The Four Stages of Writing Through Grief

Writing Perseverance

Whether we want it to or not, we all will go through hard things in life. Grief will come in some form or another, whether it be the loss of a loved one, the loss of a dream or expectation or relationship, or a diagnosis that changes everything. You know what your grief is, and it can be shattering. All consuming. And eventually, you'll want something good to come of it. To share your journey and your path to healing with others.

I'm not a psychologist or expert on this matter. I'm simply a woman who experienced a grief of my own, and went through these four stages myself. Both of my boys received multiple diagnoses that would change the trajectory of our lives and I grieved the life I imagined I'd have with my kids. I struggled with anxiety and depression while taking my kids to their numerous speech and physical and therapy appointments. But before long, I found a key word that changed my grief around. Embrace. And I started blogging about it. And before long, I wrote a book for special needs mothers about it called Embracing This Special Life.

While talking to other writers who experienced and now write about grief, they indicated they went through these four stages as well:

The Four Stages of Writing Through Grief

1st stage: grief and survival mode

This is when life is going fine and dandy and then you get the bad news. When you experience a loss that shatters life as you know it. Everything will be different now and you will slowly work your way through the first four stages of grief: Shock and denial, anger and bargaining, pain and guilt, depression.

You'll be in survival mode, pushing your emotions aside to keep putting one foot in front of the other, taking care of your family's basic needs. You may cry but then quickly wipe away your tears because someone or something needs your time and attention. You may avoid your feelings by turning to food or to TV shows or to something that brings you comfort and keeps you from thinking too much and helps you numb the pain.

During this time, you won't be doing much writing. And that's ok. You're grieving and simply trying to learn to survive in your new normal. Grief is healthy. Natural. Necessary.

2nd stage: writing for self-reflection

In this stage, you're working your way through the first several stages of grief. It may take years, or only a few days, depending on the loss you experienced and your personality. No need to rush. Let yourself feel.

You will find yourself seeking out and joining online and in real life support groups. The relief in knowing you're not the only one feeling this way will help remove some of the burden you're carrying.

It is during this time that you realize how many emotions you have to sort through and you may start writing for your self to process all your thoughts and emotions. You may journal. Or write a letter to your loved one or to God pouring your heart onto the paper. Your words may be full of anger and questions and that's ok. It's not healthy to keep them stuffed inside. This is good. It is healthy to get those emotions out, to process them, rather than stuff them.

3rd stage: feeling called to share your journey

After you've had time to process your thoughts and feelings, you will find you have entered the final stage of grief--acceptance. Before long you will feel a need to share your journey and your challenges and your victories with others who are experiencing a similar grief. You will want to share the progress you're making, how things are going in your day to day life with friends and family. You may want to share on a social media post, or a blog. All you know is you want to share your journey with others, to not feel so alone, to help raise awareness, to share your heart, though it requires a scary amount of vulnerability.

You will want to write to encourage and strengthen others with your own survival story and the lessons you are learning. You will want to share the resources that have helped you with others in a similar place of grief. You are beginning to see how God may be using the pain you went through to help others, and that makes you feel like you have a new purpose, a new calling in life.

4th stage: feeling called to share your hope and healing

In this stage, you will have emerged from the depths of your grief. Although you will find yourself cycling through the various stages of grief from time to time, you know that there is more to life than the grief. That there is hope. That there is healing. And you want to share that hope and healing with others. All good stories follow that format: status quo interrupted by a great loss or challenge, and then eventually, a resurrection or rebirth.

I heard someone say that a good writer or teacher shares what they wish they knew at least three years ago. Maybe that means you need to be three or more years removed from your greatest grief to truly write about it. But whether you wait that long or not, think about what you wish someone had said to you in your grief. Think about the greatest lessons you learned in your journey of grief. And write that to those people who are in those shoes you once were in.

By this point you have a good idea of how you want to share your words. It may be on a blog. It may be on Instagram or Facebook. Or it may find its words into a book you find yourself tinkering on and hope to publish one day.

For now, just write the words. Edit them and when you're ready, release them, where they can bless and encourage those in need of some hope and encouragement.

Then just keep doing that as long as you feel led. As long as the words of hope and healing keep bubbling up, keep writing, keep encouraging.

You'll find that both your heart and those reading your words will find healing in the process. :)

What stage are you in in the grief writing cycle? If you're in the first three stages, what do you need help with to move on to the next stage?