Grief , the Empty Chair and Journaling

As I see it, the people in our lives, both present or past, become part of us. More, concretely… our experiences with others and the memories gathered, affect our Being or perhaps, become part of our Being. So what’s really going on when we grieving when we lose someone we care about?

I have been intrigued by the gestalt therapies “empty chair” or open chair, since I participated in the exercise. The technique, best learned with a trained Gestalt therapist as coach, allows one to explorer “parts” of one self . one can adapt empty chair to other methods of therapy such as therapeutic journaling.

Journaling-Empty-Chair ExampleHere is how I have done it   in the past:

  • First I need a pen and paper for journaling, (A tape or video recorder can be used, alternately).
  • I also need some sort of alarm clock or timer.
  • This exercise works best when I thinking of the person. For this example, I use my Grandmother who passed away over 5 years ago…
  • I set a timer for 5-10 minutes and write what I  want to say to  her, at this moment.  I write what I want to say and what I would have  liked her to have heard from me.
    If I’m stuck.. and I don’t know  what to write… then I write “I don’t know what to write”.  Keeping in the moment.
  • When the timer stops me at 5-10 minutes I stop and take a breath.
    then set the timer for five minutes..
  • I write again, but this time its different. I write what I would like to hear my grandmother say back to me.
  • again if I don’t know what to write.. pen to paper ” I don’t know what write” -(this is just to get me started writing if I’m stuck)
  •  After the timer stops… I am done.

You see, If my grandmother and  these people who I’ve  known have affected  my Being and are now part of me, then I must also give “them” a voice too. in this exercise. To grieve as a whole person, I am giving that part of me a voice, that might be otherwise silent ,or alienated and denied in  grieving.

journalingThis Empty chair journaling session can  end at this point.   If I want, I can continue this exercise further, writing:
Me giving -a -voice- to-what I-want-to say-my-grandmother and then what-I-would-have-like-to- have-heard-her-say-to-me. alternating sides of the correspondence  every 5 minutes or so. In the Gestalt jargon, I am creating a dialogue between to parts of me that maybe polarized. This polarization is common with grief.
I usually destroy my journaling after I am done… this act is some what of a cathartic ritual in its self (no attachments), But one could save it to review with a therapist or for themselves later if they wished.

Happy Holidays to you, your loved ones and the rest of you.


About chris
I write because I'm not good at it. I share because, writing without sharing seems empty. Thus, I write and share what I think is meaningful.

One Response to Grief , the Empty Chair and Journaling

  1. Pingback: Grief and the Holidays | Eleanor Vincent

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