I'm delighted to be featured on Mari McCarthy's terrific blog about journaling. My topic is
How Journaling Helped Me Write a Memoir.
I discuss the purpose of a private journal, how it differs from writing for public consumption, and how keeping a journal during the difficult years of my healing from abuse helped in writing my memoir, The River of Forgetting: A Memoir of Healing from Sexual Abuse.
My older sister Suzie died a month ago today. She’s the one with Down Syndrome. Suzie’s death was peaceful and I was with her to the end. It was as good a death as I can imagine for her. I had lost Suzie once before, when she was 3 and I was 2, when my parents sent her to a school far away (those were the old days when people like her were called “Mongolian Idiots,” I kid you not).
My Inner Child remembers the first loss, the confusion and disorientation when my buddy was just gone, the loss of the security of someone to hug. This new loss brings memories of the old losses. My psyche remembers being told not to cry. It was the first big trauma of a childhood that brought other traumas. My family dealt with such things by avoiding them, not speaking, not expressing sadness and fear. My family successfully repressed sexual abuse the same way. As a child I was disoriented and scared--No one talks about things. What is happening? What is reality when we don’t go near the real things?
Now I sit with my Inner Child every morning, and when she needs it I rock and hold her as she cries about Suzie. I’m not avoiding grief now. I know how to be with it and let it unfold. I also can let my Child Within be happy or have other feelings; I don’t dictate what she is to feel. This is one blessing of all the hard work I’ve done around abuse and trauma. Gradually over the last month the grieving has shifted and peace has come.