Ever felt like you had a big emotional something trying to get out, but felt a bit stuck? Sometimes pain is difficult to access, and our brain will do literally anything before it’ll look at it (hello, bad decisions we made in our 20s). Although we, Robyn and Emma, are different in almost every way, both of us have, at some point, needed a little help knowing how to process our grief. And if there’s one thing the two of us total opposites agree on, it’s words. Actually, writing has featured in both of our journeys through grief and other losses. Robyn did an MA in creative writing, where she got to literally write creatively about her grief. Emma did more of those secret letters that you write and never send to people. But words have been there throughout for both of us. Heck, we even set up a blog where we get to talk about grief, using words. What a day. So when we found Naila from @thishallowedwilderness, it was pretty much love at first noun. In her work as a Grief Coach, she runs Writing Wednesdays, where she shares a poem and a series of prompts on Instagram to get people thinking about their emotions differently. It’s kind of a beautiful tool if you’re living through a bereavement, and we reckon it’d work just as well for any kind of difficult emotions. Watch the video below and have a read through her words in the interview under that. If you’re having a struggle this weekend, or any time you’re feeling a bit emotionally stuck, this could be just the thing.
For anybody new to it, what does a grief coach do?
I really see my role as holding a safe space for people to be with their grief, giving them permission to grieve in a society that wants a comfortable quick-fix, move-on, cheer-up antidote to loss. We also explore ways to honour the memory and legacy of the loved one they’ve lost and to incorporate new traditions into their lives. A significant part of what I do, when a client is ready, is also help with creating a roadmap forward, using tools to help orient them to a life that still holds the possibility for meaning and fulfilment even as they tend to their grief.
How did you find your way to helping people deal with loss?
My own grief journey inspired a desire to offer people a space where they could bring and share the fullness of their grieving hearts without judgment. In a span of consecutive years, I lost a father figure who’d been a part of my family for 18 years, my own Dad, a long-term romantic partnership and a career. They were really tough years… and also beautiful years because I grew into so many new and braver and more compassionate parts of myself as I did my healing work. I also saw first-hand how grief-phobic we are as a culture, how there’s so much discomfort and awkwardness around grief, and a resistance to feeling what is fundamentally a natural response to loss and/or change. I wanted to be part of shifting perspectives and conversations around such a vital part of being human.
We LOVE your Writing Wednesdays idea – what is it about writing that can be so helpful when trying to process grief or loss?
There’s something about expressing one’s thoughts and feelings on paper that, for me and for many grievers I know, helps them to get to the truth of their experience. To tap into an honesty that doesn’t come as easily in conversation and sometimes find fresh insight and perspective. I also think writing allows us a place to hold our pain, to be with our hearts on the page. The poet Naomi Shihab Nye has said, “Very rarely do you hear people say they wrote things down and felt worse.” I agree.
Do you have any tips for people who want to try out the prompts but aren’t confident writers?
The beauty of writing through our grief is that it’s not about being a great or even a good writer. It’s not about creating a piece of art. It’s just about being honest and letting the pen, or computer keys, go where they will go and trusting that process. You might even want to start on your own by simply asking: “How do I feel in this moment?” Then, set a timer for five to seven minutes and just start writing. Don’t edit or censor or overthink. Just write. And have compassion and tenderness toward yourself as you do. I also find so much balm in grief poetry, as you can probably tell since Writing Wednesdays are centered around sharing a poem. If you’re intimidated by the thought of specific prompts, maybe just pick a poem and read it out loud to yourself. Then write down your response to any line that resonates with you. “Beloved on the Earth: 150 Poems of Grief and Gratitude” is a book I can’t recommend enough!
If you could impart one piece of wisdom to somebody living through loss, what would it be?
That you can and will have joy. That moments of incredible beauty and peace and wonder will find you. You will laugh so hard that sometimes it may startle you. And all of this can be in the midst of your grief and your loss. Grief is never all or nothing. It allows for the full span of our human emotions, and letting in the good is as much of an imperative as feeling into the heart of all that ache.