How Quotes & Questions Heal
by Kara L.C. Jones

Before my son died at birth, I was a writer. After my son died, I found ways to cope with grief and healing through my writing. Because this method of expressive art worked for me, I could try and say that everyone should write to heal. But the fact is, that if you write, you will write to heal. But if you weren't a writer before the loss happened in your life, then there is no reason that you should suddenly become a writer in order to express and heal.

However, I have found that many people will take to reading as much material as they can get their hands on after a death or loss. And sometimes, there is a sentence or two that sticks out for the reader. And then the reader will write a little something (or a big something) in reaction to that quote. In this way, it seems that many bereaved parents find expressive healing in reading and then sometimes in writing.

We often get emails here at KotaPress from bereaved parents who say things like, "I'm not really a writer, but attached is a poem I wrote in memory of my child." Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, those poems are more profound and artistic than the pieces I get from the most experienced acadmics. And I have come to believe that if you put pen to paper in order to reveal your heart and find healing-- then you are a writer. You are more of a writer than some academic who has mastered poetic form to the detriment of the expression of anything real! Believe me.

For this reason, I thought that many of our readers might appreciate an article like this in which we offer some ideas and inspiration for the expressive healing path. Each of these ideas works well for someone working on their own, but I think these could also be used in groups where several people are processing grief and healing together. I encourage you to share the inspirations and results with others. If for no other reason than to connect with someone else about your process. Sometimes there can be great comfort in taking that small step outside yourself-- of course, that is provided you are sharing with someone else who has a heart with which you can connect. If you are trying to share with someone critical in nature, then you may want to save yourself the additional heartache and take comfort in the expressive act itself.

Buying a Deck of Cards

Through the Tear Soup website, you will find a deck of Support Cards for sale. This is a deck of card the size of small-ish index cards, and each card has a question printed on each side of it. The questions are prompts that would work for discussion as well as writing. My suggetion is that we as bereaved parents might use them to tune into our process, to what each new day brings, to what we are feeling at any given moment. And once tuned in, then we might write a bit about that. Maybe it's that acknowledgement of our process is healing. Maybe it's that we are creating more memories about the life and death of our child. Maybe it's just staying in tune and keeping pace with the greif-beast as it paces through our lives.

These questions from the Support Cards are everything from "What will I tell others about my loved one?" to "Have I considered divorce as a consequence of this loss?" Those might seem like heavy duty questions. But let's face it, we all deal with these in one way or another. Although my husband and I have had our ups and downs since our son's death, we never really considered divorce at all. But I was shocked to hear that the divorce rate among couples who are suviving the death of a child is 80%-- EIGHTY PERCENT! Maybe if we had more conscious prompts about the process, maybe we could be healed rather than divided. I don't know. But these little cards seem to hold a lot of expressive healing power in them.

Making Your Own Deck of Cards

One thing that has happened to me along this grief path is that I read constantly. And in almost everything I read, there is at least one sentence that speaks to me of grief and healing as I experience it. I've taken to writing these quotes down for myself. With this exercise I would like to suggest an even more conscious experience with these kinds of quotes.

Keep deck of blank index cards around you. Some on the kitchen counter. A few in a desk drawer. A few in your book bag, briefcase, or purse. Keep pens handy, too. And then just go about reading as you might otherwise read. But now when you come across a sentence or passage that speaks to you, write it on an index card. Note the author and book from which it came. Tuck the card into a special place. Let the quote stack up for a while-- a week, a month, a year.

Then go back to the cards after a bit of time passes. Re-read them. Do you recall why the quote spoke to you? Does it speak to you for the same reasons now or for different reasons? What would you write in response to the card? Write it.

Here are a few quotes that have stuck out for me:

"Until you are a woman on the bricks [giving birth], you have no idea how death stands in the corner, ready to play his part."
--from The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

"Plovers have the souls of young mothers dead in childbirth," he said. He glanced aside at me, shyly. "The story goes that they cry and run about their nests because they canna believe the young are safe hatched; they're mourning always for the lost one--or looking for a child left behind."
--from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

"It is a long time since I have asked Heaven for anything, but still my arms will not come down."
--Antonio Porchia

"Favored above Kings and Emperors is the stillborn child."
--Mark Twain, Notebook #42, 1898

Well, you get the idea. Many of these quotes have been instrumental in helping me see my process more clearly. Some of them grace the beginnings of my poems as epigrams. But most of all they continue to be gifts to my heart each time I go back and read them.

Calendar of Quotes

So I hear some of you saying, "Well that's fine if I'm a reader, but what if I don't like to read either." My answer is this: You must at least look at a calendar once in awhile, right? Sometimes it must be important to figure out what day it is, yes? Well, for you I offer the idea of a Calendar of Quotes.

Again, you buy a calendar of quotes that's ready-made and full of inspiration. Several calendars come to mind immediately. There is Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach which can be used over and over again each year. Openings: Quotations on Spirituality in Everyday Life by Shelley Tucker has many amazing quotes that can be used to spark our writing once a day. Angel Courage: 365 Meditations and Insights to Get Us Through Hard Times by Terry Lynn Taylor and Mary Beth Crain. You can usually find used copies of these books at and since they are not calendars specific to any specific year, you'll have them as long as you find them useful.

My best way of working with calendars like this is to set aside a time of day. Either getting up a few minutes earlier than everyone else or sneaking a few minutes out of each lunch hour. But maybe 15 minutes total. I use the time to read the quote. Think on it and then respond on paper. Just my immediate thoughts. Maybe I take an entire half hour and respond at length. But I always find that time to be valuable. Quiet. Centering. Mindful. Helpful.

There is another book that you really can't purchase used because it does function as a day calendar. But it's very handy for having something to read each day and then writing just a couple of sentences in response. It's the We'Moon calendars. They are published for and by women-- we'moon-- but I think we could liberate it from it's segregated status and suggest that men would find this day calendar useful, too. There is always a bit of writing offered for the week. Then there is a small space provided for each day. The space is big enough for a few sentences. When all is said and done, this can prove to be an interesting journal for your year. You can get copies of the We'Moon calendars each year in many places including at their website.

There are thousands of ideas and inspirations out there above and beyond what I have mentioned here in this short article. What works for me, may not work for others. But all in all, regardless or method or materials used, it seems to me that the processes of reading and writing seem to help us bereaved parents to make sense of life after the deaths of our children. The grief-beast is relentless, and there is no map for navigating your way. Yet, there is something in quotes and questions that can help us to center, examine, respond, and maybe heal just a little. Maybe connect with another person. This isn't about anything academic and poetic forms cannot reveal your heartbreak. But the acts of reading and writing, how so ever they are expressed in your life, can be powerful tools for stay alive, for find the will to stay alive after your children are gone.

Author Biography
Kara lives and works on Vashon Island and continues to build KotaPress as a legacy for her son Dakota Jones who died March 11, 1999. Her poetry, narratives, and non-fiction articles have been published world wide, and she has begun to teach more and more writing process classes online and offline. Her Expanding Poetry class is now available online at, and you can register today at

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