Among My Hungry Ghosts: Hearing Grief Speak In Writing

In Grief by Nathan ToLeave a Comment

Image of eerie lake, forest and where I'd imagine seeing hungry ghosts

On those days when my grief is especially eager for my attention, I see it gnaw at me like a horde of hungry ghosts. Importantly, I’ve been expressing my grief and continuing my healing, by allowing my imagination to run wild through what I love: writing.  As a general definition, hungry ghosts are condemned to a hellish existence where they’re forever hungry, but eternally left starving. Worse, no matter how much they consume to fill themselves, they are never filled. The emptiness is excruciating, yet, they are forever left to survive in this existence.

Among My Hungry Ghosts

“How do you live in a landscape so vastly changed?” This was one of the powerful questions that author and counsellor, Megan Devine, offered us in her daily prompts from the “Writing Your Grief” course.  I took it recently to help myself process the craziness from the divorce and the shocking circumstances that started that whole rabbit hole dive. Megan is one of the many authors who have inspired me in their writing and reflections on grief and their own experiences.

Below is a piece that I wrote in response to the daily prompt. Through the image of hungry ghosts, it reflects on my experience of the divorce’s finality and the raw grief that has spawned from how it all felt:

I know where I live now…
Among hungry ghosts lingering
Along my once crystalline lake…

They welcome me home…
Offering to devour me
With the freedom of their mindlessness
To release me from this


“Peace dwells in us”, they claim.
“Hope breeds disappointment
Faith is far too often found in your failure and fear
And love,
worst of all,
brings you back to us, anyways.”

I’m tempted to accept their invitation…
To live here, without such virtues
And thrive on earth, free from such tears.

I sometimes get lost here…
Caught among the swampy filth
In my once angelic lake…

I sometimes bathe here…
In its greasy, stench-filled waters
in heavy crude.

Sometimes, I’m caught in its unusual current,
As this lake drains down a bell-mouth spillway.

An oily waterfall,
Cascading down the deepest dark
A roaring waterfall,
Rendering silent my most deafening cries…

I fall.

Suddenly, I remember…
How we’re carving these turquoise skies…
Painting light during our starry-eyed romance

We’re playfully sculpting our dreams,
Earnestly linking our pure hearts and
Whimsically imagining our idyllic future.

And I see what remains.

A muddy canvas, composed of our sorrows.
Lamenting for the colours that I squint and struggle to see again.

But the water continues to spill me down the deepest dark…
as I remember dancing and dipping,
and soaring with our better angels.

I keep falling
Ten thousand joyful memories find me,
While one hundred thousand sorrows pierce me.

Eventually, I return home.
I’m back where my apparitions welcome me,
tempting me with their haunting oasis.

Expressing Our Grief: The Silence of Hungry Ghosts

Whether through prose, poetry, song lyrics, or just random scribbles, it can be helpful to write out what so often tears out from within us with gnashing teeth.

(And yes, I did picture a scene from an Alien movie. Hope that didn’t ruin “a solemn moment” too much 🙂 )

Awkward timings of attempted humour aside, well, now you know how I like to sometimes balance out deep, solemn reflections of grief sometimes. Defence mechanism? Probably, but that’s okay. In a season of grief, I’d take a moment of humour any day 🙂

Anyways, to be honest, I can definitely understand when it’s hard to get words out.

I absolutely love writing. But there have been many days where the grief was too much to express in any sort of visible or audible language, whether written or spoken. Sometimes the grief might manifest in some nasty aches and pains in my body. Sometimes, grief could only announce itself through strange dreams and nightmares, a million cascading thoughts and memories of a past that I was quite fond of, or the rapidly dissolving wishes and dreams I once held for us.

But often times, all I had left was silence.

After all, the shock from grief, no matter how many hours or decades its been, can linger and continue to haunt us.

And all we’re able to express is that silence.

And that very silence can be incredibly deafening.

Like a voiceless scream, a cry beyond words or sounds, or, indeed, hungry ghosts forever left starving, that very whisper of silence can strike us with more audible force than any thunderstorm.

Here’s A Mini-Writing Exercise & Reflection:

If you also feel haunted by grief through a time of voiceless silence, that’s totally okay. Please remember to take care of yourself with intention, mindful self-compassion, and loving kindness. But when you wish, if you believe you’re ready, do feel free to write out words on your own digital notebook or with physical pen or paper. If you love writing too, but have forgotten how to begin, simply try this:

  • Find a quiet space, close your eyes (if you’re comfortable doing so), and scan your body for whatever you may feel.
  • Do a quick body scan. Maybe you feel all sorts of things. Perhaps there’s a backache here, or a small finger twitch there. Maybe there’s a heaviness that you can literally feel weighing upon the muscles overtop your heart or chest area. Or if you’re particularly sensitive to your body’s energies and sensations, just pick one experience that stands out for you.
  • Follow it, breathe in, breathe out.
  • When you’re ready, try asking it a question, “What would you like to say to me right now?”
  • Then, feel free to write out the response in words. Or if the sensation shows you a visualization of some sort instead of words, try to take some time to take in the sights.
  • Do this for as long as you wish, discovering what you wish to feel, learn, or just “sit with” during the exercise.
  • Then, when you’re ready, open your eyes, and take a couple deep breaths.
  • Now feel free to take some time to jot down what you saw or heard from that experience.

As always, if you’d like any further clarification or details on any of these steps, feel free to connect with me at .




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