ACU Press & Leafwood Publishers' Blog

The Healing Power of the Pen

The following is a post from Alice J. Wisler, author of Getting Out of Bed in the Morning: Reflections of Comfort in Heartache. In 1997, Alice’s four-year-old son, Daniel, died after eight months of vigorous cancer treatments. In his memory, Alice founded Daniel’s House Publications, a grief organization, to help other parents cope with death. You can follow Alice on twitter: @AliceWisler and her personal website: Getting Out of Bed in the Morning is also available for review.


The first year after a death of a child is like having the worse noise possible running through your head each day and night. There is no way to turn the horrendous sounds off because there is no off button.

I wrote through that noise. I wrote from the heavy bag of emotions bereaved parents must carry–anger, guilt, sorrow and confusion, all the “what ifs” and “how comes” and “whys.”

I wrote of longing for a blond-haired boy with blue eyes who laughter brightened hospital rooms. A quiet spot under weeping willows at a local park is where I carried my pen, journal and pain. As I wrote over the course of many months, I was, although I didn’t realize it at the time, providing therapy for myself.

Some days when the weather did not permit a trip to the park and my body and mind harbored excruciating pain, I shut myself in a room, away from my other children and husband. I’d grab my journal and let the experiences of the day and my feelings freely emerge onto each white page. Grammar didn’t matter, penmanship went out the window. These aren’t a concern when you are writing to survive.

Writing the heartache, complete and honest, is a way of healing. Our cry is, “Help me with this pain!” We find ourselves lamenting as King David did in Psalm 13:2, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?” David wrote many of his psalms starting with anger and agony and gradually, ending with hope.

Writing can do that for us. We enter into our devastation, get a good grip on what our struggles are and something about seeing them on paper causes us to realize the pain is not only within us anymore. It is shared, even if only on a sheet of notebook paper. It is documented and the more we write, the better we are able to understand and deal with our intense sorrow.

Some people think only the creative types write, when in reality, writing through the pain is available to anyone who has suffered a loss. “I don’t have time,” many say. “What will I write?” others wonder. The blank page scares some because they think they have to fill it with something profound.

But just writing a memory of your loved one or a few lines about how you felt after he died is a notable start. Compose a prayer; craft a letter. If we think of writing as a private endeavor and an effective tool, not a paper to be graded by a high school English teacher, we will conquer many of the doubts about our ability. In time, we will see that writing helps us become better in tune with our feelings and thoughts. It clarifies our lives and gives us understanding.  In its best form, it draws us closer to God.

~ Alice J. Wisler


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