If you’re like me, some emotions are complicated enough that we feel them in the moment, but don’t understand or process the feelings until later – good or bad. Writing for me has been a therapeutic outlet. It was the way for a quiet kid in high school to vent without censoring her words, the way for a college student to process bottled up pain through poetry, the way for an adult to share grief through facebook with friends to find comfort and compassion. It is also the way as an author I hope to use my life to help others.
Writing heals and research backs it up. There is power in expressing our emotions to paper. Writing is what helped me emerge a healthier and more mature young adult after losing my brother when I was 16. Here are four meaningful ways to write for healing that I’ve done myself:
- Keep a notebook with you anywhere you may have (too much?) time to sit and think. In high school I kept a journal I traveled with to every class or event. I wrote essays on what it felt like to walk a high school hallway after losing a sibling, listed thinks I was grateful for, recorded prayers and vented complaints. It was safe, consistently there for me and built reflection time into my day. I’d write at school during history lectures (and no, I didn’t get an A in that class), then sometime that week at home reread the essays. This process helped me express my emotions in the writing phase, then understand the emotions in the rereading phase. And in brainstorming and creating the next essay, it helped me try to funnel my emotions and set goals for who I wanted to become and how I wanted to live. I still have that journal in my basement and have read the entire book more than once since I was 16.
- Keep a gratitude book. The first Christmas we were married, I bought a journal for my husband. He’s never written in it, which might make the purchase seem like a waste. Instead though, before giving the journal to him that Christmas, I kept the journal to myself and tried to record at least three reasons a day why I was grateful for Daniel or what I respected about him. Since that Christmas, that journal has sat on the top of his dresser for seven years. When we have a bad fight, I grab that journal while I’m alone and reread what I wrote. When we have a good day or Daniel does a little thing in love, I write it down to capture the feeling for the hard times. That book has probably saved my perspective on marriage more than once. I’m more at peace and more peaceful to those around me when I write and reflect with that gratitude journal.
- Write some non-fiction narratives specifically to share with others. In the era of social media, getting someone else to read your writing is easy. I’m not guaranteeing a mass audience, but if you write about something with complicated emotions, post it as a note on facebook and tag me, I promise to read it! There were many times in my life where I’d journal on a computer after church or mourning at my mother’s grave, then post the musings as a facebook note. Occasionally someone would like the note and I’d feel gratified in knowing someone had listened. Sometimes they’d post a comment and I’d feel cared for or even grateful that my pain and processing had helped someone else process their pain. If there is healing in writing, and there is, there is also a communion in sharing that writing. Maybe your deepest, darkest secrets aren’t shared online, but parts of the healing process can be.
- Keep the Power of the Word with you. One of the strongest writing resources I have for healing is a set of notecards with a hole punch and a metal ring holding them together. On these notecards I have Bible verses I’ve encountered lately through church, Bible study or personal reading. I keep a set of notecards in my purse and my school bag (I’m an educator, and yes, still carry a backpack). These words in my handwriting serve as Breath in my life, helping me memorize powerful verses to help tame my thoughts, calm my nerves, and remind me of what matters. If I lose my temper, I go back to the verse cards and remind myself of what I value. I don’t even have to be in a bad mood for these to heal me – it’s preventative medicine to read these cards in the morning or before bed. One time I went hiking with my notecard set and flipped through the cards at the rest intervals. It was invigorating. Writing for healing doesn’t have to be your own words; just record your favorite quotations, poems or verses in your own handwriting and carry it with you for the hard moments and guide your life with it in the reflective moments.
Writing From My Mother was one of the hardest tasks I gave myself. I wanted to quit multiple times and I felt drained more than once after writing. But I’m better for it. Writing helped me heal, and sharing gives me hope that others can find that same healing too. Writing my story did more than help me heal, it gave me purpose. Maybe you can find that too in writing.
Randi Kreger wrote on Psychology Today with a guide on how to write for healing in your own life: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/stop-walking-eggshells/201211/heal-writing-about-your-trauma
Your feedback is valued! Do you keep a journal, blog or share writing through social media? Friend Darcy Leech on Facebook, like her author page, follow @LeechDarcy on Twitter or visit darcyleech.com for more!