Writing about emotional upheavals has been found to improve...physical and mental health...to reduce anxiety and depression, improve grades in college, and...aid people in securing new jobs.
from "Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions" by James Pennebaker, Ph.D
Writing has always been the way that I navigate through life. I naturally turn to a blank page to express my thoughts and emotions about significant events. Once these thoughts are on paper, they function as a way of organizing my internal experience; my own words become a personal map that indicates which direction I'm heading, and which route I might take to reach my destination.
I like to say, "Write it out, you'll feel better." And I mean it, at least over the long haul. Sometimes after writing it out, I feel a little worse for a while. But I do believe that when we write our truth, no matter how painful, we can move forward to new joys and new hope. I am writing my way through loss for everyone who has lost a part of their dream, but still believes there is more happiness out there and is willing to embrace it.
Almost four years have passed since my husband died, and I have just "gotten" it. His life is over. My life with him is over. I have spent the last few months coming to this realization through my writing. It has taken me more than three years to be willing to really look deeply at my loss, to more fully acknowledge it. Everyone is different and moves at a different pace.
You might try some of the following sentence completion exercises to see where you currently stand in relation to your own loss. If you do these same exercises in a few weeks or months, your responses will likely be different.
What moving forward means to me now:
1. Not being defined solely by loss, although losing my husband has become a part of who I am.
2. Being willing to take on new challenges
3. Accept that a new degree of loneliness has become part of my life for now
4. A sense of grounded-ness
5. A greater appreciation for the good I have
6. Acquired strength
7. A better ability to separate what is worth worrying about and what isn't
Life Before My Loss Was:
a sense of security
a sense of rightness and solidity
theater, symphony, dinners out with my guy
hiking and biking
travels to look forward to with my husband
a father for my children
raising children with two parents
someone who is always there for me
Life After My Loss is:
me and the kids
a future alone?
helping others through their loss
appreciation for being alive
a commitment to writing
My New Road Looks Like This:
It's long, and I'm on my own.
I'm pushing and pulling at myself to keep going.
I'm scanning the horizon for someone to join me.
I'm open to interesting, new opportunities.
I want to rediscover the love of the unknown that I had when I was younger.
I can't see the end of the road, and I have faith in life's goodness.
I'm committed to a good journey, even if it sometimes gets difficult.
I enjoy having fun and meeting new people.