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Writing about grief during hospice…and after

By Leanne Billiau

Writing can be a great tool to process the difficult feelings many experience in grief.  It is a way to express emotion, gain insight, and work through the pain of grief.  Journaling, poetry and writing a letter to your deceased loved one are all forms of writing that can be helpful in the grief process.  Research suggests that bringing painful experiences to the surface through the process of writing may feel painful in the short term.  However, it also shows that there is potential for tangible emotional and even physical benefits in the long term.

“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.”

– Kenji Miyazawa


As I began this blog post about the healing power of writing, I received a copy of a lovely note written by a bereaved daughter (Debra) to her mom on Mother’s Day, just weeks before her death.  Debra reports that she and her mother had not always understood each other, but had made ammends and gotten close in her final years.  She shared that her mom’s way of talking about her impending death was to ask Debra questions about whether she would sleep in her bed or wear her clothes after she died.  In the note below, she addressed her mom’s concerns.  More than a year later, this note continues to help Debra in her grief process.  She graciously invited me to publish her note in hopes it might help someone else as well.

This is what she wrote…

“Taking care of you is not just an honor, Mom, it is the only way I can say ‘Thank you’ for all the caring, concern and love YOU gave to me for six decades.

“A few weeks ago you asked me if I will sleep in your bed when you are gone.  I told you, Yes, I will sleep in your bed…and I will wear YOUR clothes, and, I will sit on YOUR chair in the kitchen and I will cry.  A lot.  And, when I least expect to.

“There will be a hole in my heart and an emptiness in my little soul.

“I know my heart and soul will heal slowly, over time, yet I will always miss you…my very best friend and Mom.

“Mom, you will ALWAYS be in my mind and just over my shoulder.  But, Mom, you and I know I’m strong and solid and I will be okay.

“So, Mom, my best friend, let me help keep you comfortable.  I will be at your side so you won’t be alone.  And since you’ll be worried and thinking about it, let me take away one more worry…I won’t lose my job…I’ve worked out the details with the bosses. So if I’ve taken away all of your cares about me, then…Happy Mother’s Day to my very first and my very best friend…My Mom.”

If you have found writing helpful in your grief process, I invite you to share your own grief stories, letters, notes, or poems with us in the comment section below.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. working with home health care is a blessing at this time of our lives. although they can not fix the PD, they are bringing hope as I also try to do. Last night I wrote this for my brother, I thought I would share it with you

    http://terry1954.wordpress.com/2012/09/26/dedicated-to-my-brother/

    September 27, 2012
    • Oh Terry,
      That is just beautiful. I feel your heart in your words and know that your brother is blessed to have you not only as a sister, but also as his advocate! I’m so glad you have home care now and that they are bringing hope to you both. Caregiving can be such a difficult, exhausting journey, and it helps to have people who are by your side. Thank you so much for sharing with us.
      Leanne

      September 28, 2012
  2. Michelle Gies #

    Writing does help release emotion and feelings. It is a release like a good cry. I wrote this after losing my 4th son Nicholas at the beginning of my 6th month of pregnancy (Oct 27, 2000):

    You never had a chance to live…and I never had a chance to give…
    Tender kisses to your head…or tuck you gently into bed…
    You never had a chance to live

    Some say it is all part of God’s plan…But that’s something that I can’t understand…
    He wouldn’t want to let you die…And have us all say goodbye…
    Before you had the chance to live

    You never had a chance to live…and I never had a chance to give…
    Tender kisses to your head…or tuck you gently into bed…
    You never had a chance to live

    I guess I should believe that you’re an angel…An angel to whom I have given birth…
    But I don’t want an angel up in heaven…I just want my baby here on earth…

    You never had a chance to live…and I never had a chance to give…
    Tender kisses to your head…or tuck you gently into bed…
    You never had a chance to live

    And the world still goes on…even though you never had the chance to live…

    September 27, 2012
    • Michelle,
      What a lovely poem! Writing really can help us to release emotions and to process them in a productive way. Whenever we experience a significant loss, we can’t help but try to find meaning in it. Your poem speaks to that and I am touched by your expression of grief. I am also struck by how something so beautiful can come out of such a painful experience. Thank you so much for sharing this with us!
      Leanne

      September 28, 2012

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  1. Today, I light a candle for you… remembering those served by hospice | Caring with Confidence

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