Telling our stories is one of the most healing processes after any trauma. Whether you lost your home and treasures in Katrina, lost nothing and have survivor’s guilt, went to the Gulf coast on work trips, you are a Katrina survivor, and journaling is one of the most healing ways you can tell your story.
Whether you have ten minutes or several hours, writing is valuable. This is not writing for English teachers. No one will see it but you unless you offer. You don’t have to worry about spelling or punctuation or organization. I am inviting you to a process called free writing, allowing to flow onto the page whatever comes up. In my experience, often things arise that surprise me.
The tools you need are simple, something to write on and with. I prefer sketchbooks (no lines) so I can write BIG if I want to emphasize and small if I want to whisper, but a lined composition book or blank notebook or copy paper will do just fine.
Begin by sitting quietly, tuning in to your heart. Maybe you want to light a candle. I usually do when I’m about to write. Maybe you want to gather around you photos or mementos of the time since Katrina. Take a few deep breaths, blowing out as long as you can.
Then maybe you will want to begin with one of these prompts or create your own:
- Free Writing. Start writing a sentence that begins something like this; then allow it take you wherever it leads: The time since Katrina has been a season of my life when . . . . Write as long as it flows; then you might want to intentionally remember the people, the sounds and silence, the sights, the smells, the tastes, the sensations of wind on your face and hugs. If you run out of something to say after a short time, just keep writing, maybe something like this: I’m not sure what else I want to say…. Usually something new will come forth.
- Reflections on Treasures Lost or Salvaged. Maybe you have a photograph or a vivid picture in your mind of something you treasure because it was a symbol of someone dear, a reminder of a time in your life that you remember with meaning and joy. Focus on that image. Start to tell the story of your life with that treasure. In Katrina’s Grace I wrote a story about my Singer sewing machine and my memories of my beloved mother-in-law teaching me to sew one it, of me teaching my daughter to sew on it, and of our hoping I would teach my little granddaughter to sew on that machine. Such treasures are the reminders of love relationships in our lives and they are not just stuff!
- Memories of Grace. You might begin by listing memories of good things that happened to you, or people who came to help, of inspirations you received. In Katrina’s Grace, I wrote about friends and strangers sending gifts, praying for us, coming to help. I even wrote about the grace of having a FEMA trailer on my lot so I could be at home. I wrote about the grace of remembering my life with my treasures and of the inspiration of nature as trees grew new leaves out of season.
- Reflections on How the Storm Changed You. As you remember the time since Katrina, you may realize that you are stronger, more resilient now. Maybe you want to write about the ways you are changed by your experience of the storm. This is an opportunity to look inward to see who you are now. Maybe you even want to notice signs of who you are becoming and write about those.
Journaling is a tool you can use any time. I hope these processes will enrich your life, take you to that deep place within where your spirit meets the Divine, and put you in touch with your Heart Wisdom.