Cures for the heart: a poetic approach to healing after loss

Patricia A. McClocklin, Reinekke Lengelle

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Writing creatively, expressively, and reflectively to aid the grieving process is founded on the idea that in order to survive and thrive after loss, personal meaning must be made of what has been suffered. The individualisation and secularisation of society has put the onus of meaning making on the individual while an abiding reservation about speaking openly about death in Western culture complicates this task. In this article we examine how metaphors are used to make sense of loss and its ensuing emotions and how they help the writer move from a ‘first’ (i.e. anguish, pain) to a ‘second’ story (i.e. healing). We argue also that evoking the beloved through writing is part of healthy grieving. We conclude that nudging, thread and crystalising metaphors as well as ‘poetic conversations’–that help locate and position oneself in relation to the loss–together make constructing new life-giving (i.e. second) stories possible. The safety and privacy of writing is also key in making space for the voice of the bereaved. We note that grieving individuals ‘write about’ and ‘write to’ and thus evoke the person who has died. In this paradoxical way the bereaved face the reality of death by retaining the loved one.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)326-339
Number of pages14
JournalBritish Journal of Guidance and Counselling
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2018


  • Grief
  • bereavement
  • expressive writing
  • narrative methods
  • poetry


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