November-December is my month of talking about Emotional & Creative Healing, as well as wrapping up my Year of Healing. This all is part of my Year of Healing, in which I tackle different topics of healing each month. During the last remaining weeks of 2017, I will introduce you to the topics of how of creativity outlets like writing, creative movement, art, etc., can truly help you process difficult things. I will also speak about why healing matters for our world and wrap up my year-long series on the blog.
Four years ago, a post of mine on grief went viral called “15 Things I Wish I’d Known About Grief.” I’ve had over 1,500,000 views on my blog since that time, and I still get crazy consistent traffic to my blog even though I really don’t market it much or try too hard to “get traffic” or “gain success” as a blogger.
Over the course of the past 4 years, I’ve received hundreds of emails as people have asked for my advice or poured out their hearts to a stranger about their deepest griefs. My writing has been shared at funerals, hospices, and hospitals all over the country and world. A guy once emailed me to tell me he had read my blog post at a funeral in Washington, DC, where a few senators had been in attendance. It’s sort of surreal to think about.
This little post truly reached out across the world. And with it, so much of my other writing was then shared. I can’t tell you how many people have emailed me to ask me if they can read or perform a poem of mine, or how much they were impacted by a certain blog post they found on my site, etc. My writings (especially my poems) have been shared in high schools and colleges, in art galleries and places of worship, on radio stations, YouTube channels, and podcasts.
I think that grief post–along with my poems and so many other people’s writings throughout time–shows how important it is to write about the things we wrestle through. That creativity matters, that voicing the suffering and deepest hurts of our beings truly does something good for our souls. That healing comes when we express our fears and concerns and despair and anger–whether we do it publicly or not.
When we wrestle through things that shook us, look for our stories, and find redemption through the pages of our lives, we can bring hope–both to ourselves and to others.
James Pennebaker was the first researcher–and a professor from the University of Texas at Austin–who truly studied how beneficial writing could be for people who had suffered really hard things. In his book Expressive Writing: Words That Heal, he talks about his very first experiment with seeing if writing could be beneficial for healing. Pennebaker had fifty college student commit to writing about a tragic thing that had happened for 15 minutes for each day straight. The results were incredible: doctor visits decreased drastically (47%) for those who conducted the experiment as opposed to a control group of students, who just wrote about fun things.
Pennebaker came to the conclusion–which as been backed up other scientific studies over the years–that keeping secrets and not being able to talk or communicate about the most wounding things in our lives seriously damages us physically, mentally, and emotionally.
I know I wouldn’t be nearly as functional as I am today if I hadn’t taken the time to pour out my heart–both online on this blog and in my own personal journals. I even poured my heart into writing two fiction books during the darkest periods of grief after my Kindred Spirit died.
In short, I wrote. I wrote, and wrote, and I wrote–
and writing saved my life.
Not just writing, of course. Writing, along with therapy and a lot of other forms of creative outlets like painting, dancing, yoga, etc. But writing, at the end of the day, was one of my deepest solaces. It still is–5 years after death and grief, after everything I thought I knew and believed unravelled, and after more traumatic circumstances that have followed since then.
And writing can help you, too. You don’t have to be some fancy writer. You don’t have to be a poet. You don’t have to be eloquent. All you have to do is express yourself, because at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about.
Here are some tips on how to get going on writing and healing:
~Pick up a journal or type on your computer and write about your grief or something hard that’s happened for 15 minutes every day for 4 days or up to a week. See what that does. Read Expressive Writing by James Pennebaker if you’d like more structure and to do the exercises inside. He walks you through the process.
~Commit to doing a poetry challenge. Maybe write one poem a week for a month. Or if you’re really feeling ambitious, do a 30 poems in 30 days challenge. Or a 10 poems in 10 days challenge. Whatever you want! But it’s amazing what the psyche wants to tell us–sometimes through a creative outlet like poetry. (If you’d like to see some of my poems I’ve written for my personal poetry challenges for inspiration, go here.)
~Find a friend or start a writing group of people who will do healing writing of their own. Commit to meeting twice or once a month and read each other’s writings. It’s always healing to share one’s writing with someone else you trust.
~Start a blog. Sometimes, sharing your feelings with your network of family and friends through a blog can be a really uplifting thing, and it help you feel less alone if lots of people are not living near you.
~Write about your story thinking of yourself as a protagonist. What would a “good guy” in a story do when things get bad? What would certain hard things be teaching that “good guy” about life? Think through the lessons you’ve learned through the pain, and find ways to redeem and reframe your story into one of courage, growth, and strength. (If you don’t feel like you’ve handled things well at all–or if you feel you are more an antagonist, these are also helpful insights and can maybe set you on a path towards growth and change).
~Write a short story about someone else that overcomes a really hard challenge. Sometimes, it’s really healing to work through someone else’s story–because your own story will naturally flow into theirs.
Do you have any ideas? What other tips might you give me and others reading?
Social Media photo by @jag_cz on Adobe Stock