How writing helped me through grief

Contact Suzanne Boles

Writing helped me through grief, but there’s more to the story. Almost eight years ago (June 8, 2013), since my husband, Bob, died I find myself writing a blog post to explain that if you met me in the depth of my grief, the person you met before isn’t the person I am now.

After Bob died I was depressed and suffering from complicated grief. This means that not only did I have to go through the grief journey, but I also had to find ways to tamp down my long-time depression that was compounding my sense of loss.

So, what does this have to do with writing? A lot.

With grief, you lose focus. I did my best to continue working but too often I became immobilized by anxiety. My regular writing clients fell off the radar. I could barely function and that meant missed deadlines. It wasn’t my finest hour in terms of my professional life.

A self-professed introvert makes it hard to mix and mingle, but being on my own meant I needed to get out of my comfort zone to figure out who I was without the label of wife.

I even went to a writing conference in New York City, but my panic kept me on high alert. I felt incapable of navigating the streets. I couldn’t face crowds without a glass of wine in hand. And the impression I made on people who met me for the first time makes me cringe today.

But there were good things too. Part of my healing can be attributed to the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) programs I took part in to reverse my negative thought patterns, but that took a few years. Even though the complicated grief extended my journey longer than the average time experienced by those who lose a loved one, I’ve come through the other side stronger.

I’m no longer plagued by guilt that I could have saved Bob because I couldn’t. I will always miss him but it doesn’t define who I am. Now I can remember the good times and laugh instead of focusing on the horrible last months of his life. Meditation, gratitude, yoga, and self-care are my panacea to get through the day the best I can.

Life is still a journey but I’m getting better at doing it solo. And I’m stronger because of this right of passage I was propelled into.

The quality of my writing was stronger and more genuine when I wrote about the journey I was on or had just gone through with real, raw emotion. People read my heart-felt articles and blog posts prompting them to share their deeply-held secrets and fears with me, and I feel privileged to have been allowed to hear their stories.

When it comes to my freelance writing life, I take on projects I enjoy and meet deadlines. I look forward to the day ahead (despite the hard times we’re going through now near what we hope is the end of this Covid-19 pandemic).

Now that I’m on the other side I’m a better writer and I have more insight into life on the periphery that I never knew existed in the cocoon of my married life. Thanks to CBT I’ve let go of the perfectionist I once was. I recognize that my sensitivity to the pain and stress others feel isn’t about me, it’s about what they’re going through. This allowed me to move on with my life rather than wrongly ruminating about how I may have wronged them.

I also want to tell those who met me during my most desperate time that I wasn’t the person I had been before Bob died or the person I am now.

I know I can’t turn back the clock and prove that my missteps were my passage of time through grief. That’s on me and I accept it. But I hope those who met me in the depth of my bereft won’t judge me as that same person and will look at who I am now and the hurdles I’ve overcome.