Sweet Lorraine

In Memory of Lorraine Christine Evans
14th July 1948 - 9th October 2007

Why you should write when mourning

Writing is a form of self-expression that can be a major factor in how you cope with the death of your loved one. This can be especially important if you live alone. It may also be a special skill you possess that can give you additional satisfaction when expressing yourself.

On the other hand, anyone can write. You don’t have to be a good writer or speller to use writing as a potent tool to cope with the death of a loved one. Nor do you have to write a lot each time you sit down with pen in hand. Simply write what you feel at the time is the basic rule. So why is it important for you to consider writing as a coping technique?

Think about the following:

  1. Writing consistently leads to healing. It helps you obtain and understand new insights and ideas that often surface when alone and in a contemplative mode. It can jar your memory. You may discover a tinge of anger, hidden resentment, or even clarify some of your guilt feelings.
  2. Writing a letter to the deceased loved one can be an excellent way to finish unfinished business. Many people have written about their sorrow over not having been with the loved one at the moment of death or for things that were said in haste. Others write to tell of their love and concern.
  3. Write to the person who has been most faithful and understanding of your needs. It can also be therapeutic to tell your best friend or family member in writing how much you appreciate all that has been done and that you love him/her. Be sure to give specific illustrations of how their support was comforting.
  4. Write a letter to god. Ask for assistance in trying to find meaning in the death of your loved one, which is an important task in dealing with your grief. You may wish to ask for a sign that your loved one is okay or for the courage and strength to make the adjustment to life without the physical presence of the loved one.
  5. Consider a daily diary. You may want to consider starting a daily diary where you record and reflect on your day, and the most difficult as well as the most helpful things that occurred. Daily writing can be especially useful as you look back over earlier entries and realize how far you have come in your efforts to adjust.
  6. List the inspirational and loving statements that you can remember your loved one saying. As you review your life and relationship with the loved one, writing down key phrases or ideas that were spoken can give much information to mull over with regard to how you would like to keep his/her memory alive in your life.
  7. Write to clarify your goals. You can also write out the way you will deal with certain issues associated with reinvesting in life. Developing a plan to deal with your new life (the concept of a new life is an important one to adopt) can give you needed direction and a sense of accomplishment. It can be especially useful to make a “to do” list at the close of each day as a guide for the following day. This structure is also useful in limiting the time spent on focusing only on your loss.

It is critical to understand that the more attention you give to your loss the more power you give it to dominate life. Since the grief process is a series of making choices, at some point in your mourning it becomes essential to decide whether you will be continuously loss oriented or restoration oriented. Loving in separation and reinvesting in life are not mutually exclusive. Together they are part of moving forward.

Through trial and error decide when it is best for you to write. Some like to do it in the morning, others before they retire for the day. By using writing as an outlet for your thoughts and feelings, it will also help physically because every thought and emotion affects you at the cellular level as well. You will never forget your beloved, and writing will insure that this is so.

Dealing with depression when mourning the death of a loved one

Are you filled with despair and emptiness? Has life lost its meaning for you, and no one could possibly understand your feelings? Do you believe there is no future without your loved one? It is likely, if you are feeling this way that you are suffering from what is often called normal reactive depression. You are down and reacting because something or someone you cherish is gone.

We are not talking here about clinical or biochemical depression, although reactive depression can evolve into the clinical type. Depression from the loss of a loved one usually does not require medication, although in some instances it is prescribed, and is useful on a temporary basis.

Here is what you need to know.

  1. Not everyone gets depressed after the death of a loved one. It is perfectly normal not to suffer depression, as it is to have to deal with it. However, after the death of a loved one, thoughts and attitudes often trigger loneliness and resulting depression, which occurs early in grieving. It features confusion, little motivation, altered self-esteem, lack of meaning, reduced functioning in one’s social circle, insomnia, and low energy.
  2. If you are depressed, acknowledge it. Describe it in detail, where it hurts, and what it feels like. What is the message or messages this emotion is delivering to me is it an important question to address? What do I need to accept, to let go of? The refusal to accept the loss is often a root cause of depression. Depending on what you believe about your depression will lead to choices that either helps you manage it, or prolong it.
  3. Talk to your best friend. Remember, the more you isolate yourself—and this is what depression tends to do—the more you will increase emotional and physical stress. Saying how you really feel (especially what you fear and how angry you may be) to someone you are confident of being with, is an excellent antidote for your grief and to deal with depression. And, forgiving yourself and others, will also release depressed feelings.
  4. Use a universal treatment for depression: exercise. Physical activity will have an affect on brain chemistry and help in the management of depression. Take 10-15 minute walks, preferably with someone. This will activate your endorphins and affect mood.
  5. Find a symbol of comfort and guidance. Create a symbol that will bring back loving memories of the person who died and/or of your higher power who is with you at all times, and will help you through your great loss. Keep the symbol in a place where you will see it often and use it as a cue to think of loving memories—and to accept the new conditions of life.
  6. Are deep-seated negative beliefs (I can’t go on alone, I’m being punished, I’m never going to feel better, I’m worthless, etc.)? Adding to your depression? Regain your power. Take it back from those beliefs that say you are less and not more. Believe you can get well. Create opposing affirmations and keep repeating them throughout the day.
  7. Start learning to tolerate uncertainty. This can be accomplished by turning toward your spiritual and symbolic beliefs. You will increase your options by letting your spiritual beliefs guide you and strengthen your faith that you will get through this hurtful loss. Know what you can and cannot control. You can control how you deal with major changes; you cannot control what others say and do or what has already happened.
  8. Let possibility educate you out of depression. Here is where your imagination can help in a very positive way. Are you open to exploring the numerous choices there are for dealing with loss? Begin to learn about them from others, support groups, readings, and the experts. By creating options for dealing with fear, anger, guilt, and negative thoughts, you can change your view of what lies ahead.
  9. Check your eating habits and whether you have an insufficiency of amino acids. Protein consumption at all three meals can affect neurotransmitters and your energy levels. Reduce carbohydrate (not complex carbs), sugar, alcohol, and fast food consumption, and increase fruits and vegetables. The way you feel physically will add to or detract from depression.

Whenever you feel depression creeping back in, immediately ask yourself this key question, “what are my choices here?” If you are burying your feelings and not facing them, depression is a common result.

Refuse to withdraw from life; make connections and express your feelings to a support group or to your best friend. If your depressive symptoms go on for more than a couple of months, be sure to consult a professional counsellor. You can get through this darkness and into the light by taking action early (don't wait for it to worsen) to deal with this pervasive emotion.