Writing is medicine.
It’s the ultimate form of self-care. Because it helps us to connect to, acknowledge, and release our emotions. It gives us perspective and insight so that we can better understand the impact, the lessons, the questions, and the pain. So we can come to terms with all of it, and accept it.
Everyone of us has stories we need to release—whether they’re stories of big tragedies or small hurts or something in between. When you were rejected. When you failed. When you felt embarrassed. When you felt deflated. When you lost a loved one. When you struggled through a breakup. When you struggled with something shocking. When it seemed like you’d never stop crying and the world would never be OK, but then it got a bit better and then it got a bit better than that.
Everything is important to process. We deserve that.
In the beautiful, compelling, inspiring book The Story You Need to Tell: Writing to Heal From Trauma, Illness or Loss, author Sandra Marinella, MA, MEd., explains the power of writing for all kinds of situations, challenges, experiences, and traumas, including her own—her diagnosis of breast cancer and postpartum depression.
She notes that there are five stages of writing to heal and change:
- Experience your pain and grief.
- Break your silence and find your voice.
- Accept and piece together a difficult or broken story.
- Find meaning or make sense of this event or story.
- Rewrite your story and find ways to reconnect with your well-being.
Marinella shares a variety of interesting, thoughtful prompts to help us explore our stories, and to heal. For instance, you might start with these prompts: “I knew I was faced with a challenge when … I knew it was over when … The secret I harbor is … The scars I hide are … My hopes are … My dreams are …”
Once you have your story, Marinella suggests asking yourself these questions: Why do I want to tell this story? What is painful about this story? What is joyful about this story? What have I learned from this story?
Another idea is to find a metaphor or symbol that represents you.
Begin by listing 20 metaphors that resonate with you—a teacher, a bird, a lotus flower, the sun—and pick one that fits best. “It needs to be something that will allow you to open up and explore yourself in new ways,” Marinella writes. Next consider why you picked this metaphor and how it fits into your story.
Marinella also suggests making a playlist of songs you love, and selecting the lines that connect with you. “Then you may choose to write briefly about the lyrics you love, write a poem about a theme you found here, or create a collage that explores a few lines you love from these songs.”
Or you can simply ask yourself: What story do I need to tell right now? What do I need to explore? What do I need to understand? What am I resisting or fighting against, and need to accept or let go?
You don’t have to publish that writing on your blog. You don’t have to show it to anyone (unless, of course, you want to). What you write can be solely for you. And after you’re done, you can rip it up. You can burn it. Or you can keep it. And you can return to it when you’re ready to unravel another layer, and another, and another.
Do what feels most helpful. Do what feels doable. One word, one step at a time.
Writing can be transformative. As Marinella notes in her book, “my writing saved me.”
Maybe it will do the same for you.
And if it doesn’t, you’ve still created the space to honor your experience, your feelings, and your voice. That is transformative in and of itself.