Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Isak Dinesen and Grief




All sorrows can be borne if they are put into a story, Isak Dinesen said. She’s right. Writing unties grief’s knots. Writing unhooks death’s claws from our flesh. 

We write grief out of our system by recording all of our thoughts, feelings, memories, heartaches, and sorrows, writing until we can’t think of anything else to say. When something more shows up, we write that down, too.

By writing about our grief, we face up to death and deal with its issues. Whether these are daily entries in a journal, or we go further and shape them into stories, essays or poems, the words help us identify feelings, put sorrow into context, and lead to insights. Until we face grief, it isn’t going to go away. It will rumble under our surface like thousands of earthquakes, their tiny tectonic plates pushing and pushing against each other until one day all the pent-up tension releases and our emotions go flying against the walls and smash like dinner plates.

If we don’t deal with grief, we will be in danger of closing our emotions down. We won’t let anyone get close because we don’t ever want to lose anyone like this again. By writing, we take grief out of our lives and place it on paper where it can live instead of moping around inside us where it keeps tipping over the furniture.

Writing allows us to step back from sorrow and breathe for a moment. It also opens up space for something new to happen. By being creative with grief, we take control of the narrative. We take charge of our lives instead of letting death direct our actions. We move from being victims to being survivors.

We can take the raw material of grief and be creative in ways besides writing — painting, music, sculpture, woodworking, and pottery. We can become artists of grief, expressing and interpreting its turmoil in physical ways so that others can feel our experience.

Letting go of grief is not about forgetting the one who died. We won’t ever forget those we have loved. Grief is about us going on a journey to a place where we are able to celebrate and honor our loved ones again, and not just grieve their loss.


If we don’t work with grief, if we aren’t creative with it, then we bury ourselves with our dead.

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