Creative Writing after Traumatic Loss: Towards a Generative Writing Approach

Adi Barak*, Ronit D. Leichtentritt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Meaning-reconstruction theory explains bereavement in terms of an ongoing striving to find meaning. The expressive writing paradigm claims that writing, through disclosure, can facilitate meaning-reconstruction. In this article, we explore how writing, and specifically the writing of poetry, facilitates meaning-reconstruction for bereaved parents who are coping with a sudden traumatic loss of a child. Ten Israelis who lost a child in a terror attack or during the child's military service and subsequently wrote poems about their experience were interviewed. Based on meaning-reconstruction theory, and keeping in mind the expressive writing paradigm, our findings indicate that there are three writing exercises that are particularly helpful in enabling bereaved parents to find meaning in their traumatic loss: writing a dialogue with the deceased; writing an alternative reality; and editing poems and reshaping meanings. Our conclusions suggest that these exercises, which assist bereaved parents in making and finding meaning in their loss, could be used successfully by social workers as an intervention technique. The concept of 'generative writing', as we have termed it, supplements the existing views of both the expressive writing paradigm and meaning-reconstruction theory. Generative writing aligns well with the core values of social work and of the strengths perspective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)936-954
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2017


  • Bereavement
  • expressive writing paradigm
  • grief therapy
  • meaningreconstruction
  • traumatic loss


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