THE BLOG

The Therapeutic Value in the Process of Writing a Memoir

Now that everything that was inside is out. I'm complete. I took myself around the journey of my life and I came back to where I am with a fuller deeper understanding of life and myself, the reasons why I am the way I am that I could not have had had I not taken the time to write my life story.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Ever since my beloved brother's death by suicide I had held onto his diaries avidly protecting them, always maintaining some vague undefined hope that I would one day do 'something' with them. I didn't know it would take over twenty years and I didn't know that what began as an ode to my brother would morph into an unparalleled journey of healing for me.

2015-10-14-1444782681-129935-IMG_0741.jpg

To have painted truth in words that are the very shadows of my soul...To write, to imagine and to be... My brother had written shortly before his death.

I began transcribing his diaries back in 2008 immersing myself in his beautifully emotive writing. Then I fell into a whirlwind relationship that saw me lost in the depths of magnetic attraction.

When the relationship ended suddenly, I found myself submerged in a deeply confusing torment where I could not differentiate the grief of the loss of my relationship from the grief associated with all the other losses in my life.

I began to write, and the vomit of words from within began. The regular expulsions came at random in opportune times, most often via pen to paper. The words that came weren't thought or filtered, rather borne of an inherent need to purge myself. I wrote, at that time, only for myself as if no one were ever going to read it.

Then, one night I awoke and without warning, my book unfolded in my head, the shape of it, the form and the title. It would be for me and for my brother -- it would be our story. I scribbled away in the notebook I had by my bed as if I were a woman possessed.

What had started as an expression of my confused emotions and in many ways, a repressed grief, turned subtly into what I can only reluctantly describe as a memoir based on a vague chronological flow through the defining events in my life. There was something about writing beyond the cathartic process that made me view my life very differently.

Having studied physiology I knew that we use different parts of our brain to speak, to think and to write, so it made perfect sense to me that writing should literally give me another perspective. I was seeing a therapist and allowing myself time to think. Writing enabled me to digest my past from a third dimension completing a triangle.

In order for the story to be intelligible to anyone else, I had to order my thoughts to put them into words and sentences that made sense, to create flow and somehow join the dots of my life. It literally forced me to connect my thoughts with my feelings and my past. I saw my life staring back at me in black and white from the pages that I had written and I found a new understanding of myself.

As I wrote I saw my life unfold before my very eyes. Memories long since forgotten, came back to me as did recollections of seemingly insignificant interactions along the way. The things that came through my pen, regularly surprised me. I saw how all my experiences fitted together to shape me. Now I could see their impact and it was if I were watching the jigsaw puzzle of my life, being put together, piece by piece. I saw as an adult, the trauma of my childhood and the small, frightened little girl that I had been. It afforded me understanding and compassion firstly for myself and then for others in my life for whom I had carried resentment. I let go of the past, releasing it onto the page in front of me and I forgave myself for my imperfections and my mistakes.

Now that everything that was inside is out. I'm complete. I took myself around the journey of my life and I came back to where I am with a fuller deeper understanding of life and myself, the reasons why I am the way I am that I could not have had had I not taken the time to write my life story.

Tara Lal's book, Standing on My Brother's Shoulders: Making Peace with Grief and Suicide, is published by Watkins.

_______________________
If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.