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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Floating memories

Geoff LMV, Flickr

“I, or any mortal at any time, may be utterly mistaken as to the situation he is really in.” 
― C.S. LewisA Grief Observed

The girl who's not fazed by much (including snakes, spiders and open wounds) almost had a panic attack when she discovered that her basement had become a wading pool after the latest big rains.

Among other things, a very precious box was sitting in two inches of water: the box that contains more than 25 years of personal diaries (mostly written between the ages of 10 and 20) and creative writing attempts.

The box was salvaged. After further investigation, however, most of its contents proved less valuable than one could have thought. Personal diaries mostly containing soliloquies about this and that crush or fling, usually followed by this and that breakup, become kind of repetitive after a while. Sure, there are some cute or insightful passages, but for the most part, the voluminous production will be better left unpublished.

The one part of the diaries that might prove worthy of sharing exposes the reality of the grieving process. For months after my father passed away (when I was 24), I filled pages and pages, longhand, trying to pour onto paper what was too heavy to keep inside.

It worked. Both the process and the result were successful.

Which takes me to the "writing as therapy" theory. Have you noticed how much writing (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, songs) serves the purpose of catharsis for overwhelming emotions? There are so many examples. Unrequited love might be one of the most fertile source of inspiration of all, whether it's induced by a love that one longs for in vain, or by a past love that has seen its last days, but lingers cruelly.

Suffering, and the need to exorcise pain in general, is a powerful source of creative production, including in the written form. Coming to terms with a difficult experience, like the loss of a loved one or the loss of one's own health, often creates a compelling need to create. And if pen and paper (or the keyboard) is your favoured outlet, writing can be a powerful coping mechanism.

It wouldn't be surprising if I spent some time re-reading my grieving journal in the coming weeks, especially since my father's birthday is coming very soon, followed three weeks later by the date he passed away. If I find anything that I believe worthy of sharing, I will 1) translate it to English 2) post it here.

While I wrote my own grieving journal I was also reading another one, that of C.S. Lewis (A Grief Observed). Religious or not, every reader can gain something from it. Excerpt:

“One never meets Cancer, or War, or Unhappiness (or Happiness). One only meets each hour or moment as it comes... One never gets the total impact of what we call 'the thing itself.' But we call it wrongly. The thing itself is simply all these ups and downs: the rest is a name or an idea.” 

In the meantime, you can also read this blog of a young psychiatrist dealing with cancer.

Have you ever used writing as a form of therapy?
Have you used other people's therapeutic writing as your own therapy?

For more water related posts, look no more:






  1. Oui, tellement vrai ce que tu dis (et toujours aussi bien formulé!). C'est drôle que tu parles de ça : ces temps-ci, je relis mes vieux journaux intimes. Puis je les détruis. Faut croire que le passé est intégré, digéré. Faut croire que "l'intime" doit rester ce qu'il est : intime!

    1. Ne détruis pas tout! :-) Il y a sûrement du bon là-dedans. xx

  2. I must read Lewis. I would also suggest Joan Didion « The Year of Magical Thinking ».
    My Diary acted as a therapist when your father died. It helped me put my grief, my anger, my sorrow and my angst into words, and once they were worded, they were mine to deal with. It also helped me realize - after one year and a half - that I had finally let him go. What a relief.
    Diaries always serve a purpose. They may not be worth publishing or even rereading, but they were there when we needed them.

  3. Je t'avoue que j'ai longuement hésité. J'ai même pensé faire un collage avec les meilleurs bouts. Ç'aurait été chouette... mais c'est ben trop d'ouvrage!!! Je préfère, et de loin, ancrer mes élans créatifs du moment dans le présent. Bye! Bye, nostalgie!!!

  4. Putting pen to paper - or these days fingers on a keyboard and writing about how we feel can be an excellent way to deal with any crisis that we encounter through our lives.

    Even when children are young and experience the loss of a parent or sibling art therapy can play a very important role in the grieving and healing process.

    I think it is nice if we can all have a 'Keepsakes' box filled with a few photographs, drawings, letters, small momento's of our life, some may disagree, but they are entitled to their view.

    All the best Jan

    1. HappinessSavouredHotSeptember 28, 2014 at 3:24 PM

      Art therapy, yes, absolutely! :-)

  5. So sorry, Julie! I remember reading about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar losing his 3,000 album collection of jazz albums, I think in a fire, and discussing that event and how he dealt with it.

    Yes, I've used writing many times for that. I have a file called, Present Shock-Future Growth...

    Lovely quotes!

    1. It's all about being resilient. Thank you for your comment. :-)