A few years ago, Frank wrote an article about writing as a way to deal with death and grieving. When Eric Arauz, his close friend and colleague and veritable big brother, died in 2018, he took his own advice and wrote about him for 30 days. Those stories and other people’s memories were eventually forged into The Book of Eric.
Most of us aren’t writers. Just sitting down and typing out stories is quite daunting, especially if we are grieving. So I took Frank’s grieving work (with his blessing) and added over 30 different prompts to help people remember their loved one and process their grief.
What: Write about the person for 30 days straight. Without failure. Could be for five minutes or a few hours. Write. Every day. For 30 days.
Why: Grief triggers emotions and memories. You will have many thoughts that come up and you will never remember the person that passed better than you do in the month after their death. These memories will fade. So, Write. Every day. For 30 days. Preferably at the same time each day.
While this is most effective in the immediate aftermath of someone’s passing, anyone who has some unresolved grief should consider doing this. Even if the death was six months or 5 years or 20 years ago, you will still benefit from this exercise.
Tips: Do not worry about spelling, punctuation, or grammar. No need to proofread as you are writing, just write. Below are some ideas. Feel free to come up with your own, go in any order, or edit them as you feel necessary.
- A lesson they taught you
- A time you made them laugh
- A small memory that seems minor/insignificant (a day before or after school, a dinner time story, a car ride, a trip to the dry cleaners, the time you spilled fast food all over their desk)
- Another small memory that seems minor/ insignificant
- A winter memory
- Funny things they said (quotes, words, pronunciations)
- A time you spent the day together alone (did you do something? go somewhere? get food? what happened? how did it feel?)
- Activities you did together (big or small. pick at least 1 to describe in as much detail as possible)
- A summer memory
- A time a joke/ prank was played (either you to them or them to you)
- A time you were pissed off with them (what happened? what did they do? how was it resolved?)
- Find one of your favorite pictures with them. Describe what happened that day. (you can repeat this with other pictures, as Frank did with Eric)
- A time when they embarrassed you
- If you were having a rough day, what would they say to you?
- One of you happiest moments together
- Your earliest memory of them
- Another random memory, seemingly minor/ insignificant (watching a movie, going to the store, a conversation, anything. describe it in as much detail as you can).
- One of their birthdays
- Something they did for you on one of your birthdays
- A late night or early morning spent together (or one of each)
- A time you both could not stop laughing
- One time on Thanksgiving (can replace with any holiday)… Finish the prompt
- An inside joke or saying that only you two would understand
- A time you felt the most comforted by them
- A habit of theirs that drove you nuts
- Find a random picture, describe that day
- Their favorite movie or TV show
- A time something went wrong
- What was their first job? (what was their last job?)
- A time they helped you (learn a skill, homework, fix something)
- Words or a saying they repeated to you over and over again
- A time you didn’t listen to them and they found out (or said “I told you so”)
- Random memory that has something to do with the color pink, yellow, blue, green, or purple
- A time you felt the safest with them
- A time they came to your rescue
- Something really awkward was when… Finish the prompt
- How will you continue to honor them?
You can use none, some, or all of these in any order. You may also change prompts around or use some of them to spark other memories. Use this as somewhere to start as emotions, thoughts, and memories arise. During or after the writing process, you may want to share this with a therapist. Or religious figure. Or friend. If other people are grieving the same person, they might really like to read a couple of your memories. It may be the best thing you can do for them.
Shayla Carroll, MSW, LSW, is a first generation college graduate. She double majored in social work and psychology at Rutgers before completing a masters in social work there. Partly because she grew up in an intricate and extended Dominican and Irish/Polish/Hungarian family, she understands how challenging it can be for young people to start and gain control over their lives. Shayla is passionate about helping adolescents, young adults and their families overcome difficult situations, unhealthy patterns and maladaptive behaviors. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, anything by the water, eating sweets, walking her dog, reading modern Latin and Caribbean fiction, and spending time with her family and friends. She can be reached at email@example.com