Read Part 1 of this series here: Journaling Through Grief – Introduction
GRIEF IS EXPERIENCED and manifests itself in a different way for each person — and even different ways at different times within each person. Everyone’s experience of grief is unique, but we share this aspect of it: grief breaks our hearts open over and over again. It’s an untidy, painful emotion and process that unmoors and makes us feel out of control.
It’s true that after time grief loses its sharp edge and drifts into the background, dulls in intensity, but it never really goes away. And the smallest things can call it back into the foreground.
Perhaps, though we struggle to heal, to stop mourning and return to feeling whatever we used to think of as normal, we also hold onto our grief. Because that grief is tied to remembering — a person, a place, a time in our lives, or a hope for the future. We don’t want to heal from or let go of those memories. Nor should we. The ache of our grief is all tangled up in our joy and love, as well as our sadness, and too much a part of who we are to just simply release. It is our link keeping us connected with the subject of our loss.
“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.” — Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
If it is true that we grieve forever at some level, and I believe it is, then how do we move forward and reclaim our lives. How do we learn to live with our grief?
Perhaps one way is to understand the purpose and role that grief plays in your life. This role may be different for everyone, so it’s something you need to figure out for yourself.
Using Personification to Understand Grief
“When awareness is brought to an emotion, power is brought to your life.”
– Tara Meyer Robson
What if, instead of thinking about grief as something you need to work through, a barrier to healing, or an uncontrollable emotion, you pictured Grief as a person with whom you have a relationship? Though this person has quirks and can be very difficult to live with at times, he also has some positive qualities that he brings to your life.
What if you got to know this Grief and its purpose a little better?
This technique, in which you attribute human traits and characteristics to an inanimate object, animal, abstract concept, or — in this case — an emotion, is called “personification.”
Personifying an emotion can transform your relationship with it — and yourself in the process. This technique works because it allows you to get out of the emotion for a brief time and see it more objectively. And when you actually have a conversation with it, you can find out why it’s here and what gifts it can offer you. You can establish a cooperative rather than an oppositional relationship.
Using personification, the following journaling prompts can help you find light within the dark center of grief.
Journaling Prompts for a Conversation with Grief
- Imagine that Grief is a being. Describe that being in detail. Is it male or female, other or genderless? What is its physical appearance — large, small, dark, light, solid or transparent? What are its features and what clothing does it wear?
- Give your Grief a name.
- Imagine you have invited Grief to come over later in the day for a conversation. Make a list of questions you would like to ask.
- Now, imagine Grief has arrived. You are sitting across from each other. Your Grief says, “I’m completely open. What would you like to know?”
- Ask your questions and write down the answers. Here are a few suggestions:
- When did you first come into my life?
- What do you want me to know?
- In what ways can you help me deal with my loss?
- How do you want me to relate to you?
- Tell your Grief how you feel when it is near, what kind of relationship you would like to have, and ask if it would be willing to help you move forward in your life.
- Continue your dialogue as needed, until you feel you’ve come to an understanding or resolution of some kind.
- When you are done, thank Grief for the conversation and say goodbye. Spend a few minutes in quiet contemplation and write down whatever thoughts and feelings you are having.
Share your experience of using personification in the comments section below.