When my dad died unexpectedly years ago, I suffered tremendous grief. It got to the point where I had to seek professional help. One piece of advice I received at the time was to write about my loss and how it affected me. I was to keep a journal and pen with me all the time, even at my bedside, and scribble down my thoughts.
This idea seemed ludicrous. The only thoughts I had were unpleasant ones—why would I want to write about those? Worse, why would I want to associate something that brought me great joy, my writing, with something that made me feel so sad?
Needless to say, I didn’t do as told…at least not then. But as time went on and my grief lessened, I discovered that I had a lot to say about my dad’s passing and my grieving experience. In fact, there were things I actually needed to say. Nearly a year after my dad died, I finally took the professional’s advice. I not only wrote for myself, I wrote for family, friends, even publication. And it really did help.
Looking back, though, I’m not sure I would have listened to that advice any sooner. I think whether to write about something bad that happened boils down to asking yourself three questions. First, would writing about it make me feel worse? Second, would writing about it make anyone else feel worse? Third, am I writing about it for the wrong reasons (because I was told to, strictly for profit, etc.).
If you can honestly answer “no” to these questions, you might want to pick up that pen or hit the keyboard. In fact, writing about something bad that happened might just do some good. But there’s no harm in waiting either. Like many things in life, when it comes to writing, timing can be everything.
(Image by Paul Birrell)