Therapeutic Writing

Therapeutic writing. What thought pops into your mind when you read or hear those words?

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?

(Click to Tweet)  Everyone processes trauma or loss in their own way. #WritingTherapy #journal


Who won last week’s book giveaway?

Congratulations, Sandra Ardoin! And happy reading. I hope you enjoy the book!

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A New Book

PattiThorntonPubI’ve known Patti Thornton since she was in high school and I was a newlywed. Our friendship began in the youth group and continued through early adulthood and motherhood. It has survived separation and…well…life’s various adventures. But each time we meet or otherwise communicate, it feels just like old times, as though only hours or days have passed, instead of months–or years.

We’re a little older now. A lot has happened in those intervening years. With age comes wisdom, they say, and I hope it’s true. It is certainly true of Patti, who serves as General Baptist Women’s Ministries Director. She lost her husband this past November, so she speaks out of the deepest grief, on the road to healing. I hope you’ll be as uplifted as I am, by the message of this post.


 

A New Book

By Patti Thornton
(reprinted from Elevate  – General Baptist Women’s Ministry blog)

I would not call myself an avid reader, but I do love books.  Word filled pages bound between colorful front and back covers promise adventure, surprising tidbits of history, sage wisdom, mystery, and flowery romance.  They lure me away from the mundane (if not distressing) goings on of real life to a pillow lined seat in a warmly lit corner.  They are tickets to an escape route.

When a story takes you away to another world, sometimes you just want to stay there.  Have you ever found yourself not wanting to turn the page to see the final period – to read “the end” on an orphaned line half way down a page?

When I was a child, I owned a series of “Happy Hollisters” books.  I loved every story, but I always hated to end the book I was familiar with.  I never knew if the next one would be as good, or to my liking.  I thought about this as I was walking the other day.  Rain and clouds had hovered over us for what seemed like months.  At very least, I hadn’t noticed the sunshine since the day Wilbur’s heart stopped beating and mine didn’t.  But on this day, sunshine and a gloriously blue sky brought with it a hint of hope that all the pain I was feeling would one day be manageable.

Old_book_bindings

A quote someone had recently posted on Facebook came to mind as I reached the one mile mark hill. You can’t start a new book if you keep re-reading the last one.  As is normal for me these days, I muffled a deep sob. I masked the air sucking gasps for breath by quickening my gait.

Thoughts, mixed with a rush of panic, filled the same mind I was trying to clear with fresh air. What if I’m not ready to start a new book? What if I’m happy going over and over my memories of neck kisses and slow dances and nature hikes?  What if I never want to close the book I’m familiar with?

That is when I felt the comforter whisper to my frantically pounding heart:

You will always have the book.  You can always look at its pages, even though you’ll read them differently because you already know the end and how the story progressed.  Just keep it on the bookshelf and go ahead and start, however slowly, a new book.  Reread the first page as many times as you need.  Refer to the old book as often as you like because it tells the story of how I’ve blessed you. Notice that, eventually, you’ll have to start dusting that old book because it sat there, unused, but remembered.  As you open your new book, pay attention to the story unfolding on the crisp pages before you.  Some characters will be new, places will be different, and purpose may shift.  But it’s the story meant for you right now.  Trust me.

I haven’t started reading that new story yet, but I’m getting closer.  The panic attacks grow slightly further apart, nights are a wee bit shorter, and my laugh-to-cry ratio is slightly rising.  I still feel like my fingers are frozen to the open back cover of the old book, though, and am ever so grateful for a patient Comforter.


 

Thanks, Patti, for allowing the re-blog of this wonderful post. You can find out more about Patti Thornton and the ministry of the General Baptist Women at http://www.gbwomen.org/