Written by A Guest Author January 18th, 2024

Writing For Solace

By Ruth Wilson

Writers write for a variety of reasons – as a creative endeavor, to clarify or share an idea, as a source of income, to respond to a muse, to play with words, etc. I sometimes write for solace. Journals I’ve kept for over 30 years include entries about sadness, anxiety, disappointments, and grief. Of course, there are also entries about highlights I’ve enjoyed along the way! The entries focusing on challenges illustrate how writing about pain doesn’t have to mean wallowing in sorrow or engaging in self-pity. Writing about difficult times can be a source of solace and even a guide for dealing with some of the pain and complexities of life.

Several years ago, I was faced with the reality that my husband’s growing cognitive decline required almost constant caregiving. This situation required a dramatic shift in my daily routine. I had for a long time been devoting the first hour of the day to reading, reflecting, and often writing in my journal. I treasured this hour as “my personal sacred time”. But after my husband’s illness, this time was no longer mine. I had caregiving duties to attend to.

I recorded some of my thoughts and feelings about this concern in my journal. Doing so helped me appreciate the fact that I wasn’t necessarily losing my “sacred time”; I was being called to share it.  At one point, I used my journal entries to develop a short essay for Spirituality & Health. This essay was published online under the title, Letting Go of Solitude.

Writing about traumatic or stressful events is sometimes referred to as “expressive writing”. This form of writing has a number of mental health benefits, such as lessening emotional pain and improving confidence and mood. The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley refers to expressive writing as “a simple, effective way to work through an emotional challenge” and offers some suggestions for putting it into practice.  The following tips are based on those suggestions:

  1. Find a comfortable time and place away from distractions.
  2. Write about an experience you found painful, but one that you feel you’re ready to handle. You may wish to avoid writing about a severe trauma event that just happened.
  3. Write about how that experience impacted you and how it connects to different parts of your life, such as family relations, work, or future plans.
  4. Write freely without judging the content or form of expression.

Not everyone will want to share the pain and trauma in their lives. That’s certainly understandable. Others, however, feel that their story may have something to offer others who may be struggling. The book, Beautiful Trauma, comes to mind. The author, Rebecca Fogg, explains how an accident led to a partial amputation of her hand but also to a new lease on life. This is a dramatic example of how writing about a tragedy can be therapeutic for self and instructive for others. My essay on letting go of solitude is a much simpler example. Both stories, however, have a similar theme – writing for solace can be a meaningful endeavor.

Bio: Ruth Wilson, a retired educator, currently works with the Children & Nature Network as curator of the Research Library. She has several published books, including Nature and Young Children, Learning is in Bloom, and Naturally Inclusive. Ruth lives in New Mexico where she enjoys writing, hiking, and biking.


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