About Me

My wonderful husband died when I was 44 years old. Being widowed this young happens to less than 3% of married people. Writing through this loss one word at time helps me understand what I've lost and helps me continue to grow. It is how I have gradually recovered from such a severe loss. Research shows that you can benefit from taking just 15 minutes a day to write out your deepest feelings as a way of healing. On the right side of this blog, you'll see a tag for Exercises to Try. If you need some help knowing how to use writing to help heal yourself, I suggest you start there.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What's too painful? Write about it.

I don't think anyone would argue that there are certain activities known to be good for your health, like aerobic exercise, yoga, meditation, swimming, or stretching. I'd like writing to be added to the list. Research has shown that writing 15 minutes a day, about how you feel, promotes mental and physical well-being. If you've suffered a loss, it can be really cathartic to put your sad, angry, bitter, resentful, mournful, disbelieving feelings into words.

And who would argue that sometimes doing healthful activities can be painful? Ever run a 5K? Ever tried standing in the warrior pose for a couple of minutes? Ever stretch out your hamstrings? Ever try to sit still and meditate for 20 minutes? Ever do a series of squats and lunges? All of these activities can be pleasurable as well as so difficult you can't wait until they're over and you can go lie down. But keep it up despite the pain and you get toned muscles, healthy lungs, a mind that knows how to be at peace.

Writing is no different. Fifteen minutes a day of writing can be a breeze or it can be painful. Either way, it's good for you. It's like exercise for your emotions. They need fresh air too. Open up. Let them out for god's sake.

This brings me to today's topic: What's too painful? Are you out of work? Did your spouse die? Is your knee in such bad shape you can't play tennis anymore? Have you lost your great body? Did your boyfriend dump you? Has your son stopped calling since he left home? Do you never get invited anywhere? Is your mother immoral?

Think about it. What's too painful to admit? What feelings hurt? Write it down. Putting your feelings on paper gives them shape. You can make a story out of how you feel. You control the story. You can change it.


What is too painful? It changes over time but I guarantee that whatever it is that's too painful to bring to your conscious awareness deserves some attention and respect. Sometimes respecting your pain is letting it hide for a while, only sneaking a look occasionally in the cover of darkness. If your pain is holding you back or causing you physical discomfort or making you feel uncomfortably sad, it might be time to open up a bit and let some of it out.

When my husband was first diagnosed with cancer in 2002 it was too painful to imagine that he might die. Being hopeful was best, by far.

After he went through a grueling six months of chemotherapy and his cancer went into remission, it was too painful to think that it might come back.

After his cancer came back, it was too painful to think about our bad luck, so I spent a lot of time trying to tell myself how fortunate we were regardless or our bad luck.

After Ken had his first stem cell transplant, it was too painful to think about the toll this disease was taking on our young family, so we tried to live as normally as possible. Normal life was receding, but it was too painful to let it go.

After Ken's cancer returned yet again, it was too painful to give up. So he went to Texas for a second and very high risk stem cell transplant.

After the second transplant Ken lived in his hospital room for six months with a series of complications and bad news. It was too painful to believe that after so many years of trying so hard, and being such a good patient, and remaining a loving, stable, and good-natured force for those he knew and loved, it was too painful to believe that he might still die anyway.

After Ken died it was too painful to look at families that had one mother and one father; to see intact families together; to watch fathers playing with their children; to look at happily married couples.

A year after Ken died, it was still too painful for me to accept that my happy married life with him was over forever, so I began dating, believing that the best thing I could do for myself would be to try to quickly replicate the life I had just lost.


I understand that I was incredibly, amazingly lucky to have found Ken Jacobson in this big, wide world, and that when I found him I loved him and he loved me back. I am moving beyond pain to an appreciation for just how charmed I was for fifteen years of my life so far to have known Ken, to have been his wife, to have had children with him, and to have raised those children with him for a little while.


Mary said...

As usual, Jill, wonderful....

Anonymous said...

Excellent, excellent. Fearless, powerful writing. You say what so many people cannot stir from within, yet you manage to find that chord we all have deep inside and give it a reassuring "twang". It's wonderful reading your stuff, Jill. You not only get yourself, but you clearly demonstrate how you "get" other people, too.

Anonymous said...

Earlier I thought differently, many thanks for the help in this question.

Jill Schacter said...

I am glad to hear you've found it helpful.