On the morning of April 26, 1994, a woman called to my office, to notify me that my cousin Lucrecia, or “Luca” as we called her, had been murdered. Luca, age 25, was gang-raped, and her throat slit. The next morning, her body was found in a vacant lot. It was a brutal crime. It was a dark, very sinister event in the history of our family, and too devastating for me, as Luca and I grew up like sisters.
I was the first one in the family to be notified, and the one to rush to the morgue to identify her body.
The day at the beach, as images of Luca’s grisly crime resurfaced in my head, I realized that for almost two decades I had banished that painful memory from my mind.
I psychologically repressed the memories of the loathsome crime. That explained the dreadful emotions that overcame me while reading my husband’s novel, or Lee Child’s book, or when learning about the murder of my resident’s young son.
I was thankful for our vacation in such a beautiful island, as I couldn’t have been in better place to spend time reflecting on our family tragedy. I made some peace with the past. I was now open to talk about that traumatic event, and how much it hurt, allowing myself move forward. I shared my thoughts and feelings with my husband. I shed some tears and grieved. Then I started to write this post. I was now prepared to share the experience, and to understand better the therapeutic effects of writing—writing to heal.
I too understood my motivation to write about my nursing home residents. Writing my stories is a way to turn stressful situations into inspirational and positive reflections. Writing becomes a therapy to fight back the fatigue and the feelings of hopelessness that we, social workers, sometimes experience in our daily work.
I returned to visit Ms. Denniston several times, and during one of my visits, she spoke at length about her son’s death. I was admired at Ms. Denniston’s courage to share with me and others about that event. Always confident and delightful, Ms. Denniston showed great coping skills. She had a close and loving relationship with her family and friends. And it was no surprise that Ms. Denniston completed her physical rehabilitation quickly and successfully.
While going through this reflection on writing to heal, I found several interesting websites. One was author Doreen McGettigan's website. Doreen is a leader of NOVA, an advocacy organization for victims of crime and crisis. Doreen’s first book is about her brother’s killing, and her struggles with coping.
It seems like I’m now more motivated than ever to continue blogging and sharing stories. I’ve contemplated adventuring into family memoirs. As they say, everyone has a story to tell.
“Writing's power to heal lies not in pen and paper, but in the mind of the writer.” *