I’ve written about writing and healing often. Writing workshops are what I now offer to other parents as a way of containing and expressing our experiences living with a child(ren) who has a life threatening or chronic illness. I recently came across an article on this subject on the Foundation for Art and Healing website from last year. I was reminded about Dr. James Pennebaker’s research on this subject and I want to go back and reread his work, Writing to Heal, now. You may find it of interest also.
There are many powerful reasons to write, but HOW we write is as important as the writing itself. Being able to construct a narrative from our emotions, or use metaphoric language as a container for the hard to express feelings, allows us to gain some perspective on what may feel overwhelming. I think it allows us to move from feeling to cognition.
I structure writing exercises so that participants have the time to let down into their feelings and experiences, but also have the opportunity to create a meaningful story or poem that provides a container for feelings. This sort of writing engages the prefrontal cortex, that part of our brains where decision making and discernment reside. This capacity to feel and contain is necessary for making judgements about treatment plans, advocating for our child’s needs and for adherence to the treatment plan. It helps move us from despair or depression about our circumstances to resilience and repair.
There is a caveat. Most of us don’t move through our feelings of grief or loss, anger or depression once and then never feel them again. We come back again and again to these experiences as our children get better and grow or don’t. Hopefully, writing allows us a mechanism for continuing to better understand what we feel and what we need for our own self-care and for our children.