As an author, I often write to cleanse my heart and mind of painful things. I’ve found it therapeutic. So, I was not surprised to hear this discussed in a writer’s meeting.
Not only did the exercise help a young woman process the pain of loss, but those writings helped her form a scene in her work-in-progress, as her main character dealt with the loss of a loved one. In the finished product, the character’s emotions are raw, her actions and conversations, achingly real. Readers will fully engage with the scene and the character.
What about non-writers–ordinary folks looking for a way to ease their emotional suffering?
I’m not a professional counselor, but I would suggest it to anyone. When I journal my feelings, I’m not writing for others, so I don’t have to worry about grammar, spelling, or sentence construction. I just pick up a pen, or open a new document on my preferred electronic device, and start writing. I write out my pain, shout my anger, tell a deceased loved one how I feel. All the things I didn’t have the chance to say when they were still alive.
Then what? I keep it hidden away. Shred it. Burn it. It’s up to me. Most writers will definitely want to keep theirs, and remember the depths of pain and despair, so they can write from their heart and bring a scene to life.
But what if someone can’t, or doesn’t want to write? Talk. There’s an app for that. Find a free, or inexpensive speech-to-text program and use it. Sometimes, seeing those words in written form–repeating them out loud–promotes healing. Sometimes.
I love to go for long walks. And those seem to be the times when my creative processes are flowing. I have all kinds of ideas. So I get out my phone, open a note, and start dictating. Sometimes I throw them out, but many times, I find good material that I can use in my work.
Mom, please write down your memories! How many times have I heard this? One of my sons wants me to write down the stories I’ve heard all my life. Stories about long-dead family members. Stories that will be lost, unless someone writes them down. Telling those stories is a quick and easy way to store them. Then I can transcribe them or use a speech to text program to bring them into a word document.
This process is both therapeutic and healing for me, because some of these memories bring up old hurts and painful losses. Talking them out, writing them down, can help me deal with the pain and restore my hope.
Though I’ve barely tapped the surface here, I hope I’ve encouraged a reader or two, or at least given you food for thought. If you’d like to study it further, there are numerous articles written on the subject of therapy writing or journaling. It’s important that you resist guilt feelings over delayed or prolonged grieving. And never assume to know exactly what someone is going through (even if you’ve suffered a similar loss or trauma).
Everyone processes emotion in their own way. This is why I believe writing therapy is a good thing, because it is so personal.
How do you process grief?
Congratulations, Sandra Ardoin! And happy reading. I hope you enjoy the book!