• Janeen Mary Chasan

Part 3 of 4: Creative Writing For Grief

Dear Subscriber,

Here we are at Part 3 in the 4 part series, emotional numbness versus flooding, and how to cope.

In the first post, I gave a little overview on emotional numbness in grief, and specifically why that happens, and how it can serve us while we're grieving. If you missed it, you can check it out here.

In the second video, I gave a little overview on emotional flooding and what happends when the anesthesia of our defense mechanisms wears off and you began feeling again. If you missed it, you can check it out here.

In todays video, I talk all about the benefits of creative writing.

I give you six journaling techniques that you can implement right away, that will be super helpful to you on your grief journey.

I was first exposed to creative writing for grief on my own journey. After I lost my dad when I was 19 years old, I felt like I was very alone in my grieving process, and I needed to expel some of my emotions so I started writing.

Writing really helps us to make meaning out of our pain.

Writing also helps us really to understand some of the messier things that are associated with loss.

It also allows us to make sense of some of the things that we struggle to come to terms with.

Any kind of unfinished business, or any loops that aren't really closed when somebody dies can be healed through creative writing.

There are lots of different creative writing techniques to help you process your grief experience.

You might prefer to reflect on your loss privately in a journal, while others might desire to express themselves more outwardly and share their writing.

The first journal technique that I want to talk about is called free writing. With this writing technique, it's a judgment-free zone, and a place to start if you're feeling stuck.

Free writing is for you if you feel like:

I really want to write, but I don't know what to say.

When you free write, you don't even have to worry about spelling, or grammar, or whatever. Write for as long as you want. Write until your hand hurts. Write until you're tired. Just get it all out.

The second writing technique called 5 minute sprints, is very similar to free writing, but it's a little bit more constrained. With free writing, you can just go all over the page and write for an unlimited amount of time until you feel like you've gotten it all out.

5 minute sprints, is a really cool writing technique if you want to go a little bit further, and have a little bit more boundary than the free writing.

Set a timer for five minutes and write. It’s kind of like you're free writing, but you have a time limit. This is really effective if you plan on writing every day,

The third writing technique is really cool, and it seems really easy, but it's very challenging: Lists of 100

I suggest creating a title or some kind of a theme, so for example, if you're feeling particularly sad on a day. make a list of 100 things that you're sad about. You can create a header. I am sad about... start with number one, and write whatever that is, and go all the way to 100.

You can repeat things with this list. It's okay to have repeats.

The cool thing about the list of 100 is after you're done, you can go back and reflect on it, and you can look for themes.

You can look for things that have repeated on the list, or things that are very similar, and then you can cluster them down, and then you can create another piece of writing based off of those themes.

The next journaling technique I think is awesome. I've used this so many times in my life, not only with grief, but with lots of different challenging situations.

Unsent letters is a technique in which you basically write a letter, and you don't send it. You can write a letter to your loved one that you've lost. You can write a letter to someone in your family that's pissing you off.

You can even write a letter to a feeling.

If you're having a lot of feelings of guilt around the loss, you can release yourself from the feelings of guilt by writing a letter to guilt, and really kind of saying,

"This is what you've done for me. This is how you've held me back, and I'm not taking that anymore."

When I create unsent letters, I don't hold onto them. I have a fireplace, and I chuck the letter in the fireplace, and release whatever I needed to release. I released it on the page, and now I release it again in the fire, when I burn the letter.

Finally, number 6 is a little bit more of an in-depth creative writing technique called the character sketch. The character sketch is basically a written portion of a person, or it can also be an aspect of yourself.

Maybe you want to understand yourself and your extreme sadness related to the grief. You can start with any of the list of one hundred, five minute sprint, or the clustering, and then you can flesh it out in the character sketch.

You'll want to think about, what's the character's motivations? What are their fears? What's the character's needs or desires at the time. It helps us to understand a part of yourself, or another person, and when I found that when we're on our grief journey, we uncover many different traits in ourselves.

Maybe we knew that the traits existed, but they were dormant for a while and the loss kicked them up. Sometimes these different character traits can create blocks in us, and really impede our growth or freeze us in the journey.

Creating the character story about a part of yourself on the grief journey is super useful, and really helpful to understand where you're at, and what you need at the point in the journey, the point that you are in the journey.

In the next post I will be ttalking about art making as a way to work through feelings of grief.


Love to you,

Janeen Mary Chasan LCAT ATR-BC

Licensed, Registered and Board Certified Creative Arts Therapist

Filmmaker, Podcaster and Online Educator


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