Writing Grief Heals

by Sandra Moon

Photo by Annie Spratt, Unsplash

Writing about grief is a way to honour and remember loved ones beyond our typical cultural rituals says Karen Crofts, Director of the Hunter Writers Centre.

“For people who do write about grief the writing process helps them because it makes them take the time to remember. And the more you remember, about your loved one or experience, the more you can remember,” she said.

“Then if you can make a practice of remembering you actually remember even more.”

Writing grief could also result in being published in the annual Hunter Writers Centre Grieve Writing Competition. Ms Crofts is one of the judges in the competition that offers publication and prize money for prose or poetry up to five hundred words.

The competition began in 2013 with the literary organisation bringing together grief and loss not for profit organisations to honour Grief Awareness Month.

Ms Crofts has learned that, for first-time or established writers, the act of writing grief is both the process and the outcome.  Not only is it a way for people to honour their loved one but it’s a different step beyond counselling or personal meaningful rituals.

“It’s one thing to talk about it and one thing to have your important ceremonial remembrances and rituals but there is something magical about writing in that you are writing to yourself as much as you are writing about the other person or pet,” she described.

“By writing about your experience you are remembering, reforming and recalibrating whereas verbally expressing is entirely different. The act of writing is an expressible form and out of all the arts nothing can reflect and describe an issue with such specificity as writing can. People report, whether they get chosen for the anthology or not, that having written and submitted is a really deep and satisfying process.”

Different types of grief are reflected in the competition such as losing an elderly parent, child, unborn child, sibling or a pet. Some of the grief is also about loss of a relationship or marriage. There are so many types the last eight years’ winning submissions are currently being categorised to become individual anthologies.

Ms Crofts told Good Grief! one of the largest and most unique of these categories is sibling grief: “It’s not your parent and not your child, it’s a sibling, a special friend and a unique loss. It can also have been a difficult relationship.

“One story was of two sisters and one is dying of cancer. In only five hundred words the writer reflects on the difficult relationship and situation and secretly wishes her dying sister would get on the train and go home. The minute the sister left the writer was so grief stricken,” she recalled.

Such complexities can be conveyed within the five-hundred-word limit. The team of judges, from the grief and loss industry and some writers themselves, see extraordinary results as the benefit. According to Ms Crofts, is there is no room for waffle.

“There is a profound nature to the succinctness and the wonderful words people have chosen to use makes it such distilled writing,” she said.

The word limit is also practical because it allows for between 110 to 120 chosen works to be published in each yearly anthology. Do keep your eyes out for the Grieve Project anthology published in August.

Jump right in and read some of the Grieve Project’s previous winners and published pieces.

And if writing about grief is the next step for you get your own submission in here for this year’s anthology before Wednesday 26th May.

If you’d like to read more about sibling grief I recommend The Girls by Chloe Maree Higgins, an award winning novel about losing her two sisters.

Good Grief! previously explored pregnancy loss and Misunderstandings of Miscarriage in a rich discussion with filmmaker Tahyna MacManus.

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