How writing can help you work through your stress, grief, or trauma.
This article is shared and reprinted here by permission from the National Association of Adoptees and Parents. It was originally printed in its 3rd Quarter 2021 Newsletter.
It was difficult for me to write certain parts of my memoir. As with many adoptees, my story dealt with a difficult childhood, the trauma of abandonment, the severing of my identity, secondary rejection, and generally navigating a life put together by others with purposeful deceit. I was expected to live a certain life, love certain people as “family,” and be accepting of and comfortable with it all.
So why write about it? Why relive the pain and trauma?
Well, ignoring it wasn’t working. For years after my birth mother cruelly rejected me in 1987, the trauma of that secondary rejection manifested itself in many ways. Seemingly innocuous incidents would trigger my trauma and I would find myself reliving my past anxieties and stresses, and sometimes taking it out on other people. Relationships were difficult. My trauma led to anxiety, anger, and withdrawal. And exhaustion.
I let those anxieties and stresses cause chaos and uncertainty in my life for too long.
Some thirty years later I started blogging about my adoption journey. I finally took control of my story. Why did it take so long?
I’ve always enjoyed writing. I’ve done legal writing in my career as a paralegal for years. I also had a food blog for a few years. Sharing my love for cooking, along with my adventures in the competitive cooking world was fun, but it wasn’t easing any pain. What I did realize through this type of writing was that expressive and creative writing was beneficial for me. Creativity (through the cooking and the writing) helped to relieved stress related to my work.
I still had anxiety and issues related to my adoption, however. I just wasn’t dealing with them. Then, one day, I stumbled on another adoptee’s blog. She told the story of her search and the complicated reunion with her birth mother and the maternal side of her biological family. As I read, I reflected on my own story. Her story forced me to think critically through my own emotions and experiences. Reflecting on another person’s similar story gave me the ability to understand and make sense of my own life experience. I had a sudden urge to write my story.
And so I began.
The health benefits of writing about trauma are well-documented. For me, blogging helped me reflect on my situation, accept it, reach out to people through it, and finally, heal. By reaching out through blogging, I was able to connect with others with similar situations. I found other adoptees and those with unique family situations dealing with their own trauma and difficult emotions. By giving a voice to my pain and emptiness, I was learning to accept them as a part of me. In accepting, I was healing. By sharing my story, I was emerging from my isolation.
Soon after I started blogging, I started reading adoptee memoirs and other adoption-centric books. This brought me more validation and strength. I used the strength to write my memoir.
Before you emerge strong, you’ll inevitably feel the pain again. I did. Don’t let it stop you. Through the writing process, whether you are simply journaling, blogging, writing personal essay, or writing your memoir, you will learn acceptance. You will learn to accept your emotional scars and learn not to be afraid to share your vulnerabilities. Writing will help you discover what makes you part of a larger universe. What makes you vulnerable may be a direct result of personal trauma, but that trauma and the emotional turmoil caused by it are informed by systems, processes or problems in society on a much larger scale. Maybe sharing your experience will help others. By writing your story, you can take ownership of your life and shape it the way you want.
Adoptee voices matter. If you have a story you’d like to tell, or if you’d like to start journaling with more meaning, or if you are currently blogging or want to start a blog, join me, Lynn Grubb, Marcie Keithley, and Paige Strickland at the NAAP Conference in September for our panel discussion, Adoptee Voices Matter—Options for Writing Your Truth. Panel presenters will answer your questions and share their thoughts on writing memoir, personal essay (non-fiction), writing about grief and trauma, and how to keep organized and focused when writing about such an emotional topic. Hope to see you there.
Can’t wait to be there!