Five Easy Ways to Put Your Heart on the Page: Finding Words for the Caregiver’s Journey

My mother’s Alzheimer’s drove me to write. My writing inspired me to speak.
Over the last years, I have received enormous pleasure from connecting with people all over the world, sharing the stories of finding hope in the caregiver’s journey.  images

It All Started with Grief

When I initially realized the depth of my mother’s memory loss, I was shattered with grief.
My initial reaction was:
Visit with mom
Drive home, blowing my nose and wiping tears from my cheeks
Misplace my car keys
Stare numbly into space   images

One day, during the “staring numbly” phase, my partner Ron said, “Are you writing down your feelings?” It was a smart and sensible thing to say; the sort of suggestion I might make to him in a crisis. I was, after all, a writer.

“I don’t feel like writing,” I said.

But his words stayed in my mind. The next day, I slightly altered my behavior:
Visit with mom
Drive home, blowing my nose and wiping tears from my cheeks
Misplace my car keys
Write numbly for an hour

Writing my Way from Grief to Insight

I poured out my fears, confusion, anger and grief. After doing this for a week,
I began noticing how fascinating my visits with Mom were; we were explorers on a wild inner trek.
I began documenting our time together, sometimes even taking notes during my visit. I wrote about the challenges, humor and blessings. I wrote about my conversations with my father, with friends and family and with the aides, the nurses, the social workers. As I wrote, I saw how much hope, promise and energy there was in my new world.

Instead of crying when I drove home, I thought about how I could transform my notes into a meaningful essay.  As I shared my work with friends and with my writing critique partners, I realized I was chronicling my mom’s last years and capturing part of our family history.

Five Easy Ways to Bring Your Life to the Page

How do you take a challenging part of your life and bring it to the page?

1. Pour Out Your Feelings.
Give yourself time to feel your emotions, whether it’s through writing, art, music or other.

2. Notice the Details.
Write down the particulars, noting simple concrete facts. You are a researcher collecting data.

3. Uncover the True Story.
Look for the universal meaning in your specific experience. How have you changed? How will the     reader change through reading your words?

4. Seek Feedback.
Read the story aloud to someone and see how it sounds. What’s working and what’s missing? Ask colleagues for a professional critique. Think over their advice and decide what is right for you.

5. Share Your Writings.
I was lucky enough to read some of my stories to my mother and father and receive their blessing for my work.  Anytime I featured people in a story, I shared it with them to make sure they were comfortable with the material. When they’re comfortable, it’s time to share with friends and a wider audience, if you wish.  images

Q 4 U

What are some of your writing tips?

3 Comments

  1. sallyjadlow on October 11, 2013 at 9:11 am

    Deborah, excellent suggestions As I sat with my dying mother, I would take little breathing breaks, go in the dining room to my computer, and write out my frustrations, fears, and griefs. After a few minutes of typing, I was able to go on.
    In eleven years I have only visited those files a few times. Perhaps one day I’ll go back and use that material to encourage someone else on that journey into the valley of the shadow of death.
    I love what you’ve done with your walk.

    • deborahshousewrites on October 11, 2013 at 12:30 pm

      I love the idea of breathing breaks. You are always so encouraging to others: I love your idea of sharing your materials from that time.

  2. maril crabtree on October 12, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    I’m glad you included the “pour out your feelings” part. Sometimes that’s the hardest part for us writers!

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