Writing as a Way of Healing

I do not believe in quick-fixes, especially not in the field of writing … or personal development. Actually, I have spent most of my time developing & nurturing a rather darker outlook on life. I guess this, my own skepticism verging on grumpiness, is the reason why I was taken by surprise by Louise DeSalvo’s Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives. The thing is; I don’t only find her book interesting –

– I like it, a lot!

In Writing as a Way of Healing DeSalvo is talking about healing trauma through writing. Her definition of trauma is wide, and include events that are relatively common in our society; she is talking about having dysfunctional parents, about parenting a child with severe disabilities, about lethal illness, addiction, abuse, and loss – she is discussing difficult situations many of us have experienced. And she is talking about how we can use writing to connect with our own wounds to transgress our own fears and sorrows. Not in a happy-go-lucky kind of way, but through the challenging work of everyday writing.

Her are a few lines from the book:

  • I see pain, loss, and grief as the basis for virtually every act of cultural creation.
  • When idealizing people we have lost, we can’t go beyond our grief to reenter the world.
  • By engaging in lament, we care for ourselves. For not to express grief is to put ourselves at risk for isolation, for illness.
  • A healing narrative renders our experience concretely, authentically, explicitly, and with a richness of detail.


Vilhelm Hammershøi: Støvkornenes dans i solstrålerne (1900)
  • Because our writing, our work of art, is a concrete object, it becomes a memorial and a testimony to the resolution of the mourning process. And to the lost person and the lost self. By writing about them, we give them posthumous life. By writing, we celebrate, too, our courage and survival. Engaging in writing, in creative work, then, permit us to pass from numbness to feeling, from denial to acceptance, from conflict and chaos to order and resolution, from rage and loss to profound growth, from grief to joy.



Louise A. DeSalvo (born 1942) is professor of English at Hunter College, CUNY. She has published thirteen books, among them Writing as a Way of Healing, Breathless, Adultry, and her memoir Vertigo.

She is also a renowned Virginia Woolf scholar.



10 Comments Add yours

  1. KM Huber says:

    Once again, Sigrun, I am grateful for another introduction to an intriguing work. Currently, I am enjoying Citizen, and yes, yet another perspective revealed. As you said, “how does she do it?!?!”

    1. Sigrun says:

      So happy to hear you are reading Citizen!
      Wish you a very fine holiday, Karen!

  2. Kay says:

    Thanks for this. I don’t write much but i do find the art of creating has helped me through difficult times. I think it is something to do with the physical nature of the experience- shaping the feelings and words with materials. I also think it is interesting that when you create something together the experience which may have isolated you dissolves, albeit momentarily.

    1. Sigrun says:

      Dear Kay, I understand DeSalvo to talk about the act of being creative in general – one choose the medium which suits one the best. Her main point, I believe, is to insist on us continuing our creative work also when it doesn’t come easy, when we feel restrained, exhausted – depressed …

  3. This came at just the right time. Thank you Sigrun. I navigate the world through storytelling.

  4. I clicked send before finishing! Finding a way to tell your own story, especially if you have a learning disability, is incredibly important. I will definitely try to get my hands on this book!

    1. Sigrun says:

      Great, please let me know how you find it!
      All the best!

  5. Rio says:

    I will check it out. I am in need of some healing.

    1. Sigrun says:

      Warmly recommended!
      Best wishes!

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