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April 6, 2015

Healing the soul through writing
Danvers Herald
by Sarah Nicholson


As humans, suffering the loss of a loved one is a natural part of life. However in the society in which we live, we are often told to keep that grief within us, to say we’re OK even when we don’t feel that way inside. When someone we love dies, it can make it difficult to connect with family and friends as we often times feel that we can’t voice this grief out loud. It leaves us feeling trapped with our emotions, unable to speak about the pain that eats away at our souls.

But there is another solution to dealing with this pain. Ellen Frankel is a woman with a wealth of knowledge when it comes to dealing with grief and the healing process of writing. While she is known for her many novels and self-help books, Ellen is also a licensed clinical social worker working for Care Dimensions as a bereavement counselor.

Frankel says it was her love for writing and using writing as a tool to heal pain that prompted her to start the Writing from the Heart of Grief program where she helps people discover the catharsis that comes from writing. Frankel added that her group “offers support for all types of loss, whether it is a recent one or a past loss. It can be the loss of a parent, sibling, friend, or spouse.”

The most important thing, Frankel says is “creating a sacred space in which the group members bear witness not only to their own grief, but the grief of others through sharing.”

Each session runs for six weeks with each meeting of six to eight people taking around two hours to complete. Frankel starts the meetings with a quote from someone such as Natalie Goldberg or Sue Zimmerman, writers of novels that deal with grief, and ends each meeting with an additional quote that the group can carry with them.

From there Frankel says she “gives out timed writing prompts that take anywhere from five to 10 minutes and vary from ‘If my grief were an animal’ to writing based on the initials of the lost loved one.”

The group then writes for the allotted time until the timer goes off. Of course, Frankel has created a few rules to help keep the writing going such as not crossing things out, not worrying about punctuation, and to lose control; all of which help to keep the grief flowing from the heart and through the pen down to paper. Once the writing has stopped, Frankel has the group share their writing, allowing them to “meet one another while also meeting themselves.”

The enthusiasm for this writing workshop has even prompted former participants to reach out. Linda Coan, a woman that lost her husband of 34 years last April says that the thing she took away from the workshop is hope. “I have renewed hope that I can find a meaningful way to live, to be useful and to help others. It helped me reclaim my desire to be present in life.” She also added that she “was happy to discover by the end of the six week session I could read my writing without dissolving into tears.”

This group provides a safe space for grieving people to feel the pain that they may not have even known was bothering them. And according to Ellen, “You don’t have to be a writer to participate. You simply have to listen to your heart because the power of healing is within you.”

The next Writing from the Heart of Grief support group will be held in Danvers starting on April 14 and running every Tuesday, 6 – 8 p.m. through May 19. If you are interested in participating in this program, please contact Care Dimensions at 855-774-5100.

Sarah Nicholson is a Danvers resident and marketing intern at Care Dimensions.


Since 1978, Care Dimensions has provided comprehensive and compassionate care for individuals and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. As the non-profit leader in advanced illness care, we offer services in more than 90 communities in Eastern Massachusetts.