The Grief-stricken Character

Dealing with grief on our own terms is never easy, but to develop a character travelling the path of loss is hard at times.

grief-stricken | adj

deeply affected by sorrow or distress

* * *

What are the mannerisms and traits seen in a grief-stricken person?

All too often lately we have witnessed too many images from the media following mass tragedies. These images,

however, do give us a portrait of the nature of the grief-stricken family member or friend.

Some signs of grief we might use are:

  • red-rimmed eyes
  • voice that is breaking
  • crossing of the arms
  • touching a cross or other piece of jewelry in search of comfort
  • slack expression
  • lost and lifeless
  • staring at the hands

Mentally your character may express an inability to respond quickly to questions asked, may be in denial to the entire situation, may exhibit withdrawal, and may show despair or hopelessness.

Writing this character to fit into your theme or plot may be more difficult for the writer who has experienced such grief or any grief.  It is tempting to take our own feelings and put them on the page.  Be fair to your reader and if this is working for you, try hard to not lose sight of where you want your character to end up.  Your character is not necessarily based on you.

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21 thoughts on “The Grief-stricken Character

    1. Kathy, thank you! I appreciate your taking the time to drop in. Posting on grief was unfortunately too easy, but then it is part of the cycle of life we must all travel through. Your support and encouragement is a gift!


  1. Unless, of course, you’re writing memoir and in this case, the character is mostly likely you. I think it takes a committed level of empathy and contemplation to convey accurately these emotion-filled situations. Using the tools at our disposal is helpful, of course but it’s probably a project that will need several sessions to craft. I know it did for me. Great post.


    1. Grace, I would be surprised if there is a memoir writer who has gone through any kind of turmoil that attempted to or did destroy any part of their life who didn’t need several sessions to craft that portion of the story. It’s hard enough to imagine creating a fictional character dealing with grief!


  2. This is wonderful information, Sherrey. Thanks so much. I have a character in my novel in progress with huge grief. These descriptions will help. I’m also going to get the Emotion Thesaurus.


    1. Madeline, you will find The Emotion Thesaurus a useful resource. I know I do! I can’t wait to reaching that point of starting one of the two novels that float around my head. πŸ™‚


  3. Sherrey – have you heard of the book, The Emotion Thesaurus? I recently purchased this and it’s a great resource for all types of emotions. In my opinion, its one of those books that a writer must have on his or her bookshelf.


    1. Hi Joan! The Emotion Thesaurus is right here on my almost finished work space. I love it! In fact, I mention in a later A to Z post. Definitely a must have for writers!


      1. I would say, like most things, people who experience grief will definitely write their character’s grief more authentically than someone who has not grieved. However, one can fake most things. πŸ™‚


  4. Thanks so much for this Sherrey. And wonderful advice to writers who have experienced grief to keep it perhaps in check when writing for an audience. Of course if that person is journal writing that is another story and a very useful way to put their feelings on paper for their eyes only – until they can draw on their experience and express it for readers.I’ve never heard of The Emotion Thesaurus that Joan above mentions! Will seek it out!
    Susan Scott’s Soul Stuff


    1. Susan, thanks once again for your encouragement and visit. Absolutely there is a difference between writing in a journal; definitely a help in preparing to express yourself either verbally or in writing to others. The Emotion Thesaurus is an excellent resource for writers. It comes up in one of my later A to Z posts. Head to the blog, The Bookshelf Muse, and you’ll find more about it there.
      Sherrey at Healing by Writing


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