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Wayne State University

Aim Higher

Sep 28 / Peter Lichtenberg

Telling My Story

writingWhy has telling my story, now after Susan’s death, been so incredibly helpful to my own healing?

After Becky’s death I felt a sense of diminishment and powerlessness. I was such an outlier; I knew no other 20-something-year-olds who had been widowed, and I ached to hear Becky’s name mentioned or to be able to talk about her, about us. People dismissed my loss or at least that is how I felt—as if because I was a young adult and would undoubtedly re-marry that it meant my grief wasn’t so deep. I decided finally that my life would be Becky’s legacy. What a life it came to be; a life with Susan.

Susan, who I loved so deeply and Susan who showed so much respect and caring for what Becky meant to me and what we had. Susan, who let my love transform her life and whose love changed mine. In living through Susan’s breast cancer together we were never diminished as a couple, and our life together, in our bubble, was as precious as always. Susan talked about her demise and death, and her strength gave me the courage to do the same.

After Susan’s death I was now ready to write about, and talk about, grief; my losses and my struggles to cope. Several people have remarked that they respect that I have revealed so much of myself, and yet something in their remarks makes me think they are wondering, “Peter, do you think it is wise to do all of this writing and talking?”  What they don’t know is that when my experiences flow onto the paper they lose their power over me. When my words go out into the world, they remove my sense of shame at having such overpowering sadness, hurt and loss, and replace it with strength, and  even joy. The sharing connects me now with those who know: Those who have loved and lost and know the strange and frightening world of grief.

Somehow I have become articulate about grief; tapping into many of the universal experiences of grieving. Somehow I have transformed my pain into joy, and hurt into the deep affection I feel for those who share their stories with me. Susan is certainly smiling about this, and I hear her voice encouraging me to keep sharing, and to keep healing.

More information on writing to heal:

The American Psychological Association – Writing to Heal
(The physical and emotional benefits of expressive writing)

Psychology Today – Expressive Writing
(How to begin writing)

One Comment

  1. Barbara Nordin / Sep 28 2016

    Another elegant post–and I especially appreciate the links to the Expressive Writing and Writing to Heal sites. Susan is indeed smiling–as is Becky.

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