How Can Writing Help Process Cancer-Related Grief?

Janice Post-White, PhD, RN, FAAN, an oncology nurse and caregiver, comments on how the act of writing allowed her to process previously suppressed emotions.

What people mostly don’t want to talk about is often what they need to address, says Janice Post-White, PhD, RN, FAAN.

Post-White was an oncology nurse when her 4-year-old son, Brennan, was diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Her recently published book, “Standing at Water’s Edge,” delves into the fear and grief she felt while her son was undergoing treatment.

In an interview with Oncology Nursing News®, Post-White explains how the process of writing about her experience forced her to better understand her own emotions. Returning to her old journal entries allowed her to connect to her underlying fears and face the trauma of her son’s diagnosis.

"The most important thing I learned is the process of putting pen to paper; there is something about that physical connection of handwriting that triggers the nerves from your brain to your hand—you go where it takes you,” she reminisced.

"You sit down with an agenda and say, “I am going to write this today.” And you know what? I ended up with something totally different. You go wherever you want to go, wherever that leads you: follow it. Ask yourself: Do I need to go deeper? Because the other thing I learned is: What we most don't want to talk about, what we most don't want to write about, is really what we need to [write about], because that's what's buried.”

“So, dig deeper. Ask yourself: What am I thinking here? Why do I feel this way? Be curious. It's by doing that your inner subconscious feelings come out. That's when you open your heart and become vulnerable.”

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