The Power of Words for Grief
We normally think of language as a tool to describe reality. Houston council research on grief points to the use of language as a tool to construct reality.
What is it about words that gives them so much power? Is it that our choosing, our writing and our saying of the words actually alter our thinking, our actions, even our feelings? Is it because we can choose them with such intentionality to invent the future, to reinvent ourselves?
I experienced this after my father died. I kept expecting the sense of loss to finally seize me by the throat and hurl me to the ground. But I watched to see what my feelings would actually be, and I observed my thoughts to see how they affected me.
I would have a lovely memory of my father—so vivid it almost felt as if he were in the room with me. If I told myself, “I’ll never see him again,” I would be upset. Then I would have the thought, “But, you just did,” and I would laugh and be grateful for the connection. I very quickly discovered that “he” did not “go away,” that somehow he was/is a part of me that is so deeply ingrained that I cannot be myself without experiencing his presence. Observing and choosing my language was essential to my seeing this.
Words allow us to interpret our experience, to share it with others. They give us tools for expressing goals and plans that give reality to our intentions. They allow us to ask for support and to say what kind of support we need. They allow us to protest when we need to protest, to confess when we need to confess.
We can no longer hold our loved ones in our arms but we can celebrate them with our words. And words can affect our ability to heal when someone we love has died.
For additional help coping with grief or loss, grief counseling services are available.
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One of the most directly helpful books on the subject of loss ever written, the first edition of this comforting and inspiring book, published in 1976, sold nearly two million copies. This completely revised and expanded edition encompasses not only the medical and psychological advances in the treatment of loss, but also the authors’ own experiences.
Just as On Death and Dying taught us the five stages of death — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance — On Grief and Grieving applies these stages to the grieving process and weaves together theory, inspiration, and practical advice, including sections on sadness, haunting, dreams, isolation, and healing.
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Tags: grief and loss