In my work in helping people tell the most important stories of their lives, I recently began advising a woman writing a memoir about a painful and dramatic experience from her adolescence. I was instantly impressed by her vivid descriptions, her use of details, and her ability to convey her feelings in a real and raw manner. I have no doubt that her book will ultimately reach many people who can benefit from her honest and open recounting of what happened to her and what she did about it. That’s a major part of her mission. I am also confident that the act of writing this part of her life story will have a profound impact on my client. She is tapping the inherent healing power of telling and writing about the most dramatic stories of our lives.
This healing power is potentially available to anyone who chooses to write about any trauma, painful event, or sad memories from the past. I’m always encouraged and gratified when I witness or hear evidence that confirms this truth. As a recent example, NPR’s The Story featured a segment about Iraq war vteran Mike Kim working with novelist Matt Sharpe to help heal combat veterans through writing: http://thestory.org/archive/the_story_070711_full_show.mp3/view
Their connection emerged from Mike’s participation with the Veteran-Civilian Dialogue, which presents facilitated meetings between those who served and those who have been impacted by war at home: http://www.intersectionsinternational.org/our-work/veterans-war
I have not attended any of those meetings but in my Writing Your Life Story classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Virginia I often get to listen to refreshingly diverse reflections on the experience of war. I remember one class in which four students were writing about their World War II memoiries, and two of those students were bringing to life their stories about being on “the other side” (Germany and Italy). As I looked around the room cloaked in respect and compassion, I was convinced that everyone there was enriched by hearing both our differences and our commonality in being shaped by war. That’s a part of the healing power of telling our dramatic stories: our ability to extend the net of compassion and understanding that can bring us together.
Do you have a story from your life that holds a healing power just waiting to be tapped?
- Kevin Quirk, Personal Historian, Memoir Ghostwriter, and author of “Your Life Is a Book – And It’s Time to Write It! An A-to-Z Guide to Help Anyone Write Their Life Story” (www.yourlifeisabook.com)