Therapeutic Writing

If you don’t like to write, consider reading this through anyway! It has helped so many “non-writers” and it may help you too.

                My regular clients will tell you that I encourage writing in many forms as part of our counseling process. While I specialize in grief, I also work with clients who have experienced trauma, dysfunctional families, self-sabotaging behaviors, intimacy issues and myriad concerns within their complex lives. For all of these clients and more, writing is a common “prescription.”

                Why writing? Writing can impose a structure on otherwise-amorphous thoughts and allow you to articulate and express things that you may not even have identified. Writing provides a mind-body link as the words in our heads come out through our fingers (handwriting can have additional benefits, but typing is good too!). Writing requires temporary focus, and focus clears the mind and settles the nervous system.

                Writing exercises can be applied therapeutically in so many ways, and this is not meant to be a comprehensive discussion at all. Instead, I will highlight three of the most useful and widely-applicable writing exercises so that you might experiment with them. All could benefit from discussion with a counselor, but all can be done independently.

  1. Stream of Consciousness Writing- Based on the concept of “morning pages” presented by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way, stream of consciousness writing provides a “brain dump” to help clear the mind. If you feel overwhelmed, foggy or “paralyzed,” this exercise might be for you. I recommend hand-writing for most people, but type if you need to. I also recommend loose paper that can be destroyed afterwards (or a document that can be deleted easily). Set a timer for 10 minutes and begin writing anything in your mind that can be translated into words. It needn’t have a format, it needn’t make sense. The object is to write what is in your head, regardless. If you get stuck as your are writing and can’t quite identify what to write next, simply rewrite the last written word repeatedly until the next thing gets to the paper. When the timer goes off, you are done. No need to re-read. Shred, tear or crumple the paper and discard it. Do this daily for a week or more to reap the benefits.
  2. Journaling- A personal journal can serve as a processing outlet or a mere log of your life. Both have value. Privacy tends to be best for journaling, but if your life doesn’t allow that, just write what you can as your people flit about around you. Journaling prompts may help if you are not used to facing a blank page. Or use a simple format like, “Today I did/felt/need/want” and elaborate on those. If sticking to journaling is tough for you but something you want to do, I recommend the book Atomic Habits by James Clear to help you learn how to create a daily habit.
  3. Letter Writing- Writing actual letters with intention to send them can be a great exercise in and of itself, but generally when I recommend letter-writing, it is for the client to write to a person they can’t talk to. This may be a deceased loved one, an estranged family member, a difficult personality in their life, or a person from their past. These may be hand-written or typed, saved or destroyed- whatever your comfort level. The fact that you won’t send them is key, though. It allows a frankness and vulnerability that makes this exercise worthwhile. You may have no problem scrawling out a letter like this, but if prompts are helpful, some good starting points are: “What I wish you knew is…,” “You impacted me by…” “I hope you feel…,” “My life is different because…,” or “If I could do one thing over again I would…” There are countless ways to write letters and anything goes.

If you are intrigued by writing and want to experiment more, look for online prompts, writing apps, letter templates, fillable journals and other resources to explore.

Recommended books:

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith

Spiritual Doodles and Mental Leapfrogs by Katherine Q. Revoir (out of print, but available through some second-hand outlets)

Grief for the Failing Body

“Time and health are two precious assets that we don’t recognize and appreciate until they have been depleted.” -Dr. Denis Waitley, author and speaker

                *Your doctor tells you that your best hope is a colostomy

                or

                *The fingers on your right hand have been going numb- and now they don’t work

                or

                *Your bad leg can’t be saved

                or

                *Your voice is gone…

                …and the list of things you’ll never do again or ways you’ll never be again grows in your mind until you can’t imagine living a full life without full use of your body. Worst of all? No one gets it.

                The devastation of failing health or bodily limitations is a grief rarely talked about in public forums, but a painfully valid grief nonetheless.

                When we lose function of any part of our bodies, we lose a part of our self. The impact on our daily life can be sweeping and can include loss of autonomy, communication, ease, pride, hobbies,  intimacy, social life, mobility, expression and countless other losses. The losses compound until losing the function of a body part becomes losing the function of your previously-happy marriage. The implications of these losses are hard to articulate, and that’s if you can even identify them.

                Like grief after a death, grieving non-death losses means reconciling the past with the future while recognizing the massive gaps now present.

                This is a time for extra support including counseling, practical help, and emotional support from friends and families. These losses- profound as they are- often go unacknowledged, even in the medical community. But these losses need to be recognized and processed in a way that allows grief and hope to coexist.

Unexpected Comforts

At times, the intensity of grief leaves us feeling like nothing could bring relief. Our sorrow is too deep, our despair too consuming. Yet somehow, we find unexpected comforts in the throes of our grief, and these become tiny lifelines that keep us from drowning. If you have not yet experienced any such comforts, please know that after working with hundreds of grieving people, I feel confident in reassuring you that you will.

                Very often these comforts are “random” or serendipitous- we stumble upon them without having sought them. But many are things we can seek out to provide a dose of relief in our pain. Below is a list of unexpected comforts that have supported clients in the past. Consider them with an open mind and with the understanding that what works in grief may be entirely different (unexpected!) than what has worked for you in other trying times. Experiment a bit, and I hope you find something comforting below.

Pets or animals- If you have none of your own and suspect they may help, volunteer at a shelter to walk dogs or brush cats.

Coloring- An adult coloring book and a pack of colored pencils can provide soothing repetition.

Beautiful music- Nostalgic or new, music heals.

Self-help books- Daily readers with brief passages are especially comforting. I like Healing After Loss by Martha W. Hickman.

Sunshine- Aside from the Vitamin D benefits, the enduring nature of the sun can be a comforting touchstone.

Yoga- Many discover yoga for the first time in grief; a beginner’s class or video on YouTube can help get you started.

Routine- Predictability brings comfort.

Nature- Peace and quiet and soothing fresh air.

Building- Whether wood-working or puzzle-solving, putting something together can be a comforting act.

Cooking- The repetition of cooking can be a comfort and the secondary benefit of sustenance helps too.

Prayer- Memorized, rote prayers can be soothing and easy to execute even with “grief brain.”

Writing- Letters to the departed are often surprisingly comforting! Other writing formats work too.

Daily walks- The cadence and fresh air combined can bring such comfort.

Other grievers- Being with those who “get it” can provide immeasurable comfort. Keep an eye out here for a new monthly grief support group starting in March 2022.

                If you have found unexpected comforts in grief and want to share with other grievers, please leave a comment letting us know what worked for you!

Saturday Night Supper Club

If you have lost someone you love and want some companionship on a Saturday evening, join us virtually for a monthly “Saturday Night Supper Club.” We will meet via Zoom from 6-8pm, share a meal, catch up on life, and keep each other company. This unique meeting is a therapeutic social event with a support group element, facilitated by yours truly!

After years of working with grieving people, the challenge of facing Saturday night alone has been a recurring concern. This program will provide support, entertainment and something to look forward to. An experiential grief support program, Saturday Night Supper Club is like nothing you’ve tried before.

First meeting will be February 19, 2022!

2022 Saturdays:   6-8pm,   February 19        March 12          April 9         May 14       June 11 (No July or August)      September 17    October 8            November 12         December 10

Fees and Registration: FREE

          To register, contact Angela Dora Dobrzynski, LPC, CGCS

          484.306.3356 or angeladoralpc@outlook.com

Sad for the Departed

While grief so often means missing someone and feeling sad in their absence, our sadness for the departed can catch us off guard, like a swift kick in the gut. Milestones for the living can highlight this sadness. Graduations, new babies, rites of passage- they can all trigger feelings of injustice and sorrow on behalf of our missing loved ones.

“He should be here for this, and he was robbed of that chance.”

“She shouldn’t be missing this.”

“They always wanted to see this moment and they can’t.”

“She was taken too young.”

“He must have felt so scared.”

Our love for the departed means an inherent empathy, but without their physical presence to console, we feel helpless. There is no comforting the dead. We are left to wrestle with their presumed grief over their own demise.

I don’t think our human limitations allow us to fully understand what happens after death, and varied faith systems (or lack thereof) greatly influence what we comprehend about that. Generally, people fall into two schools of thought:

  1. Life ends when the body dies and my loved one no longer exists in any form
  2. Life changes when the body dies and my loved one exists in another form

In both cases, we may find some comfort.

If life ends when the body dies and your loved one no longer exists, then the grief over their absence is yours alone; they do not feel “robbed” because they do not know what they are missing. They lived their human life, experienced their Earthly existence, and hopefully derived some love, connection, and joy while here. They completed that experience when their body expired and can have no longings or wanting for what is now.

If life changes when the body dies and your loved one exists in another form, then by all accounts they are not feeling any sorrow or longing at all. Thousands of stories of near-death experiences and “communication” from departed souls provide all the comfort we need. The afterlife, they say, is bliss. The soul’s next realm is love and light, an experience far beyond our human comprehension but one that supersedes human feelings. There is no bitterness there, and no sense of injustice.

The thoughts that trigger sadness on behalf of your loved one aren’t apt to go away easily, but they needn’t have the emotional impact they have had for you in the past. Grief is for the living; seek all the support you need, and allow the dead to rest in peace.

Recommended reading:

Imagine Heaven by John Burke

The Light Between Us by Laura Lynne Jackson

The Afterlife of Billy Fingers by Annie Kagan

Welcome

Photo by Skyler Ewing on Pexels.com

Hello! I’m Angela Dora Dobrzynski, a Licensed Professional Counselor in Pennsylvania. I am a Certified Grief Counseling Specialist and Holistic Health Coach. You’ve come here to decide whether counseling with me is right for you. Read below for some things to consider and scroll further down on this page for recent blog posts. I look forward to meeting you!

Why Grief Counseling?

Grief is a universal experience; but your grief is unique to you. How you grieve and how you cope with grief is based on your circumstances and resources, the nature of your loss, contextual factors, and myriad influences you may never have considered prior to this loss.

As a Certified Grief Counseling Specialist, I have supported hundreds of people through varied experiences of loss and grief, including non-death losses and significant life transitions. I can help you find words to describe your experience, normalize the common reactions of grief, provide direction if you need further interventions, and be a listening ear when no one else seems able to handle your pain.

In addition to having a non-biased, caring person to hear you, counseling can help you alter your life in many ways. With counseling, you can:

*Learn habits that keep you happier

*Practice skills to help you meet your goals

*Implement strategies to cope when things are really hard

*Connect the dots in your life to show where your responses come from, and how to adapt them to live life how you really want to

*Have emotional support and understanding

Why Angela?

There are so many factors to consider when selecting a counselor. Education, experience and expertise are important (see the About page to read about mine), but chemistry and “fit” can go further. Ultimately you want to feel connected, understood and heard, and you want to have trust in my commitment to helping you reach your personal goals.

See below for testimonials from clients that have worked with me:

“I have been to ten different counselors in my lifetime, and you’re the first one that has ever helped me. And in just a few sessions!”

“I left your office feeling better, inspired, more at peace. You’re a very perceptive and compassionate counselor.”

“I found our sessions to be very helpful, and I have been impressed with your professionalism and your empathy. You were most helpful in my time of need.”

“You have been a tremendous help and support for me. Other than being compassionate, you are very perceptive, very reassuring, very problem solving oriented. I’m still struggling, but I’m always comforted and feel better after I meet with you.”

“I absolutely made a great choice in asking you for help. You help me think through the issues with good questions and lots of empathy. Thanks for a wonderful hour.”

“This has been just so helpful. You are really good at what you do. Seriously. You help me put words to things I could never articulate before and it feels so good.”

“Thank you so much for all you’ve done for me. You were like my guide through grief. I will always be grateful to you, truly.”