It’s one place where you can confide secrets without fearing they will be betrayed. A place where writing and loss join hands. Where you can admit you’re scared and lonely and crying, without a stern voice admonishing you to be a “grown-up.”
I’m talking about journals. And there’s no time when they are more valuable than when you’re struggling with loss of any kind, as most us are forced to do.
When I was doing interviews for my book “Turning Toward Tomorrow,” I was amazed how many people – both men and women – told me that “journaling” saved them. A Boston woman said frankly, “My mother was horrified at the way I cursed fate and God for my husband’s death. So I bought a notebook and every morning I write down the thoughts that would shock my mother and the priest. Then I feel free for the rest of the day.”
Of course, journals aren’t limited to issues of grief. They can be a surprising way to shed light on what you don’t realize you’re feeling. I remember bringing my journal to a therapy session so I could describe the dream I’d had the night before. Actually I thought I shouldn’t waste (expensive) time telling the therapist about it because the man I’d dreamed about was so obvious. However, when I dutifully opened my notebook and read the first sentence, I was stunned. The name I’d written down wasn’t the one I thought my dream was about, but someone else, who had a totally different meaning! My subterranean feelings had spilled into the journal without my even being aware.
Journaling also brings another gift: it can be a powerful resource for your writing. Numerous authors through the centuries have told how valuable their journals have been to them. Frank McCourt revealed that he’d kept a journal for 40 years. Since he was in his sixties when he began writing “Angela’s Ashes,” he turned to those journals to jar his memory. “There were things I discovered in my notebooks I had forgotten about.”
Sometimes those notebooks remind us of feelings we’ve tried to deny. I began writing my memoir ,“Widow’s Walk,” four months after my husband’s death. I thought I had total recall, but in a very human way I’d whitewashed some memories. Then I came across the tear-stained notebooks I kept during the terrible months of his illness. There were feelings of anger (How dare you abandon me!) as well as guilt, that I had suppressed afterward. Salvaged from my scrawled pages, they made my book more helpful to readers struggling with the same feelings.
As author Christina Baldwin said,, “Journal writing is a voyage to the interior.” Daring to explore that “interior” on your private pages can help illuminate the ways to strength and hope.
BOOKS: “Widow’s Walk” – available through iUniverse.com; “Turning Toward Tomorrow”-xLibnris.com; “Ten Women of Valor” and “Role Play”- Amazon and Amazon Kindle.