As I’ve said before, I like to write. And my enjoyment of writing has enriched my life in multiple ways. Ever since I learned to write, I have been writing: writing little books, writing in diaries, writing letters, writing a blog, writing a new blog… and in school I wrote a numbers of papers too. They were necessary at the time, of course, but not so important to me in the grand scheme of things; my important “works” have been the bits for myself and communications with others. Writing in my personal life has been far more satisfying than any writing I ever did for teachers or professors… writing has allowed me to connect with other people, it has connected me to myself, and in both situations for me, writing has been therapeutic and healing.
During infertility, especially, I have found writing to be immensely helpful, and I have taken advantage of several writing outlets during my journey. Ernest Hemingway said, “write hard and clear about what hurts”… and although I haven’t read any of his work, I have taken this advice — I have written lots and lots about my painful infertility journey… and I believe it has been healing for me. Writing has been a way for me to release my feelings and work through them. I know this is not the case for everyone, but it has been for me… and for anyone on the fence trying to decide to write or not to write, maybe knowing how it has benefited me will nudge someone else in the direction of giving it a try.
On and off throughout my life, since learning to write, I have journaled. I started in a little kitty cat diary with an actual lock and key when I was younger. That filled up quickly, and during my teen years I filled many journals with my thoughts… After a pipe burst in our basement last spring I had to repack all of those old journals and make sure they were dry and undamaged, and wow — reading some of those took me back. I’m so glad I’m not a teenager anymore. Anyway. I have since switched from writing in a physical journal to writing in private documents on my computer. Some people say that typing doesn’t provide the same release that handwriting does, but I disagree — that might be true for some people, but typing works for me and I don’t think there’s a “wrong way” to journal. If it’s helping, who’s to tell me that my way is wrong?
Whenever I choose to journal, I have found it to be a therapeutic way for me to release my thoughts, worries, fears, and wishes. Sometimes I don’t know how I am feeling about something until I try to sit down and write about it. When I write it down, it can be easier for me to acknowledge what I’m feeling, to accept, or try to accept my feelings, and to release them, if I need to. And I think that writing it down and getting it out of my head seems to end some of the internal narration that plays itself on repeat in my mind when I’m upset. I don’t think that writing fixes anything, but it has helped me to process situations and work through my feelings.
Writing letters has been a wonderful way for me to communicate with many of my loved ones for a very long time. My best example of how writing letters has enriched my life is my friendship with my pen-pal — we have been writing to each other for 18 years! I also love to write thank-you notes, send greeting cards, and send postcards when I travel. There’s something so lovely about receiving a meaningful piece of mail, so I like to spread that joy when I can. In general, I think that writing things down and sending a letter is a special and meaningful way to communicate with a loved one. However, I have also written some letters that are best unsent or cannot be sent…. But for me the act of writing them is still very powerful and therapeutic.
I have had some times during my infertility where I have been extremely upset about something someone has said to me. These have been good opportunities for me to write someone a letter, to be honest with them, and let all my feelings out… and then never send the letter. (It can be deleted, or burned, or whatever.) Writing unsent letters has helped me to release emotions and thoughts that would not necessarily have been appropriate to share. After releasing the emotions I can calm down, and then more appropriately address the situation. Sometimes that’s to completely let it go — forgive them and move on, and other times it’s to confront them. But either way, the unsent letter has been helpful for me to avoid nasty confrontations that would not have been helpful or productive.
During this journey, I also wrote a letter that we released. After my ectopic pregnancy we did a few things to honor our lost baby… one of them was writing a letter to our baby. I wrote my letter privately — Matt didn’t even read it — and we released it together in a river at a quiet park. Writing this letter was very hard for me… But I had really wanted to do it, and I’m glad I did — it turned out to be very healing for me. In writing my letter, I felt like I had found a small way to connect with our baby. To tell her how much we love her and miss her. To explain what happened. Writing the letter also allowed me to acknowledge a lot of emotions I had been feeling. It brought them to the surface. And releasing the letter helped me to feel like we had done something meaningful to acknowledge our loss and to say goodbye.
Other people have published or posted their letters to their lost babies. I was not comfortable doing that myself… but I am grateful to the mamas who have been so brave and open. Reading their letters to their children has been healing for me. In the book Our Stories Of Miscarriage there are a number of letters and poems written to children, and online I have found some too. Here’s one example — a letter written to a baby lost in an ectopic pregnancy.
Most recently, writing this blog has been a healing project for me too. The writing I do here is very different from my journaling or my letter writing, and it’s been helpful. Even a little fun. Although to be honest, I never thought I’d be writing publicly about infertility… not in my wildest dreams.
About nine months ago I started a gratitude journal. This one is a physical journal. It lives in my bedroom and every night before I go to bed I write down the things I am thankful for from that day. It was a simple and quick addition to my nighttime routine, but it has been very powerful. There are lots of things “out there” about how practicing gratitude is good for us, and I won’t bother trying to look up statistics, but I will say that it has helped me.
When I started my gratitude journal, I was not really in a good place emotionally. So many months of disappointments had made me feel like everything was awful. Once I started practicing gratitude I was able to keep my mind more focused on the good things that were happening in my life. That said, practicing gratitude doesn’t take away the bad things or even make them less painful, but being more aware of the good things has helped me to stay more balanced, more positive, and, at times, more hopeful too.
There are some days where writing down the things for which I’m thankful is easier than others, but I can honestly say that there has been something good in every day, even my really, really bad days. Practicing gratitude on my really bad days has reminded me of some of the simple things in my life that bring me joy: my kitties, a walk with Matt, a relaxing dinner on the deck, time to water my flowers and sit in my garden. Thinking about and writing down the things I’m thankful for has reminded me that even when I feel absolutely miserable, there are still things in my life that bring me joy.
Until our infertility journey took a major toll on my emotions and outlook on life, I had never kept a gratitude journal. I wrote thank-you letters for gifts and for favors from loved ones, but I had never taken the time to sit and write down the daily things for which I was thankful. Now writing in my gratitude journal is something I look forward to every day and I plan to continue to the practice. I would even say that I’m grateful for being alive and well enough to practice gratitude — practicing gratitude has brought me joy and given me a renewed sense of hope for our future happiness.
Writing is powerful
With my all of my writing about infertility in my journals, my letters, and now my blog, I think Mr. Hemmingway would agree that I have written hard and clear about what hurts. And it has helped — writing has been therapeutic for me. It has aided me in working through my emotions. But it’s not just writing about the things that are painful that has been important. I have also found great healing in writing about the things that don’t hurt — the things that bring me joy. Words and writing are powerful and I plan to continue using them to aid in my healing.