How to Use Stories When Healing So You Don't Drown


The childhood chant and book, "We're Going on a Bear Hunt", includes a theme for the ages.

When it comes to healing, and I'm not going to differentiate between physical, emotional, etc...cuz they all affect each other...

We can’t go under it, we can’t go over it, we can’t go around it. We gotta go through it.

Ugh! There is no easy way to stop hurting and oh, how we humans hunt for it. I had a doctor I was interviewing tell me recently, "I don't believe humans are wired for suffering." As someone who comes from a religious background where suffering and saintliness were kissing cousins, I've thought about what she said quite a bit. If we're not wired for suffering, which the more I think about the more I agree with, what are our choices then? Here's a few I came up with.

Our Choices When We Hurt

  • Addiction that comes from a desperation for numbness where the substance ends up in the driver's seat of our life.
  • Anger that shuts our hearts off like a steel trap and eventually manifests itself in all sorts of physical maladies. 
  • Laughter and other forms of self-care like eating well, lots of rest, etc.
  • Doing the hard work of healing that means long term we won't suffer forever.

"You have to grieve and go through it!" those I trust say.

"Well how do I choose to do that? A wildfire just tore through my home!" I fight back.

What am I to do? Drink all the wine I can? Seal off my heart? Sleep as much as possible? The bottom line is, how in the world do I choose to face this pain?

I know getting my emotions out and on paper is important and I've done it most of my life. But since experiencing Violent Empty Nest Syndrome*, I can't just face the blank page knowing weeping could come. I mean, who chooses to sit down and do that?

And how do I choose my journal and tears over the latest binge watch? To me, that's like shelving the HagenDazs next to the soy ice cream. How many of us when dealing with pain really choose the soy ice cream? Not me.

So I do both. I journal during TV shows, especially when re-watching. This is the option that allows me to have my cake (comfort) and eat it, too (do the work of grief).

Here's an example. During Droughtlander, I am choosing to watch one episode per week of the previous three seasons to help get me through. A few weeks ago, it was time to watch the episode "Faith" and if you haven't seen it, it is full of tears. There's a lot of loss of innocence and loved ones. In one scene, Claire, our female protagonist, cries with something beyond anxiety, something primal. *spoiler in video*

I don't always cry about my own loss when reading or watching a story. But when I do, I pick up the pen and jot down just a few sentences of how the scene applies to me. I write just a few words about what it makes me think and feel. This is one of the simplest and gentlest tools for healing I have found in my fifty years. My beloved characters gently open the door of feeling for me. They go through their s***   ...remember, every good story, including our own, has to have conflict... and I feel understood. The characters in the stories I love help me take a step towards walking through instead of numbing the pain. 

What has been a healing story for you? They say, whatever you're dealing with, someone else has gone through it, too. But even in the social media age, finding our tribe when it comes to our tears is tough, especially when it's a miracle you just got out of bed. Let's find a book or TV character you can heal with in the comfort of your own home. I provide personalized reading lists. Message me for more information. 

*Violent Empty Nest Syndrome (VENS): When a mother has her youngest leave the nest without warning and is still circling looking for her baby.