I started writing about my grief for Hugo about a month after he died. While I have been open about my grief in my posts on this blog, I have held back an awful lot, too.
For most of last year, I felt very disconnected from my grief. I felt like I couldn’t indulge my grief for a variety of reasons: that doing so would mean ‘wasting’ valuable days of my life; and that if I truly felt my grief, I would collapse, fall apart and never be able to be put together again.
My grief was kept shut away tightly in a box. Not dealing with grief doesn’t make it go away, of course.
I was pleased to be invited to take part in Megan Devine’s creative grief writing course, Writing Your Grief. Megan is a licensed psychotherapist, writer, and grief advocate, who was widowed.
Megan regularly writes on the topic of grief, with many articles published in the Huffington Post that I have found very helpful.
Writing Your Grief is a 30 day online course. Every day during the course, you are emailed a prompt designed to help you connect your grief, explore ways to be kind to yourself, and engage with how you are loved. Participants publish their responses to the prompts in a private Facebook group.
The course is challenging emotionally. For me, it involved engaging with parts of my grief I did not want to think about. On several days, I would read the prompt and think I just don’t want to go there. However, the prompt would niggle at me, and eventually I would sit down and just write.
‘Just write’ – that was so liberating. I earn my living as a writer, and I am used to structured writing: a coherent beginning, middle, and end. I am used to thinking about the nuance of the words I use, and their impact on the reader. For the first time, I was able to write for me. When writing my responses to the prompts, I let my fingers find the right keys to type the words my heart wanted to write. No self-censorship, no self-editing. Just let the feelings flow.
Through writing the prompts, I discovered parts of my grief that I had not realised were there. Looking at things from a different angle, as well as allowing my heart to write what it felt, rather than what my brain thought it ‘should’, helped me explore my feelings. My anger that this happened to me, and to Hugo; that I have to live without my son forever, that I am going to be carrying my grief around forever.
Conversely, I also discovered love through the prompts: love for myself, a need for kindness towards myself, and what Hugo would want for me. Those are going to take a while to implement, but connecting with those feelings is important progress for me.
Only the participants of that month’s course have access to the private Facebook group. The love and support I received from the others, and that we all gave each other was wonderful. To be able to spill out all my feelings – raw, angry, visceral – and not have any judgement, no one trying to make it better, no one saying I ‘should’ do something – was so valuable. It helped me feel a little less alone in my grief. Everyone is very giving, understanding, and respectful – they all ‘get it’.
There were a few days where I didn’t do the prompt – I just couldn’t get my mind in the right place to engage with it. That was ok – there is no pressure to participate, or to submit a response to a prompt on the same day. It’s not the kind of course where you get a certificate at the end, or good or bad marks (or any marks at all). It is your grief. There is no right or wrong. You can work at your own pace.
After the course, you are invited to join the private alumni Facebook group, which is an incredible source of ongoing mutual support.
Writing Your Grief is not a cure for grief, and nor is it intended to be. Indeed, now I am connected with my grief for Hugo I feel in greater emotional pain than before – but I know it is part of the process of grief. It cannot be avoided.
The course is a way of connecting with your grief, giving your grief a voice, writing about the love for the person you are grieving for, and love for yourself. There were times when it was exhausting, but I am glad to have done it.
I am grateful to Megan and to all the writers in my group. I highly recommend the course to anyone who would like to explore their grief through writing and creative practise.