Mar 08 2018

Why I’m Starting a Writing Practice to Heal from Grief and Trauma

Why I'm Starting a Writing Practice to Heal from Grief and TraumaI haven’t written for my blog in a long time because I haven’t had the spirit to write; I’ve been exhausted, sick and depressed most of the time over the winter. The weight of the trauma and PTSD crushed my writing spirit entirely.

So, I’m going to jump start my writing spirit not by trying to force myself to finish all my research articles (which is too overwhelming at the moment), but by doing writing practice. And I’m going to do this using the book Writing Ourselves Whole by Jen Cross.

The first writing practice prompt in the book is, “What I want my words to do…” (Page 10). For this article, I’m going to post the results of following this writing prompt for 5 days. In a future article, I’ll review the book (it’s really great!).

My own working definition of writing practice is the following (it may change slightly as I read the book and keep practicing):

Writing regularly as a daily routine, 10 minutes or more a day. Taking an inner stance of being open to self and universe. Allowing uncensored, stream of consciousness, free writing, either with a writing prompt or just writing what spontaneously arises in the moment. It’s fine to let myself keep writing over and over about the same topic or idea, trying to tease out the heart of the matter and exploring all the words and how each word sounds and feels, making the words my own. It’s also fine to just see whatever flows through and jump into the next and the next and the next thing. Patiently noticing  the different thoughts that come up and writing down anything at all that comes into my mind. I may experiment with adding body awareness, writing whatever is happening inside my body, as well. I will come up with my own writing prompts and also seek them out. My overall sense of writing practice is that it’s supposed to be messy.

Just to clarify, I think writing practice is one part of many strategies and resources for healing from trauma that work best together, such as therapy, self-therapy exercises, nature, medication, nutrition, music, talking with friends, community healing events, meditation, yoga, social services etc.

Following are the first things I wrote while doing my writing practice (some of them are minimally edited for clarity):

What I Want My Words To Do

Writing Practice, Day 1

I want my words

to be buoys in stormy waters

their ropes tethered

to a somewhere lost but familiar.


I want my words

to link things that are fragmented,

spiders casting nets into the ether

reaching across hollow voids

of incredible brokenness

with whispy threads of tenderness.


I want my words

to organize my life and mind,

to find places for things,

to make sense of things,

to create assignments and classrooms and graduations for things.


I want my words

to be a path to my truth,

a path underwater to the sun.


I want my words

to be a place for sorrow to leave me,

an opening for the flood of tears to trickle through,

composting grief into rich wet soil for planting the as yet unknown.


I want my words

to connect myself with my past

in ways that don’t destroy me but instead create me.


I want my words

to connect me with the world again,

utterances unheard, never heard, and then, heard?


I want my words

to witness me,

to pray for me,

to forge solutions,

to create the long road to forgiveness.


I want my words

to open up the hungry places,

to imagine better things,

to sift,

to sew,

to discover,

to find the means to understand the rightness within my past actions.


Day 2

I want my words

to find things

that are as clear as the

trickling, sparkling stream

in the woods behind her house,

coursing through all the brown leaves

like heaven.


I want my words

to resurrect dreams,

wishes, longings,

to whisper around, underneath

the bed, underneath the

heavy weights of oppression, repression,

drudgery, silence, giving in and giving up.

I want my words

to carefully liberate.


I want my words

to reveal pathways out

and pathways in,

pathways together

and pathways apart,

to give a shape to the despair

that wails on in the night,

that wails on, wordless.


I want my words

to make amends, restitution, burning

off of the faces of old hopes now

dead, or mostly dead, or still alive and

harassing these moments now

until these moments die, disintegrate, decay,

the constant destruction

of the present.


Sometimes, I want my words to

sponsor the slow

restoration of present time.


I want my words

to make new roads

into the past,

to find the rivers of home,

to see

the way they glint in the sun,

to see

the way they always have.


Day 3

I want my words

to get me out of here,

to lead me out,


thrown into the future.


I want my words

to pierce and drain the wounds

that are unbearable,

that are not bearable



I want my words

to define the edges of the wounds

so they stop spilling over



I want my words

to be the threads sewn along the sides in neat stitches

defining the end of the bleeding

and the beginning of the new skin.


I want my words

to ride the blood river

in my center,

the hole where I was


small boats

in this vast pain:


Why is it broken?

Where am I?

Where do I go?


Day 4

I want my words

to walk through this despair

boldly, slowly, charting territory,

turning up the earth,

holding all the handfuls

of sorrow, bringing them

into some light if only a soft

shining down.


I want my words

to gather up the tears,

to play with them on the shores of mud pools

and oceans and wide expanses of reeds,

the uncried tears.


I want my words

to find the things that live

under the out-of-sight place,

the things that cry

tiny silver fish


that hide them,

that hide them because they are

so small.


Day 5

I want my words to

remove the repetitive

obsessions from my head

and give them a lush green garden

to live in forever.


I want my words to

scaffold my courage,

build it up brick by brick,

make it taller,

make it count,

make it real.


I want my words to

allow me to

fall apart.


I want my words to

bring grace

into my memories.


I want my


to worship




Heidi Hanson is an artist and writer in Asheville, North Carolina currently working on an illustrated book chronicling her journey healing from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.