Writing as a creative grief support medium

“In a way, the process of grief, I have found, can mirror that of writing: it is surprising, trying, frustrating, daunting, terrifying, comforting, chastening, challenging, and at times, heartening; grief can provide fellowship with others interested in the experience; it brings out the best in us, and at times the worst, if only because it is utterly human.”

~Kevin Young, The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing, Bloomsbury Publishing

If we, as creative grief practitioners, want to open up permissive space for our clients to explore the grief experience, it behooves us to give clients as much agency in the process as possible. Just as a writer will determine what flows on his or her page, so too can we be a witness for our clients as they determine the flow of their grief and life experiences. Consider the quote above from Kevin Young’s insightful book “The Art of Losing.” What are your ideas for how you might explore grief experiences with your clients?

Some ideas for exploring meanings through writing

Talk with your clients about how the act of art-making (writing or painting or movement etc) can sometimes mirror for us what our grief experiences are like. Encourage them to make a list of words that describe their grief experiences. Then have them use those words to write a poem. Or take that list of words and create an art journal page using paint. Or play with the movement of those words.

So for instance, if one of the words listed is “confusing,” then suggest the client get up and move in a gesture that might indicate “confusing.” Then play with that movement. Make the confusing movement lighter. Make it heavier. Make it lean. Make it very very slow.

Ask your clients questions like:

  • What are you learning about the character of confusing as they play and explore?
  • What insights are coming up that you might like to share with others in your life?
  • Would others in your life be surprised to hear these insights? Would they be supportive?

What other questions could you ask? Unpacking the metaphors of a creative exploration like this can help our clients to articulate their grief experiences, especially if you are offering them a permissive and encouraging space and relationship. Give yourself and your clients permission today and see what happens.

Coach, facilitator, lecturer, consultant

I enrolled in the Creative Grief Support program to enhance my knowledge and skill-set on non-death and death related grief and loss. The class provides a foundation for an active and supportive global online learning community. The instructors are skilled, creative and professional in their facilitation, teaching, learner support and presentation of the course material. I found the prescribed literature, course notes and tools informative, practical and deeply empathetic in approach. Listening to participant’s personal stories and the work in grief was stimulating, moving and helpful. I recommend the program for anyone who wants to grow with heart and backbone in their personal journey and vocational practice in grief.


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