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Turning Grief into Grace: Using Emotion in Your Writing and Marketing

I was feeling a little bit nervous as I sat on the couch in the grief therapist’s office. I wasn’t used to asking for help with the management of my “emotional state” and I wasn’t convinced that I needed any. My husband had passed away two years previously and I had been coping with the many varied tasks of mothering my three children, building my business and supporting my mother…but only just. I was highly impatient with my kids; my concentration was terrible, and I rarely took pleasure in anything I did.

I was a member of a business mastermind group at the time, and when I gave my sorry update one week, a colleague looked at me thoughtfully and said: “This is grief. Get some help.” Her husband had died a few years earlier than mine had, and she highly recommended the therapist she had seen.

Grief therapy turned out to be one of the best investments I ever made, and even though that was a long time ago now, it proved to be a gift that keeps on giving. Surprisingly, it had big implications for my writing and the marketing work I do, for, sitting in my therapist’s office that first day, my therapist shared a concept that changed my life. After she had heard how I had been sorting through my husband’s life and death and all that came after, she said, “You’ve done a wonderful job of processing your sadness intellectually. Now move it down 12 inches.”

It proved to be the longest journey I have ever taken.

Like many people, I wasn’t used to operating from the heart, and emotional centredness certainly wasn’t something the business world had ever rewarded. We live in a world where even the word “emotional” is a turnoff for many people, conjuring, as it sometimes does, stereotypical images of hysterical people sobbing uncontrollably in a corner. We have a love affair with the rational, the logical, the procedural and the provable. Emotions are often dismissed as nothing more than a bit of fluff, and we spend decades of our lives learning to hide them, ignore them, smother them, and disconnect from them.

The adventure of climbing back into my heart was complex– I had to re-connect with my emotions, learn how to access them comfortably, and find a way to integrate them with my intellectual processes. I’m in a body on a planet and I have a family to feed. My emotions have to be members of my team, and not runaway horses that could threaten my livelihood.  It’s a balancing act that continues to this day. I’ve found some wonderful mentors since those early days, and I’ve come to realize that many other people want to find a way to live safely in their hearts, at least part of the time, too.

It’s well known in the marketing field that people making buying decisions based on emotion, and then justify those decisions with logic.  As a writer and marketing consultant, it’s part of my challenge to help the members of my audience connect with their emotions. I believe that a good writer is intelligent and logical. But a great writer is also able to crack open the hearts of his or her readers and let in some light. A great writer handles emotion from a place of maturity and strength, and respects the emotional journey the members of his or her audience are also taking.

I encourage you to be unafraid of including emotional precepts in your own writing. Uncover them, understand them, connect with them and celebrate them. They will help your readers connect more powerfully with your writing and, more importantly, with themselves.

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