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Archive | Healing Memoir: Painful Memories Can Heal

As hard as it may seem now to accept that painful memories can heal if you face them, I hope you will trust me when I say that memoir writing—done well—will be therapeutic.

The forgotten memory

It is perhaps inevitable, when you write your memoir, that painful memories you had “forgotten” will resurface. These may stem from prolonged poverty, childhood humiliation, abuse, abandonment, addiction, etc. But, it doesn’t matter what the source of your painful memories is: you are weighed down by these memories and memoir writing is something you can do to alleviate that pain and to move on with your life.

Or, you may already be aware of your painful memories but are unwilling to evoke them, to re-live with them long enough to write about them. Perhaps they are still too difficult to linger with, or perhaps you are afraid you will not be able to handle the pain if it were to come back and you will become stuck again in that part of your life. This is, of course, a real concern—although becoming stuck again is by no means a probability.

Certainly psychological therapy can be an effective tool for gaining better emotional health. If therapy calls out to you, by all means pursue it. I would say that, if you are terrorized at the prospect of reliving an event, you would be wise to seek professional counseling.

There is another avenue that has been useful to me. Painful memories can heal when you submit them to the process of writing.

The incapacitating memory

If a memory is so difficult that you are still afraid of it, take this as an indication you haven’t gotten over it yet—and it will be such a relief when you do. If a memory is still sapping your emotional energy—whether you are consciously aware of it or not, memoir writing may be very healing for you.

Many of our coaching and editing clients have said to us, “Writing has proven to be therapeutic. It costs so much less than counseling, and in the end, you have a book of memoirs.”

In conjunction with this category, you will do well to read the articles about telling the truth in a memoir. It is a companion section as truth and pain are travel buddies from way back.

The many articles below will help you to work with and through painful memories by writing through them—thoughtfully and sensitively.

In conclusion

The following articles do not provide a “magic bullet,” but together they can point you in a direction you need to go in to deal with your pain. If painful memories are sapping your emotional energy—whether you are consciously aware of it or not, you will find these memoir-writing posts healing.

fear of revealing too much

Banish Fear of Revealing Too Much: Be a Bigger Presence in Your Memoir

The fear of revealing too much of ourselves in the memoir we are writing can be paralyzing. We wonder: “What will people say? How will people react to what I am revealing?” So… We hold back in our writing. We stop ourselves from personal revelation, from sharing secrets. The fear is founded—it’s not always a […]

woman writing on her notebook

Who is Your Memoir Narrator?

This may sound like a trick question, but it’s not. In fact, “who is your memoir narrator?”  is a very serious question that will determine—or at least greatly influence—the tone and the theme of your narrative and how your reader views your story as being truthful.


Writing more Deeply: The pain in telling the truth

My new memoir, French Boy (due out in the summer of 2023), is about my childhood. Much about this time in my life has a context that is unique and consequently different from that of my contemporaries. This memoir has a place in the world of memoirs, and I want it to find that place, […]

work with and through pain

Work With or Through Pain: Writing Painful Memories

In this video, Work With or Through Pain: Writing Through Painful Memories, I talk about writing through painful memories. Pain is often a barrier to memoir writing. Who wants to revisit difficult times? Although delving into the past is a generally pleasant experience and promotes healing and growth, it can also be painful.

theme-focused memoir

The Theme-focused Memoir

While many of the people whom I have helped to write a memoir have come ostensibly to write about their lives – to celebrate some achievement, I would say that many of these people are also writing a mission-driven memoir, a theme-focused memoir. Behind the desire to tell about their lives, there is some intent […]

surviving childhood abuse

Surviving Childhood Abuse: A Writer’s Experience

Congratulations to Denise Brown on the publication of her book, Transcending Darkness: A Memoir of Abuse and Grace. I recently had the opportunity to interview Denise about her experience writing her book on surviving childhood abuse.  I am pleased to share her experience. To read Part 2, click here. To read Part 3, click here.—DL […]

truth in memoir

“Making Nice” Will Trip You Up

You can always tell the story in the “official” version, but you will be at odds to tell the story well. When you distort your insights in order not to contradict other people’s take on your story, your readers will sense that something is wrong.