Sunday, November 29, 2015

Writing To Heal

I have been a writer my whole life and one of the things I tell bereaved parents is that even if  they have never written anything before, now is the time to do it. Research has shown that writing about traumatic events can be helpful in the healing process.

Rest assured that writing is a lonely business. You can’t have friends or relatives over to distract you. You must be free to think clearly about what you want to say about your loved one. The hardest part about writing is getting started. Try to get a couple of books that have writing exercises in them.

One of my favorite exercises I used to have to do in a creative writing class is to take a piece of paper and pencil and for 3 minutes write down whatever you are thinking about, whatever comes to mind. It may or may not be important. It may sound stupid to you. No matter, write it down. It could be what you are doing that day, something that happened that made you mad or even happy, or what you need to buy at the grocery store. 

Everything that hurts inside should make it to these pages. It also doesn’t have to relate to anything or even make sense. You may not even realize how much something is on your mind until you write it down. The object is to just write and not stop. These pages are for you only, not to be shared with anyone else. You can keep them from day to day or throw them out.

After this silly exercise, write a serious memory of your loved one. Give as many details as possible. You can use dialogue, metaphors, similes. Just get everything possible down on paper so you can look back at it. Your writing can be something simple like your first Christmas as a family or what happened leading up to your child winning a beauty pageant.  Just remember: details, details, details.

Once you start, you must be committed to the project. Set aside a certain amount of time every day to write either on your computer or on a pad of paper with a pen or pencil. Just keep writing. Not only is it good practice, but by doing it every day, you are more likely to remember events that are stored deep within you.

When you have a collection of writings, you will have to decide what you want to do with these writings, if anything. They can be for you alone or you may want to share it with family and friends. Best of all, you may decide it is so good, you want to publish your writings.

Some other tips for you would include: attend a writer’s conference and learn what you can do with your writings, join a writing group in your area to improve your craft  and receive feedback on your work, and search for other writers who are struggling to translate their grief onto the page. These writers can be a great source of support. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them. 

More than anything, writing your thoughts on paper allows you to look back and remember your special person with fondness and love.

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