjust to challenging or traumatic experiences. By using this creative process participants may experience new thoughts, awareness and knowledge. The act of writing can help reframe, re-story and create coherence in life helping us adjust to loss and move forward. Loss is one of the experiences we all have and grieving for these losses can be a very painful, confusing and lonely experience.

In a 2010 study (A systematic writing program as a tool in the grief process: part 1) Bodil Furnes and Elin Dysvik found that a systematic writing program was an effective tool to facilitate the grief process particularly in a group setting. The study concluded ‘that writing and forming a story involve reflection on events and contribute to self-understanding and insight’.

The power of being in a group and sharing the reflections of others brings insight and comfort. Grief is a process of discovery, acceptance, acknowledgement of the depth of our loss, gaining new insights and reorganising. Writing is a tool to help the bereaved create a coherent narrative that includes who or what we lost at the same time as creating a new story to live by.

What to expect in the workshop

As this is a writing workshop and not a therapy group we will not be discussing the nature of individual loss in the workshop. We will however be sharing reflections, insights and new perspectives that the writing exercises may unearth. No one will be asked read out their work.

This is an opportunity to identify, explore and reframe past, present or anticipated losses leading to new insights and extended perspectives. While the topic of grief and loss by its very nature brings up difficult feelings for most of us, expressive writing is a powerful healing tool that helps us put these difficult thoughts and feelings into words. Bringing these words to the page can lead to clarification, understanding and a cohesive narrative that is essential in the process of healing.

Writing about grief in groups began to emerge in the 50’s and it appeared that participation in a group may strengthen the power of writing and. Writing only for ourselves allows us a space to open up about feelings and thoughts which were previously to painful to name. In sharing the experience and the revelations that writing reveals we often feel less alone, more hopeful and we benefit and learn from the experience of others. Even in a four hour workshop a community is formed where there is a possibility of talking and listening to others in a profound and intimate way without disclosing the content of our stories.

Other comments, questions

My father died years ago… I should be over it by now

Loss and grief are not bound by time. Some losses stay with us forever because we never really processed our feelings at the time or we thought we ‘were over that’ but feelings of grief and loss can reemerge at different stages in life. Sometimes these feelings can arise when we don’t really think we are experiencing loss in the present, this is usually a signal of unresolved grief or decisions, concerns, transitions (happy or sad) that retrigger a loss of long ago.

Loss and grief can also be about events in the future, called anticipatory grief, sometimes based on a fact like terminal illness other times a general anxiety about loss in the future. This anticipatory grief often occurs with the natural process of aging, or an illness, retirement or children leaving home. Sometimes the loss we want to explore has happened recently or we are ‘right in the middle of it’.

It is important to consider your timing for this workshop. If you are experiencing major grief and loss in the present moment, it is often too soon to be able to process anything. If however you are experiencing a loss from the past or a loss in the present that you feel you are able to write about the workshop can work for you.

There are no rules to how to process loss and grief, there is never a time when ‘you should be over it’. Hopefully there is a time when your suffering decreases, but that is a very unique and personal journey.

I am afraid I won’t be able to manage the outpouring of grief, from myself or others

The reason no one reads out their writing in this workshop is to protect all participants from an outpouring of grief as listening to others can be very distracting – some of us minimize our own losses and for others someone else’s grief feels like it is being added to their own. The writing is totally personal and for yourself. You can always change the direction of the writing if you feel it starts to overpower you. Sharing the experience with others about what you discover, what you learn and what you reframe creates a space in the group that is hopeful, supportive and safe.

We all grieve in different ways and at different times and in the process of writing we may even discover something we hadn’t even considered to be a loss, which we realize we need to process. There are tears in this workshop sometimes, but that is to be expected when we dare to have the courage to look into loss. These tears often mean that things are getting ‘unstuck’ we are starting to let go.

It sounds strange but I think I lost myself somewhere is this real grief?

Yes many of us have this experience of losing ourselves – we just wake up and wonder how we ‘got here’. This is a profound sense of grief and loss, as we have a feeling that we have lost the very core of who we believe we are. This often occurs over time without us realizing it as we lose little bits of ourselves – our values, our dreams and our beliefs over time. At other times this sense of losing oneself can happen in an instant with trauma.

This feeling of losing oneself is a signal that we may need to take time out for ourselves, be more self-compassionate, look at how we define ourselves and how we want to define ourselves in the future. It takes courage to pause and reflect on our life. Often the sense of losing oneself occurs because over time we haven’t been able to fully integrate loss, grief and trauma and these stories need to come into the light if we are to ‘find ourselves again’. Writing gives us tools to tell, retell and reflect on our stories so we can integrate all of our history and create a new and more coherent narrative for the future.

Ease the pain of your loss with the power of writing

If you are interested in joining this workshop contact me

This workshop is open to anyone who wants to discover how writing can help us identify, mourn and integrate life’s losses. These losses include: people by death or seperation, jobs, health, youth, objects, places, status, money, future dreams, past memories and sometimes even a feeling that we have lost ourselves. Learn more about the Writing About Loss Workshop.

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