A writing workshop for parents who have children living
with chronic health issues
SAVE THE DATE:
SUNDAY, MARCH 20, 2016
12 noon – 4 pm
contact me for more information: email@example.com
THROUGH WRITING WE CAN:
Ø Explore the ways illness effects our lives
Ø Find courage to go deeper, discovering new meaning or affirming values we already hold
Ø Have an opportunity to share our lives with others and find community
Ø Provide parents structure for giving voice to their experiences of having a child living with a chronic illness, e.g. changes in emotional, physical and social life
Ø Provide immediate and on-going options for writing on one’s own and in a group
Ø Provide books, readings, (fiction, non-fiction, poetry) that speak to a variety of issues surrounding illness, healing and caretaking
“One of the more common challenges parents face when managing the care of their chronically ill children is that they simply may not have the ability to cope. Generally, the research shows that when moms are depressed, adherence [to the child’s medical needs..] will go down…”
Research also shows that emotions are centered and experienced by the part of the brain known as the amygdala. This is part of the early brain, the limbic system. Trauma and highly charged emotions can keep us centered in that area of the brain and not allow us to use our higher centers of thinking, the frontal cortex. In order to assess and move on from being stuck in feeling, to thinking about our feelings and then move into action or decision-making, we need to connect feelings to thinking, the amygdala needs connection to the frontal cortex. Judy Willis, a neuroscientist and writing teacher has shown that writing can do just that.
From both personal experience and observation, I have seen that writing can ameliorate feelings of depression, thereby increasing a parent’s ability to, cope with daily life and care for, their child. Writing in a group can also allow one to realize they are not alone and gain support for their struggles.
One participant of the first WARJ group had this to say when asked what she got out of it at the end of our 6 month sessions:
“…feeling understood and not alone…[it was]…much better than a support group for me as instead of commiserating we were putting our energy and feelings into art that heals and allows for release as well as a powerful way to share with others.”
WHO & WHEN:
Ø This group will be open to parents of children with a chronic illness.
Ø We will meet 8-9 times over a 9 month period.
Ø Each session will last 1.5 hours in Seattle, Washington
The workshop is led by Suzanne Edison, MA. She is a psychotherapist, poet and mother of a child with Juvenile Myositis. She is also the Family Support Director for the Cure JM Foundation. She has led workshops and given presentations on the Effects of Chronic Illness on Families and Coping with Chronic Illness to parents and medical professionals. She also was awarded grants to write and publish two chapbooks of poems based on her journey and other parents with their chronically ill child. She has poems published in many journals and anthologies. For more information please see her website, www.seedison.com..
1. The Predicament
Does the title of this blog post sound familiar? Most parents feel this way, most of the time, but it is especially true if you have a child with special needs, ongoing health issues or some combination of these. Perhaps you have more than one child, or more than one who has special needs. Your days are often filled with just getting them dressed, fed, to school, or doctor’s appointments, home again, fed, to bed. On top of that, with ongoing health issues often comes a battery of medicines (this is one of the dozen my child was on for 4.5 years)
that need to be kept track of, administered with or without food, multiple times a day. There are refills that need to be ordered, notes to be kept about daily behaviors, experiences that a doctor might need to know about (that, you say is the writing you do) or multiple kids schedules to keep track of. This is just a slice of what a day might include. And at the end of the day you fall into bed yourself, and maybe, sleep through the night. Then, get up and do it all again.
2. The 5-minute Fix
I have lived this. But without being able to write I would never have made it through the more than 5 years I spent caring for my child when she was ill. (She is in remission now, but with an autoimmune disease, one never knows if it will return.)
Writing saved me and helped me deal with the overwhelming emotions that came with care for my child and not knowing if or when she might attain remission. As a result of my experiences I now teach a writing workshop for parents who have kids with a chronic illness.
I begin my workshop with a 5 minute writing exercise. I think everyone can carve out 5 minutes a day to do this and it may just help you cope with the rest of your day. Or help you sleep at night. Of course, you are welcome to go over the allotted 5 minutes, but not at first.
3. The Exercise
Write down 3 words that come to you from your day. These words can be about your day with your child(ren) or in general. They can be any words (try not to censor yourself).
Set the timer for 5 minutes.
Then, write for 5 minutes using these 3 words as often as possible. You can write full sentences or fragments of sentences. You can write a paragraph or a poem. Try not to think about the form but let the words come out. If you get stuck for words in that 5 minutes, just keep writing the same words over and over until something else emerges.
Stop when the timer goes off. Read it to yourself. Put it away. Repeat this exercise the next day. And again as often as you can, but limit it to 5 minutes at a time.
4. Now What? The Intermediate Approach
After you’ve done this exercise 5 times, the next time you are about to do it, sit for a few seconds before setting the timer, close your eyes and check in with yourself. Notice your breathing. Notice where your body feels tight and relaxed. Notice your jaw, your neck ,your abdomen, etc. Take a mental inventory.
Then do the writing exercise. After the timer goes off, again close your eyes and go through this same internal checklist. Notice any changes. Open your eyes and look at what you’ve written. Jot down anything you notice from before and after the exercise.
Repeat as many times as you wish. See if this little time out changes anything for you, helps you think better, feel calmer, understand something in a different way. If nothing seems different that is OK. There is no right or wrong here, just this simple practice. Let me know what you think.
This morning, Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, I was a guest on KUOW’s Weekday program with Steve Scher talking about writing and healing. For those of you who didn’t get to hear the show, you can go to the website and hear the podcast.
I will reiterate my basic messages here.
1) When children are sick, the whole family is affected.
2) Parents go through many stages of grief and loss, similar to stages of death and dying, on their journey with an ill child.
3) Using the arts, in this case writing, as a form of healing allows us to both feel our experience and learn to think without denying those feelings. The act of creation is both a way to re-energize our “wellsprings” and an opportunity to make sense and/or meaning out of our experiences.
Also, I didn’t get a chance to completely make a pitch for my writing workshop at Seattle Children’s Hospital, called Writing as a Righting Journey, so I want to do that here. This workshop is open to any parent with a child living with ongoing health issues. You do not have to be a writer, no experience needed. It is free. Please contact me for more information.
And if you want to read more of the poems that have come from my interviews/conversations with parents, please go to the online store here, to purchase a copy of What Cannot Be Swallowed. Tune in on Wednesday, Jan. 30th to KUOW between 2-3 pm to hear 2 of these poems..