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Greetings to Our Partners in Care!

Welcome to this month's edition of GriefPerspectives!


Thank you to all of you who responded to our workshop survey! We are hopeful to bring our workshops back to in-person in August. It was so helpful to read your thoughts and we welcome more! If you would please share your opinion, we would so appreciate it. 
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Thank you & know that your perspective is so valuable to us. We are here to be of help and serve all of you with safety and care.

Your partner & resource,

Becky Lomaka, MA, CT
Director of Grief Support & Education
blomaka@oconnormortuary.com
(949) 581-4300 ext. 229
GriefPerspectives
 

The Power of Writing
by William G. Hoy

Over the last few weeks, I have been engaged in a fruitful experience; I have been reading through the personal journals I started keeping nearly 40 years ago! Late in my college career, someone introduced me to the importance of writing down reflections on life’s happenings, my response to scripture and other materials I was reading, and even occasionally musings about “the day.” I am so grateful for these simple bound notebooks that remind me of people and events I might otherwise have forgotten (though honestly, some of them I now wish I would have forgotten!)

 

  

We have long recognized the power of journaling for bereaved people. Twenty years ago, the Encyclopedia of Life Writing included an article on the role of writing through bereavement as an autobiographical bereavement tool and catalogs a couple of dozen famous autobiographical works that include—or are even primarily focused on—the author’s experience with loss. Well-known classics like Robert Graves’ Goodbye to All That, C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed and Elie Wiesel’s Night are themselves reflections of the authors’ experiences with loss. Grief shows up in the pages of many other classic works, however, as we find the authors trying to cope with unimaginable sorrow. Some have suggested that part of Augustine’s at-times torturous Confessions revolves around disappointment with himself that he grieves when he believes he should have experienced hope (Pearson, 2001). Fortunately, most contemporary people of faith would not see bereavement and hope as mutually exclusive.
Pearson (2001) goes on to explain, “Driven by the modern preoccupation with authenticity, much recent life writing on bereavement displays a frankness about the deceased and the survivor's emotions that would have shocked an earlier readership. The influence of a psychotherapeutic ethic of truth to one's innermost feelings is especially marked in mid-life memoirs of the death of a parent. Self-exploration is as much the goal here as memorialization of the dead; biographic and autobiographic impulses conjoin under the stimulus of parental death…(n.p.). My colleagues who have taught personal autobiography classes in university senior adult extension programs attest to the presence of grief autobiography in these writings, often noting that a recent death was what drove some of their class participants to the course in the first place.
Why does this kind of autobiographical writing seem to help bereaved people? In the first place, if kept contemporaneously with the events, these recollections provide a personal travelogue of the bereavement experience. With bereaved patients, I have often prescribed the use of a journal, asking them to bring their journal to session. It was fascinating for them to read selections from their writings a few months further on to see how far they had come. I have had the same experience in reading what I wrote in the weeks and months after the car crash I was involved in four years ago that killed my friends and caused the brain and orthopedic injuries with which I now contend. I don’t know about other bereaved people but re-reading those early entries evokes in me profound gratitude for the people who were around me and the progress I have made. Sadly, they remind me of the magnitude of loss but I happen to think that is healthy to note.
In the second place, and perhaps this is even more important, is that writing down our thoughts, feelings, misgivings, frustrations, and hurts actually help clarify them. Some bereaved individuals with whom I have worked have resisted writing about their grief, they say, because writing will make the experience real and concrete, almost as if it solidifies it in their mind and prevents any escape from it. I think that is exactly the point.
The act of writing down experiences does not fix them in memory so that they cannot be forgotten. Instead, writing them down seems more often to have an “emptying effect” of allowing us to place these often-random thoughts on paper (or computer file) so that we can tuck them away until later. If you have ever written a to-do list before going to bed, you know the power of this exercise. Writing such a list empties it from our minds so we can concentrate on other things (i.e. sleep). So it seems to be with bereavement experiences; writing them down helps physically move them from active memory to long-term memory where they can be stored for future reference and action. I liken what I write in a journal to the act of moving a file from the desktop of my computer screen to a file folder; it is there for reference when I need it but it isn’t cluttering my field of vision every time I start the computer.
There are some simple ways to get the folks for whom we care started in this activity. First, buy a book. I have used Moleskine journals for a number of years because the “classic size” measures 5 x 8.25” and includes 240 pages, often enough for a full year for me (link here). While these are a bit more pricey than some journals at around US $20 each, I like the feel of the paper and the off-white color is easier on my eyes.
Second, use a “journal starter” to get going:

  • Today, I felt the saddest when (or the most angry, or the most regret, or the deepest hurt…)
  • I wish that I could have/would have done this differently…
  • Today I thought most about the time we…
  • One of the highlights of my experience so far is…
  • The hardest time of the day for me seems to be…

People who are unaccustomed to reflective writing need some extra help getting started. Encourage your clients, your patients, your congregants…or yourself…to be patient, to write a little at a time, and to not forget to take time to read back over the journey at the end of a week or a month. I think we will all be grateful for the travelogue a journal provides.

Reference.
Pearson, A. (2001). Loss, bereavement, and life writing. In M. Jolly (Ed.), Encyclopedia of life writing: autobiographical and biographical forms. Routledge.

 



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Our Events Calendar
 Reiki + Meditation Circle

Give yourself this treat at the end of the week to start your weekend refreshed and relaxed.

Join Reiki Master and event host, Kathy Brook-Wong, and Becky Lomaka, MA, CT Director of Grief Support and Education at O’Connor Mortuary in our Zoom circle on  May 12th at 6:00pm PT.
 
During this online Reiki + Peace with Grief Circle, Becky will share how grief is a universal human experience that does not require closure. Together we will explore ways to lean into grief, connecting ourselves to all of our feelings, discovering where we feel our grief in our bodies and how to practice positive self-care. Kathy will share about Reiki and how to use it to deepen your connection with Universal Life Force Energy. A distance Reiki healing will be gifted during our time together.
                                                            
Advanced Registration is Required:
Click here to register.
 
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining us on Zoom.
Resource Review


This resource was used this month for our ADEC Service of Remembrance. Essentially, Kudoboard is a virtual memory wall that allows invited guests to post memories, stories or special words. This unique tool gave our professional community a place to share and remember the losses of this year. 

These boards are not relegated only to grief or loss but are very effective in the experience they created of community and joined grief.

If you think of them as sortof a virtual "Get Well" or "Happy Birthday" card passed around the office - you've got the idea. COVID has indeed created some unique ways to represent our in-person lives virtually and Kudoboard is a positive to come from that. 

If you would like to view the board created for our Service of Remembrance, you can view it here.
Your Professional Library

Zucker, J. (2021). I had a miscarriage: A memoir, a movement. New York, NY: The Feminist Press at the City University of New York.

Reviewed by Molly A. Keating, MA, CT
Editor, GriefPerspectives

In an era striving to normalize talking about our taboo, terrifying and traumatic experiences, enters I Had A Miscarriage: A Memoir, A Movement by psychologist, Dr. Jessica Zucker. As someone who professionally counseled women and couples through pregnancy loss, Zucker found her approach to the experience forever changed when she experienced the miscarriage of her second pregnancy. 

With great eloquence she discusses the complicated nature of miscarriage as we mentally and emotionally link our bodies to this terrible failure. Coming out of that space is vital and the only way through the toxic trifecta she identifies as silence, stigma, and shame.

Her experience gave her the courage to change her mind about how this subject needed to be talked about and understood. She blends beautifully real stories of pain with the honesty and expertise of a skilled guide walking us all toward healing. Her chapters are educational, practical and inclusive of all miscarriage experiences. Notably, men have found her book to be extremely helpful in understanding and validating a loss that they too are going through. 

Research that Matters
Will Return Next Month
GriefPerspectives is published monthly by Grief Connect, Inc. Copyright ©2021. All rights reserved, including publication or distribution in any form, electronic or printed. For reprint permissions or suggestions for content, please email us at GriefResources@msn.com.
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