The sports world – and the rest of us – were shocked this June by news that tennis star Venus Williams was involved in a car accident that fatally injured a passenger in the other car. The police immediately declared her guilty – with damaging headlines .

Life and death – and culpability – are certainly more momentous than tennis matches. But for Williams the timing was especially difficult. It was just weeks before she was due to play at Wimbledon for what might be her last chance at the championship.

If it had been me, I would have curled into a corner obsessing about fate. (Why didn’t I drive down a different street? Why did I drive at all that day? ad infinitum.)

But Williams is made of tougher material. She’s been well trained, because despite having Sjogren’s syndrome, an anti-immune disease that weakens the muscles, she’s refused to give up tennis.

Williams admits she was “devastated and heartbroken,” by the car accident. But during the anxiety-ridden time before she was cleared of wrongdoing,  she didn’t retreat into hiding. Instead she resolutely showed up on the tennis court every morning to practice. “This is what Venus does,” a friend explained. “She goes to where her strength is.”

Each of us might profit from asking ourselves, where and how can I strengthen myself when everything seems against me? I remember a widow I interviewed for my book “Turning Toward Tomorrow.” Since she was only in her fifties, there was a “a long road to look down,” she said. To fortify herself she went on her knees – not just to pray – but to garden. “Putting my hands in the soil sort of orders me,” she said.

I, personally, am not much of a gardener. Yet thoug the method may differ for each of us, the goal is the same: To find whatever gives us the ability to survive.  As I’ve discovered, this doesn’t come from the cookie jar or the wine bottle, but from returning to whatever makes you feel special and strong. Or, as Venus might put it, like a champion.

When I’m too stressed to feel like “bothering” with anything, forcing myself to the computer to write just one sentence can ignite a change. For one sentence can lead to two…and three.. . . and before I know it, I’m writing. Which is my way of hitting the ball over the net again.

BOOKS: “Widow’s Walk”-available through; “Turning Toward Tomorrow” –; “Ten Women of Valor”” and “Role Play” – and Amazon. Also Amazon Kindle.


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; “Turning Toward Tomorrow”; “Ten Women of Valor” and “Role Play”- Amazon and Amazon Kindle.