Memory writing: A healing journey



Psalm 27.10 quote card

This is my writing process for transforming painful memories into poems.

I go to my journals and immerse myself in those feelings.  Then I pull out a photo from that time period.  Next I look through my drawings from that period and find one close to that date.  I sit at my computer and imagine myself at that age again, with those feelings and images.  I write the poem from the voice of that girl still inside me.

Then I cry.  Usually it’s deep sobbing, coming from a buried place.  The deep dark place I so often mention in my poems, the place hidden from everyone.  By crying I raise that girl from her pit.  I give that girl permission to let it all out.  Let her cry it out once and for all.

Finally I take the photo in my hands.  I tell that girl in the photo “I love you.” I tell her that it was okay for her to feel the way she did.  She is no longer trapped inside.  She is free now.

I tell that girl in the photo “I love you.”

Then I feel peace for the first time over that painful period of my life.  That time is a scar, a marker of a deep wound.  But it no longer holds power over me.  I am free to move forward.

I began writing memoir poems in 2010, prompted by the Lord.  I was struggling with a thought-life issue, and I didn’t know what to do about it.  Write, he said.  Over and over I heard the word Write when I prayed.  I began writing the memories out, exploring themes and ideas.  Then I became familiar with roots of current-day problems in those memories.

That process was too much for me to handle alone, so I turned to my therapist for help.  We spent four years unraveling the knots of pain.  Through therapy I gained tools to handle my problems in healthier ways.  I learned to grieve what I could not get back, and focus on what I can do now with what I have.

In my One-Year Bible readings during that time, I was especially drawn to the daily Psalm reading.  I found validation and comfort in David’s suffering.  He had also felt depressed, betrayed, alone, forsaken, and rejected.  But it seemed as if his suffering fueled his faith.  He called God his rock, refuge, fortress, shield, and salvation.  I admired David’s faith in the face of unfair suffering.

So many psalms have given me peace, but this one has particularly healed me:

“Even if my mother and father abandon me, the Lord will hold me close.”  Psalm 27:10 NLT

Sometimes Bible passages jump off the page and seem to have been written just for you.  This one is the theme of all I’ve suffered.  Though I felt abandoned and rejected by both of my parents as a child of divorce, I felt close to God.  Often I imagine myself as the girl inside one of the memoir poems, climbing into his lap and letting him hold me and comfort me.  I feel stronger inside, knowing my perfect heavenly Father has never forsaken me.

Though it’s been a painful process, I’m so thankful God prompted me to write.  He has helped me grieve and forgive.  He has given me new life and new hope.  And he has strengthened my faith and allowed me to comfort others.  All because I started writing memoir poetry.

How is God healing you?