Use Writing To Overcome Traumatic Experiences

You don’t need to be an award-winning novelist to benefit from writing

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Writing serves many different purposes for many different people. Some write for school, others write for fun, and a good portion of us write because it makes us feel complete in a way. But what if you used your writing to help you deal with painful experiences from your past? Scientific studies show that writing might just be the one thing you need to do to move forward from traumatic experiences.

The science behind writing about stressful experiences

We all knew the art of writing causes some sort of release from negative emotions or thoughts, but now there’s actual evidence that proves this is the case. According to, “The process of writing has been found to be beneficial for your mind, body and spirit. From enhancing your immune system to helping along the recovery from trauma, writing sharpens your cognitive facilities, and can improve memory and unleash repressed feelings.” So how exactly can writing relieve feelings of negativity? The better you become at writing, the more effective you can communicate with those around you.

Think of it this way: After a rough day at work or school you go home and probably rant about your boss, co-worker, or teacher in your journal. You almost always feel better after the fact. This is because journaling can result in developing critical skills and self-awareness. After you’ve written down a very upsetting experience on paper, you’re able to take a step back and re-evaluate the situation. You gain a refreshing perspective, in a way.

Revisiting the article I previously mentioned, “Writing about things that bother you can help you relieve tension.” If you didn’t write down what you were feeling, you would have carried those pent-up emotions with you, inevitably affecting those around you. If you want to better understand others, you must first come to understand yourself, which can be accomplished through writing.

My experience with writing about emotionally painful experiences

I used writing to overcome a very distressing experience when my childhood friend died this summer. I was in quite a bit of shock for a while, and it was very hard for me to come to terms with the reality of her death. I became depressed for days, feeling it unfair that I had to go on living my life despite my friend not being able to live hers. But once I wrote down everything I was feeling and thinking, I felt relief.

Writing about her death didn’t magically make me feel better overnight, but got me the step closer I needed to feel okay. Which format of writing you use is up to you. I chose to craft letters, essays, and poems. Letters helped me feel as if I could speak to my friend, and reflect on certain moments from my childhood I had forgotten about. I enjoyed the element of honesty and intimacy that writing letters provided for me. Essays helped me process the logistics of her death, and helped me come to terms with her not being here anymore. I was able to gain further insight into how her death had affected me through writing essays, which was refreshing. But writing poetry was a truly rewarding experience, and I think was the format of writing that helped me most.

By writing poems, I was able to explore every emotion I had been feeling and attempt to turn my hurt into something that will last forever. The relieving sensation poetry provides is further proven by, “Putting pen to paper is said to help the brain ‘regulate emotion’ and reduces feelings of anxiety, fear and sadness.” Channeling sadness or heartbreak into writing is a beautiful way of turning an unpleasant experience into something that can provide comfort to others. It’s incredibly important to use writing to your advantage when you’re going through a hard time. You deserve to have an outlet to express yourself, but it’s also important for you to understand where you are in regards to the healing process. Even if writing doesn’t instantly make you feel better, it’s worth trying.

Even if you don’t plan on becoming the next Jane Austen, writing has so many incredible benefits. Writing decreases stress, helps you communicate more efficiently with others, and is a great way to develop critical thinking and reasoning skills. As Ernest Hemingway said, “Write hard and clear about what hurts.”



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