Translating thoughts into language is psychologically and spiritually healing.
A 2013 study shows that writing about major upheavals helps children and adults organize and understand them. Writing about thoughts and feelings connected to pain forces us to bring together aspects of overwhelming and complicated events. When we distill complex life events into digestible pieces, we move beyond trauma.
Every week in my creative writing classes for children and adults students confront painful experiences from the past. As difficult as it is for them to write about it, I see them allowing themselves to express emotions – all the way – and in the process lift the weight off their souls.
The following journal entry exemplifies this process. It was written by a young man in his 20’s who attends one of my weekly writing recovery groups:
I am standing in the rain. My son is holding my hand. His hands are so small and soft. I can hear the rain hitting the cars and ground. He looks up at me, squinting, with his mouth open in a smile because the rain drops are hitting his face.
I look down at him and see that cute baby face, allowing me to smile in such a devastating time. Waiting there, I look up and begin to feel the guilt. The shame creeping in as the moments pass.
This rainy, gloomy August day in Pennsylvania, with the run down red apartment building in the background, with the empty asphalt lot next to it where a store used to be. You know what I’m saying.
I see her car pull up and my heart sinks, my son ignorant to the whole ordeal. He looks at me and says with a smile of curiosity, “Momma’s car?”
I mumble through my teeth in a whispering tone, “Yea, Momma’s car,” knowing that this will be the last time in a couple years I will hold my son in person.
Tears begin to build. This is heavy. I pick up my son. He’s looking at what I would think is a wrecked father at this point, rivers down my cheeks and all. I hold him close. I can smell the Big Bird Johnson & Johnson bath wash I was using in his hair as his head fits next to my neck.
I hold him tight, not wanting to let go. I see my ex kind of tearing as she knows my decision to throw in the towel and leave her and my son alone in Pennsylvania.
I pull him away to look at him for that memory thing burned in my brain, you know what I’m saying? He says, “I love you, Daddy.” I smile and say, “I love you too. I’ll see you in a little while.”
Now soaked by the shower of tears the sky is crying, I walk over to his car seat and set him in, kiss his forehead, and cry again. The numbness is wearing off.
I can feel again.