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More MS news articles for March 2003

The Healing Power of Writing,2265,32924820,00.html

Feb 1, 2003
Greg Thiel
Real Living with Multiple Sclerosis

IN WRITING TO HEAL THE SOUL: Transforming Grief and Loss Through Writing, author Susan Zimmerman explores how writing can help ease the anguish brought by life-altering events-from job loss to divorce to the death of a loved one. Certainly, an MS diagnosis fits this category, as does the onset of new symptoms. In fact, the very act of living with MS is often about transforming grief and loss into hope-again and again and again.

Struggle to Understand

Ms. Zimmerman writes from personal experience. Grief Dancers: A Journey into the Depths of the Soul, her first book, is a memoir about living with an infant who developed Rett syndrome (a rare and baffling neurologic disease). Now in early adulthood, her daughter Katherine can neither walk nor speak. Grief Dancers was a result of personal journal entries, written as the author struggled to understand and accept her daughter's illness.

Writing to Heal the Soul builds on the idea that the simple act of writing helps the mind accept, absorb, and transform grief into healing energy. Each chapter explores a different aspect of this process, drawing on scientific research. The book presents real-life stories, describing how writing helped the author, and others, overcome loss and discover more about themselves and their life experiences.

Each brief, lyrically written meditation is followed by concise writing exercises that help readers explore their own experiences and emotions. Several chapters are helpful for people living with MS, including "Trying to Fix It," "Bad Days," "Taking a Risk," "Expectations Revisited," and "Sometimes Bad Is Good."

Ms. Zimmerman highlights these simple techniques to maximize the benefits of writing:

* Write where you won't be interrupted;

* Write about your deepest thoughts and feelings;

* Write frequently;

* Write for yourself and no other audience;

* Get professional help for serious depression.

Writing To Heal the Soul is a personal journey into the contemptation of life and its myriad transformations. One memory exercise instructs the reader to jot down 25 memories, good or bad, ordinary or life changing, and encourages him or her to select one of these recollections to explore in greater detail by describing how it felt then and how it feels now. This exercise can help unearth past experiences and reveal how they become integral parts of a person's life.

The book is not a how-to for successful writing; rather, the reader is encouraged just to keep writing and realize the benefits as they come. The book concludes with an annotated suggested reading list for those who may want more depth on a particular subject.

© 2003, Real Living with Multiple Sclerosis