Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Write Through Trauma

Students come to my classes afraid. They arrive because of the title and they want to leave because of the title. I understand. Really. I did years of talk therapy before I realized that dredging up painful memories was serving to keep the memories fresh rather than aid me in releasing them.

I began a private practice of expressive writing because talk therapy always left me open. Vulnerable. Wounded. Raw. I am an inconsistent journaler at best, so I didn’t treat the writing as journaling. I didn’t treat it as anything other than an act of letting go. Whatever I didn’t want in my head I dashed onto the page. I wrote by hand. I wrote in inks of many colors. I wrote on any surface available except when it came to my anger. That I kept to a specific book because it was my biggest, hottest, most horrible emotion. And until I wrote it out, it was destroying me. Literally.


Expressive writing requires no topic or form. Have you ever hummed tunelessly to yourself? Expressive writing is that hum. It’s the vibration coming up from your core, from the places you have tried to cast your internal eye but have never been able to see. The shiver that turns into trembling that turns into tears. Expressive writing is perfect in that it demands no perfection. The point is not to spell words correctly or create a story; it’s simply to express.

Expressive writing is the gateway I use for writing through trauma. The initial expression is an engagement–an acknowledgement–of an internal emotional story. Once we are aware of the story inside us, we can begin to draw it out and piece it together until we find a point of completion. Then we stop to see what we have, to claim it as our own and choose how we will let this story go.

Owning our trauma grants us permission to heal. The goal is not to forget. We acknowledge and release with memory intact. In fact, we may acknowledge and release the same story many times. Or we may recover details that expand our stories so we return to express them in new ways.

We don’t need to be afraid because, no matter how our stories grow or change, writing is an excellent tool for personal healing.

If you have trauma you are holding onto, I hope you’ll consider starting your own trauma writing practice. An online search will turn up many coaches like me who can help you get started. Whether the stories you carry are joyful or painful, expressive writing is an excellent tool to add to you self care kit. 


10 Discussion to this post

  1. smfleegal says:

    As someone who also writes about her own trauma, and teaches an online trauma writing course, this post is spot on. So important to remind people that it’s ok to be afraid, it’s ok to write without crafting, and it’s ok to explore every emotion, no matter how “big, hot, or horrible.” Thanks for your work and your blog, Shawna.

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  2. My story has allow me to heal after many years of feeling numb I am slowing coming into my own thanks to my journal and having the courage to share is a work in process.

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  3. janice Wald says:

    Hi Shawna,
    Great to see you at Pit Stop!
    I agree– blogging/writing is therapeutic. Thanks for bringing your post to Pit Stop.
    Janice, Pit Stop Crew

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  4. janice Wald says:

    Hi Shawna,
    You won best post at the Pit Stop linky party! You will be featured on the post. Goes live Thursday at 6 pm California time.

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  5. […] Why you shouldn’t be afraid to write through trauma by Shawna […]

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  6. […] Why you shouldn’t be afraid to write through trauma by Shawna […]

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  7. […] Trump took his oath of office I feel compelled to try and say something. It’s like Shawna over at The Honeyed Quill says, “We don’t need to be afraid because. . . writing is an excellent tool for personal […]

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  8. […] You can start looking for trigger or content warnings. You can learn to express yourself through writing or creating other art. You can confide in people who can help to keep you safe and […]

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