Photography by Michelle and Ricky Schill

Since the time I have learned my alphabet and how to use a pen or pencil, I have loved to write. When I was a child I wrote stories from pure imagination, usually focusing on horses. As I grew older and became a teen, I expanded into poetry.

I never really was one to keep a diary or journal. To me this never felt safe. I was constantly afraid that someone might find my journal and read it. They would then learn all my deepest and darkest secrets. Therefore, I kept my writings disguised as fantasy in prose and poetry.

It was not until I lived alone that I felt safe keeping a journal. It was not something I did often or daily, but I did so when I felt the need. My need would often be from excitement or joy; however, most times it was anxiety, fear or depression.

After my oldest son, John, took his life, my journaling became constant. At the very least, once per day. Although I have some talent for writing, these journals (and there are many) are hardly coherent. My grief was so intense that my sentences made no sense whatsoever. I would pick up a pen and my journal and just write whatever came out. I now realize this was what I needed to do at that time. These mad writings were a purging and cleansing for me.

My writings read like that of a mad woman, but what recently bereaved mother does not teeter on the brink of  insanity? These writings are crazed, mean, angry and woeful. This bothered me for some time and I would not want anyone else to read them. I am considering having a burning ceremony now that my journals no longer serve me.

I journaled for about a year and a half after John crossed over. I believe that was when my need to cleanse myself of the most intense portion of my grief was no longer needed. I found other outlets at this points but the journaling served me well at the time.

For me writing is akin to talking with a therapist. I have always had trouble talking with my actual voice and expressing myself so writing is the perfect alternative for me. I am venting and letting all of my pain and anger out. The difference is that I am not seeking advice from the outside. I am looking within. Within is where our answers lie, I have discovered.

When I put pen to paper and do not premeditate on what I am about to write, it shows me what my pain is in ways that were not obvious before. It shows me what I must deal with and work through. Most importantly, it allows me to vent without judgment.

There are no rules to journaling. The beauty of it is that there is no right or wrong way to do this. You just do it. You just write and let all the pain out. There is no need to have a “talent” for writing. You just do it and let it come gushing out. And then you begin to heal. – Michelle