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Friday, March 2, 2012

When 'Jack Reacher' became my hero. A reflection on writing to heal (3)

Part 3

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.” *


Have Myelin? said...

first, i'm so sorry about your cousin luca. what a horrible, horrible murder.

and secondly, it is why i blog too. my daughter's death impacted me and those feelings have to go somewhere.

Judy said...

I was really drawn to your blog a while back, not really knowing why. But you offer such a unique perspective on some of life's greatest adversities, and I know we can all learn from your words and stories. Thank you for sharing your heartaches and triumphs.

Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Doris,
So sorry for your cousin/sis Luca!
You handle it well and writing indeed does have a great therapeutic, healing power.
Love to you dear friend and keep sharing your stories.


I am so sorry for the tradgedy in your life, I have read all and I think you are very brave and the job you do must be very rewarding.
Thank you for writing this.

Bica said...

What a sad, sad, violent way for Luca to die. No one deserves that. I understand your inability to deal with this, and am glad you can now move forward, and grieve for Luca. I agree that writing is a wonderful, therapeutic tool, and...you do it beautifully.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post as usual!
A few decades ago, researchers found that expressive writing was a great tool for individuals dealing with cancer and other stressful life events.
There is something really wonderful about writing. It gives you the strength to be strong for those you work with. :-)

Frances Garrood said...

A terrible thing to happen to any family. I'm so sorry you have all had to suffer this tragedy. I recently wrote at length about the sudden death of my first husband. I think it really does help to get these experiences onto paper.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

What a truly horrific act, perpetrated against someone you love, that you've carried in your memory all these years. No one should have to endure something like that, nor should a loved one have to walk around with such mental images for life.

I have never thought of writing as therapeutic, or having any sort of "healing"-type qualities for the writer himself/herself, but I can see how for some people in some circumstances it might.

Write on, Lady Doris, and continue the process...

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Rita said...

I'm so sorry for your cousin Luca. That had to be so hard to be the one to identify the body. It's good you were able to talk about it and, I agree, writing about painful things can be therapeutic.

I can relate to the need to be aware of those positive moments when you work with seniors. I've worked with seniors and their families (and also with handicapped and their families) and can relate to the day to day stress, repetition, and frustration. The good moments are priceless, but hard won. You are an excellent writer. :)

Monalisa said...

Hi Doris,

I feel so sorry for Luca. It is indeed so terrible. I've seen my brother and cousins suffering after friend theirs suicided right in front of them. Story still remains a mystery. We're still horrified when we think about it. It must've tough for you to digest your cousin's murder I understand.

And indeed, writing is meditating. Your mind leaps to those peaks of peacefulness, when you revive, you discover the person in you. Keep writing Doris. You are a wonderful writer.

Anne Gallagher said...

Oh Doris, I'm so sorry. Such an excrutiating thing for you to bear all those years.

But I admire how you found the strength to get through it and share what it means to you. How you've been able to cope.

Arkansas Patti said...

What an unimaginable tragedy you and your family had to endure. I so hope they caught the monsters.
You are right, exposing pain to the light of the printed word does help.
I want to thank you so much for the words of comfort you left me, they have helped with the pain.

Missed Periods said...

I am so very sorry to hear about your cousin and so glad to hear that you are able to find some peace. I, too, believe that writing is truly therapeutic.

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

Doris, oh, wow. I have been reading your last three posts, and am so sorry to hear about your cousin's murder. So, so, sorry.

I too believe that writing heals. Over the past 3.5 years of having my blog, it sure has helped to heal me of many of my issues.

I look forward to reading your husband's books in the near future.

Praying for you as you go through more healing.

Kathy M.

Ann said...

Oh Doris what a horrific thing to happen to someone you love.What gut wrenching pain you and your family have had to deal with. Writing is healing.It is what I have turned to in my grief and pain also.

Rita said...

Doris, I always love to read your stories! I am so sorry to hear of the pain your suffered and hope that your writing will help to heal that pain!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Doris .. that must have been a horrible experience - too traumatic for many of us to comprehend.

I love these posts inspired by Mrs Denniston and it's wonderful for your seniors to have someone relateable, as you so obviously are with them.

Then we get to share all your stories here - they give us so much, and we can learn to appreciate other aspects of life - being told from a true and down to earth perspective - without any journalistic embellishment.

I certainly haven't had your experiences ... but developing a blog has been one of the best things that's happened to me - it's educating me too .. and I visit other bloggers learning from their experiences in all kinds of fields.

I love the quote: "Writing's power to heal lies not in the pen and paper, but in the mind of the writer". It's in the mind .. so much is in our mind and how we can help ourselves through ..

Thanks Doris - have a good weekend - you offer us much .. Hilary

Relyn Lawson said...

OH, I am sorry, sorry, sorry. I will be praying for the healing hearts of all who loved her.

Megan Adamson said...

This really brought tears to my eyes. As you know, I am trying to cope with the death of Emily at "Alice in Wonderland" and all sorts of things are going through my head.
I agree with you that writing things down is good therapy, but when you hit the bottom, the only way is up!

Thinking of you.


teri said...

I have noticed your icon among the followers on my blog. I felt sheepish because I am not sure if it has been a week or a month. So I was beginning to think it would be too late to welcome you to my blog. But just now I clicked on over.

Reading your last three posts I am reminded that indeed I am drawn to a journey of writing to heal. I dance around that truth. I avoid writing and then am drawn back... almost like I am afraid of what will come out. The other day I wrote a piece - I was compelled to write. It was about my childhood home... things happened in my childhood that I don't want to write about. I keep thinking I can just allude to them- but I am beginning to think if I keep this up, my writing will go where it needs to go. I am not good at giving up control to the words yet... But maybe someday. Thank you for this post. I am so thankful I clicked over. Blessings- teri

Arlee Bird said...

I have found that in the most difficult times in my life in the past I was drawn to write more to express my feelings and process what was going on inside my head. Now I write for many different reasons. Writing is a great way to deal with opening up to oneself and sharing it with those who might benefit.

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MunirGhiasuddin said...

I feel bad that I have not been reading.
You are so right. Is there anything I can do?

Mary Aalgaard said...

Thanks for sharing that story. I read it all at once, just now, as I'm catching up on your posts. Using the arts in any way connects us with our emotions and heals our trauma.