3 Reasons to Write About the Worst Experience of Your Life

It’s been proven in many scientific studies that we writers are significantly more emotionally healthy than the general population.

Why is that?

Write Hard Things: 3 Reasons to Write About the Worst Experiences of Your Life

Because we write about the hard things of life. We write about the things that haunt others’ souls. We write about our pain, share our torment. We write about the worst experiences of our lives.

Why Write About Your Worst Experiences?

Writing about hard things is powerful and has more benefits than you may realize. Here are three reasons you should write about the worst experiences of your life.

1. Writing About Your Worst Experiences Heals

I’ve read numerous articles recently that have explained how beneficial writing is for one’s health. It has been shown that writing can help even physical injuries heal.

Research also shows that blogging is good for mental health. When a person writes, they process events around them in a healthier way, which reduces stress.

I’ve found this to be true in my own experience as a writer. As I write my own memoir, I have been amazed at the healing I’ve found from past hurts.

Basically, writing is really cheap therapy. Through blogging and personal journaling we are able to process situations in a healthy way that brings about a lot of healing.

I have found that this applies to fiction as well as nonfiction or personal writing. Even as we write fictional stories, so often we find pieces of ourselves amidst our own characters, and through writing about their experiences, we are able to process our own.

2. Easy Stories are Boring

Have you ever wondered why fairy tales end with, “and they lived happily ever after,” but rarely actually depict the happily ever after. That’s because the happy, bird-chirping, charmed life isn’t what people want to read.

We want to read about the struggle, the climax, and the solution.

Kid President says it himself: “Easy is boring. Anyone can be boring.”

Your worst experiences are the events that can most powerfully engage your audience and compel them to keep reading.

3. Writing About Your Worst Experiences Creates Credibility With Your Readers

Something that I’ve learned through writing about hard things on my blog is that it creates credibility and authority with my readers. When we are willing to share the hard things, we gain trust. Just like in a face-to-face relationship, building trust with readers often requires vulnerability.

When you share personal and even painful things, you create a bridge between you and your readers. And in turn, they are more likely to subscribe to your blog, buy your book, or tell a friend about what they read.

For example, books such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Fault in Our Stars are based on true, hard stories. They are bestsellers because readers can relate to feeling left out or witnessing friends and loved ones dying. These books put words to the pain readers are already feeling and help them feel understood.

When you write with honesty and vulnerability about the hardest things in your life, you have the power to inspire others. You inspire them to overcome their fears, and you help them know that they are not alone in their dark night of the soul.

Write Hard Things

The Key to Writing About Hard Experiences

I’ve had a lot of practice over the last few months writing about my worst experiences as I’ve written my memoir and confessed a few secrets on my personal blog.

The most important tip I have on how to write hard things is this: Remember hope.

Hope is the feeling of expectation that there is something better around the corner. Hope is what keeps us turning pages and scrolling down. Hope is the answer your readers are searching for.

Write about your worst experiences, but don’t end in the middle of the pain. Remember to hint at the sun behind the cloud or the hero around the corner.

Your reader needs this, and so do you.

Why do you write hard things? What can you write that will inspire someone today? Tell me in the comments below.

PRACTICE

Take fifteen minutes to write about a hard, painful experience. You can use a personal story or a fictional one. Remember the hope with which you want to inspire your readers.

When you’re done, practice being vulnerable by sharing your writing in the comments below, then leave feedback for your fellow writers.

About Kellie McGann

Kellie McGann is the author of the soon-to-be-released memoir, Undeserved Grace. Be sure to check out her blog, kelliemcgann.com, and follow her on Twitter (@McgannKellie). She contributes to The Write Practice every other Wednesday.

  • love this Kellie! I have seen how writing has affected you!!

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    Your words tugged at my heart – thank you, lovely Kellie! #HUGS

    • Kellie McGann

      Thanks Kitto, your encouragement is such a gift!

  • Gary G Little

    I was going to re-write the following for this exercise, but I’ve decided the original is best. I wrote this some months ago, and it took about 15 minutes to produce. It was written during a low period, and may have provided some of the healing mentioned, simply by having pouried it onto electronic paper.

    Coffee before me, iPad up and keyboard connected, the mushy feel of the keys beckoning to be pressed, but I wonder if I should write this. Damn, just do it.

    I am a survivor. Yes of cancer, both prostate and melanoma, but I think I am mostly a survivor of suicide. Not mine, obviously, though there are times I feel like it was mine. I survive her, but I never forget her. I never cease wondering if there were not one thing that I might have done, just one, no matter how small, that might have made a difference, that I might have lived the passed seven years with her. I’ve been told time and time again, no there was nothing I could have done, no it was only a matter of time, no, if not then, then another time would have presented itself. But that does not stop me from wondering and thinking maybe if I had done this, or that.

    I am a survivor. I walk the skywalk, see someone in front of me and think that’s Jimmie, and then think no it can’t be. I smell a smell and think of Jimmie. I hear a song, and being in a chorus we have many songs that flood my memory with Jimmie. One song I do not, will not sing, “Fields of Gold”, because I think of Jimmie and that last awful day. I see her on the floor, I hear the voice of the 911 operator, I remember the clarity of mind to make sure that once I start, I not stop CPR. I put the dogs in the office, run downstairs and unlock the front door. “Feel her body rise when I kiss her mouth”? No, I hear her ribs break as I begin CPR, listening to the 911 operator talking to me. I hear the knock of the first responders on the front door. I hear an ER doctor asking if there is a DNR, and I hear my voice, answering yes. I do not sing “Fields of Gold” because I am a survivor.

    I am a survivor. And, believe me, there are many times that it sucks.

    • Tina

      Dear Gary,

      In the last year, I have read numerous posts on this forum. None have had the effect on me that yours has. Believe that there are lots of people in this life that have been through what you describe. Know that it takes just the one person – you – to write events in such a way, that readers relive regardless of never experiencing first hand. Thank you for sharing. X

    • Dang. That was beautiful and heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing!

    • Kellie McGann

      Gary, Thank you for writing this.
      You do write in a way that makes me feel as if I were almost there.
      I’m so sorry.

    • Maya

      As a fellow survivor, I thank you for sharing your story. Though my family and I semi-survived that still-shocking experience, we separated from each other, so scarred we could not comfort ourselves never mind one another in the lifetime we’ve lived since then.

      I’ve yet to put my heart to paper and won’t until I am ready or … able to do that.

      I wanted to tell you Gary and to tell Laurie Thompson Gardner how much I admire you for telling your story. I found when attempting to write about my life after my sister’s self-induced death that I felt much like I was simply reliving it again; I ripped out my guts to get words on a page I could never reread or edit.

      I will tell you one truth I know now after all the years and tears, after knowing others who’ve done the same to themselves and their beloved circle of family and friends.

      There is not one thing on God’s good earth that could have stopped my sister, nothing, because this young girl believed she was doing the right thing for the rest of us.

      Thanks to both of you for the guts it took to share. That tells me that someday maybe I share my story too.

      • Susan W A

        powerful realization of possibilities for additional avenues for healing. thank you for your honesty. Best of luck to you.

    • Susan W A

      so many poignant statements which instruct those of us who have not lived through this. “the original is best” … most certainly. “I am a survivor.” … the pain you must endure. “I never cease wondering.” “I walk the skywalk.” “I see someone … I smell a smell … I hear a song”

      “I see her on the floor” … I am so sorry.

      “And, believe me, there are many times that it sucks.” … the gripping agony and loss. Your thoughts are beautifully expressed, bringing tenderness to a soul-deep hurt. Thank you.

  • Names have been changed to protect identities:

    Dad’s phone was ringing. John, a neighbor was on the phone- “Sam, why would the sheriff’s department be at your house? I don’t know we are in Champaign, I guess Dallas did something, probably going to turn out like his father. Dad and Mom were raising Dallas their grandson. Dad hangs up, where to you want to go next?

    I had started my day by waking up from a horrific nightmare about my husband and then having a challenging work day. When I got home instead of going to bed I had a need to do something. So, I had asked if anyone wanted to go to Champaign I needed to get out. I had been at my parent’s for awhile, my husband was a couple thousand miles away. I suppose the Divine knew I needed to be there at this time. My dad had a heart attack two months before. I was there for that as well.

    I had a bad feeling, I felt a interrupt in being able to connect energetically with Dallas’s being. Dad I said, at least call John back before we do anything else, somethings off. He kept on with him doing something like his father, my brother has been and out of legal trouble most of his life. As was Austin’s mother.

    John this is Sam, do you know what’s up? No, something with Dallas. I suggested having him walk over to the sheriff and asking. He did. The sheriff would only say there had been an incident with Dallas. Dad hangs up- “i think we should go ahead and do what we came for, he’s doing just like his dad.”

    My gut says something is really wrong. They keep thinking he is screwing up like his parents. I get another feeling. I took a deep breath, “one thing we know for certain there is nothing we can do until we get home. Something is wrong, we need to go find out we are not going to enjoy ourselves worrying about it.

    The longest forty-five minute drive of my life ensued from here. Things went downhill as we pulled into this small farming town in Illinois, the street was lined with people. Their pastor was there as was most of the town, we had to drive through the yard to get there. The tension immense.

    The sheriff meets us at the door. We need to go somewhere and talk. Let’s go in. There was a debate of whether we could or not. We get just inside the door and dad demands to know what is happening. The sheriff wants us to sit, dad insists. The sheriff says let me introduce you to the coroner, Mr. Thomas. Dad clutches his chest and falls to the floor. Dallas is dead. Is dad having a heart attack mom is panicked.

    He shot himself with a 12- gauge. Mom and dad leave for the hospital they need to check dad out. I am left with the circus around me. All the people and chaos. Finally, the take his body. The sheriff wants to know if I need to have someone stay while I get clothes for us all. I decline.

    A neighbor insists on staying. I head upstairs reluctantly, as this is where it happened. Oh NO!!!! NO! They left his door open and the light on. Its been almost a year, and I still have that image of what remained everywhere.

    • Kellie McGann

      Laurie, thank you so much for writing this.
      You write it very well and I read it quickly.
      There are so many people affected by things like this, I’m so sorry.
      Thank you for sharing.

      • You are welcome, I came back to reread it, and I know not the best written piece but it was good to share as I never told my family what I saw upstairs or that I even saw anything. It is very helpful to write about things like this. He would’ve been 18 tomorrow and he died last May.

        • Susan W A

          wishing you the inner spark of joy remembering, really feeling the true essence of your loved one as the precious baby entering life and all those special, even mundane moments you shared throughout his life.

    • Susan W A

      each of those moments that stretched to eternity are expressed through your words. an unimaginable experience. I am so sorry you had to see “what remained everywhere.” “Oh NO!!!! NO!”

      I take a deep breath to release the hurt which accompanies. thank you for your courage to address and share this excruciating life event.

      • Thank you for your kind and supportive replies Susan. Today I celebrated the life he lived, next month will mark a year since his death on the 17th of May it will be hard as it was a small town and he would be graduating from high school this year… lives forever changed, yet the good is the strong community and close ties that are now forever laid, the compassion for others in their hearts, after knowing Austin and his story, much of which they (the community) did not know until after his death, as they moved from one state to another a year and a half ago. You never know the path another has walked that has landed them where they are… another story another time. 🙂

  • Editing is Important

    “While the rest of the world *lets their agony sleep…”

    • Kellie McGann

      Thank You!
      I caught the edit in the picture, but not in the text.
      We all need editing/editors 🙂

  • I’m sorry, but I must correct a couple things: 1) “It’s been proven in many scientific studies.” No, it hasn’t. Science doesn’t work that way. We either gather evidence for, or disprove something.
    2) The articles you linked to merely report on the findings of said studies. It takes a bit of digging to find the actual studies. When you do and read them, three things stand out. A) They are small groups, B) The findings haven’t been replicated and C) the newest one is from 2004.

    Even so, I’m not trying to dissuade you from writing. Have at it. It is awesome and will enhance your enjoyment of what you read.

  • Chloee

    I don’t like hostpitals, I mean who does? They smell like cleaner and the hordes of doctors scurrying from one place to the other makes my head spin but now I have a reason to not like them.

    I remember the many visits to the hospitals, the most frightening when I woke up and you and mom had gone because it was so bad. I remember the fear and anger. Anger because we had already been though so much and now we had yet another obstacle, but I did what I always do. Smile and be the brave one for the younger siblings.

    I didn’t want you to know I was scared because being weak wasn’t a option for me then, it was one I didn’t want to take. I remember standing in that stuffy elevator with the family, all eight of us crammed in ghere. I remember the way my shoes squeaked on the tiled floor, echoing though the halls filled with IV’s and staff.

    I can see you laying in the hospital bed, weak and confused. The surgery was a success but if we had waited longer you would’ve died, something my mind can’t even fathom into a reality. I made jokes and acred like nothing was wrong but inside I didn’t want to face what had happened, I wanted to cry or punch something but I stood there making stupid smart mouth comments about life because that’s what I do when I’m stressed out, I talk and act like a idiot.

    A year later you’re back and better then ever. I still worry about it, knowing runs in the family but I don’t fear losing you anymore dad.

    • Kellie McGann

      Chloee, thanks for sharing this, I can relate to it a lot.
      You’re right, no one likes hospitals.
      I really like the way you wrote without telling who it was in the hospital, it allowed your reader to connect it to the people in their lives as well.
      Well written, powerful, thank you for sharing!

      • Chloee

        Thank you so much! I’m glad that you can relate, I also understand whatever tragic events that happen I relaize hoe tough it gets. I hope for you in whatever you’re facing and wish you luck and happiness.

    • Susan W A

      “we had already been through so much, and now we had yet another obstacle” … the burden this is, wondering when there will be relief. Taking on the “responsibility” of being strong and brave and cheerful, while dealing with the lonely inner journey to accompany a loved one with health problems. Not having enough information, not knowing if the future comes today or days or months down the road. Playing a role that need not be yours at an early age. Working through that and releasing the fear.

      Thank you for sharing.

      • Chloee

        Thank you for your words and understanding.

    • First of all, I’m so sorry for the passing of your loved one. I, myself, know how hard it is losing loved ones to death. I had a brother who back in November of 1988, was in a bad car accident at the age of 17, because he was a passenger in a car of a drunk driver. My brother was in the hospital for almost 2 weeks, hooked up to machines, because he was comatose, before he eventually died. So, I definitely can relate to what you say about watchig a loved one die in the hospital, especially when they are rapidly slipping away. However, I also believe the Lord gives us the strength and courage to endure just about anything life throws our way. it’s also comforting just knowing he is always there to comfort his children and guide them out of the turmoil somehow.

      • Chloee

        I’m so sorry for your lose. I watched my dad tip toe on the fine line between life or death but I was lucky enough not to lose him but I can’t imagine what you felt like and I’m so sorry, but I do agree with you and the Lord. I’ve had a bit of a rocky relationship with faith but I’m going these events I my life can strengthen me. Thank you.

  • The Permanent Mark On My Heart
    By Kiki Stamatiou a. k. a. Joanna Maharis

    Everyone has something in his past that has left a permanent mark on his heart, whether, if be something cruel someone has said or did, or it could have been so bad, a father tells his own daughter she should have never been born and he and her mother should have aborted her long before her birth.

    That was what I was told by my father when I was twelve years old after he beat the tar out of me. He was furious with me for even existing. I remember all of the words he said to me that day. They were, “What do we keep you around for. The two boys, I have no problem with. They are sharp, alert, smart, and are going places with their life. They
    will go very far in life. But you, what the h— can we do with you?” He said while grabbing me by the hair, yanking it with one hand, and slapping my face with the other, while breaking all the capillaries of my flesh. Then, he grabbed a hold of me, lifted me up in the air, threw me across the room. My body hit the wall of the opposite end of the room. Then I dropped to the floor face down. He then grabbed a hold of my hair again,
    pulled me up to my feet, and hauled me into the kitchen put my face all the way down into the kitchen sink, because he didn’t care for the way I cleaned the house. Keep in mind I was only 12 years old.

    My mother was at work at our family carwash with my aunt. That cruel, beastly father of mine came home early to make sure I didn’t sneak out anyplace, not that I ever did
    anyway. He didn’t trust me. However, I was as trustworthy as people came.

    Anyway, after pounding my face into the sink, kicking me from behind, he took a heavy fry pan and struck me in the legs. He wanted to make me suffer for ever being born.

    Then, he spat in my face, saying, “You are nothing but an ugly piece of sh–. You’re no good for sh–. You’ve brought this whole family nothing but bad luck just by being born.
    You are a bad omen.”

    He’s the one who was crazy.

    Years passed after I finally got away from him. I went through post traumatic stress
    disorder. However, throughout my ordeal of torture and the p. t. s. d., I turned to the Lord to confide my troubles to, looking to him for strength and guidance. Over the years from childhood onward, I’ve grown closer to God. I’ve always thought of God himself as the Father of all fathers who provide guidance somehow to all his children,
    especially to those who are in need of him the most. I believe he sends down his army of angels who are none other than my deceased loved ones who watch over me, especially doing so during the times I had difficulties with my father.

    © Copyright, Kiki Stamatiou, 2015

    • Kellie McGann

      Wow, Kiki, thank you for sharing this piece. It is really powerful and touching. I hope it was a good experience writing it, even though I’m sure it was hard.
      My favorite part is the end, the last paragraph. That’s some great hope :).

      • Kellie McGann, thank you. It was an honor to share this story with everyone here. Yes, looking back on the experience was hard in some ways for me. However, on the same token, I realize that by sharing my experience, I could help others in some way either going through or who had gone through similiar experiences. And there’s is hope in the story, especially having a strong belief and faith in the Lord who always guides his children toward a better path to take in life, somehow making life a little easier.

    • Susan W A

      Thank you for sharing that. I cannot even imagine. I am sending my love to your 12-year-old self, hoping that through your work she knows that she deeply deserves, has the right to, and receives at this moment all the love, creativity, encouragement, support that she/you need as the foundation for an amazing life.

    • 709writer

      It took so much courage to share that. You are a strong individual and I pray God will heal your mind from the physical and emotional abuse you suffered in the past. Jesus is with you always, Kiki!

      • Thank you, 709writer for your kind words. I too believe that the Lord is there to guide me throughout life. I also believe he was present in my life during the difficult times, as he has brought me so much strength.

    • What a lovely ending to a horrible experience.
      Jon

  • Lauren Timmins

    The worst and most terrible time of life can only, in my opinion, be perceived by those who have lived awhile. I have experienced bad things, but I know I have not yet seen the worst of all. My worst point so far occurred on a staircase. My father grabbed my neck and dragged me down them quite violently. I remember choking, having no weight on my feet and being bounced off of walls repeatedly. However I have been told that this simply wasn’t possible, and since I suffered no lasting physical damage it wasn’t all that bad, and I deserved it anyways. This event upsets me still, yes, but nothing as bad as it has happened since, and if it had then I think it would be right to say that this was the worst that would happen. But it isn’t. As a child I witnessed second handedly the horror of nearly losing a parent. My grandfather was in and out of hospitals for six months, and all I could do was try to eavesdrop on late night phone calls and string together words like “cardiac arrest” and “relapse” and “respiratory complications”. I went through a good portion of first grade without my teacher, and the days she was there I watched as her beautiful auburn hair disappeared into a bandanna. In fifth grade I sat quietly on the playground near the teachers, drawing with chalk, and there I overheard problems with divorces and an abusive husband. Today I have friends who are addicted to cigarettes, acquaintances who have passed by their own hands, know of a girl with scars running up and down her arms from a razor blade. I see people who are destroying themselves. There was a man who shot himself in a park and a blue eyed boy who had everything for him leave the Earth too soon. I do not have the right to claim a worst time. I can say I have been a witness left to wonder at night how many people are hurting, and how many will be gone before sunrise.

    • Susan W A

      oh my goodness. touched me to my core. yes, we also express pain for others’ pain, whether known firsthand or not. your description of your own abuse is heart wrenching. aarrggghhhhhh the emotional heaped onto the physical. I am so sorry those adults in your life violated your tender hearted humanity.

    • Shalini

      Really moving! The last line has a very strong impact..! Keep going! 🙂

      • Marilyn Starks

        I like what you have shared and could visualize the picture your words have drawn. Thank you for sharing.

    • 709writer

      Very real and true. We never know how others are suffering, which is why we have to strive to give others hope. Thank you for sharing something so personal.

    • Kellie McGann

      Reminded me of the quote, “Be kind always, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

      Thanks for sharing your story, your insight is well written and true.

    • Powerful words, thank you for sharing.

    • Like Shalini below said, that last line is impressive. Thanks for sharing.

    • That is very powerful. So true that our problems often dwindle in comparison to others.

      I have heard it said that you can’t compare your sadness to someone else’s just like you can’t compare your happiness to theirs. Why should we be less happy because others are happier, or less hurt because others are hurting more? Each person’s life is utterly unique, and we each have to deal with our own pain. An experience on a playground might alter one person’s life more than someone else losing a parent. It is all very relative.

    • And just those thoughts are the beginning at some level for hope to spring up. You know the pain, is it in you to write about the release from the pain, to teach others that hard choice? Great emotion in this. Jon

  • Susan W A

    I wanted to share a couple pieces I wrote in the past to support friends and friends of friends who lost loved ones (such as mothers of children still young).

    Her touch … I feel
    Her smile … I see
    Her voice … I hear
    Her skin … I smell
    Her love … I know and keep

    Her message, while unspoken, is clear. Her love is strong and ever-present. All her hopes and dreams for you are part of you. You can gather the pieces elsewhere and everywhere, but the essence is within you. She wants the best for you. She wants you to keep trying, do your best, be kind to yourself and others, to try new things, to be safe, to gather strength from others and from within, to remember the joys, to know it’s okay – very okay – to be sad, very sad. But that is only one part of life; it doesn’t define you. She is with you, and you will grow and thrive, and you know she would be very proud of you, just as you are proud of yourself.

    • Kellie McGann

      Thanks for sharing Susan, I really like that you write for the people who are left behind. It is very encouraging and touching.
      Definitely hits home, thank you.

      • Susan W A

        thank you.

    • That is a beautiful reminder, too often we lose sight of the life we are still gifted when grieving.

      • Susan W A

        thank you.

  • 709writer

    The worst time in my life was when my grandfather contracted lung cancer. He was in the hospital for months. I remember sitting in the waiting room hour after hour, praying and hoping he would be okay, that he would somehow pull through. He did eventually have surgery and the cancer was successfully removed, but he developed pneumonia, and his health deteriorated. I will never forget the moment I found out he had died. Early one morning, my dad came into my room and sat on my bed, and said, “Grandpa died last night.” My world shattered as I had to deal with a grief I had never felt before. We went to another state to bury my grandfather–it was the longest day of my entire life. When we came back home, I went to my room and cried. And as the days and weeks and months went by, I had to watch my dad and my mom and brother and grandmother grieve, and there was nothing anyone could do to change it. March was the fourth anniversary of my grandfather’s passing. I still see it in my dad’s face, that grief, that sadness. Time has softened the edge, but that pain is still there, in all of us, especially my dad.

    And last year, my grandmother remarried. I was angry and I felt so betrayed. How could she betray the memory of my grandfather? And how could she do that to my dad? My dad told me gently that my grandmother is older, and may not have many years left, and that he wants her to be happy. I want her to be happy, too, so I am torn between wanting that for her, and having disbelief and anger that she would remarry. She does seem happy, however, and I love her. It just hurts me and my family at the same time. The hope that we cling to is knowing that my grandfather was a Christian, so that one day, we will see him again.

    Recently, the first year anniversary has come and gone for the passing of a dear friend’s sister. While it isn’t the same as losing my own sibling, it is still really hard to watch my friend have to go through this, watching he and his whole family have to deal with such pain and loss. My way of dealing with loss has always been to never mention the family member, by name or otherwise, so with my friend I do the same thing. But I notice that sometimes he brings her up with a smile, telling us about something she used to do or a song that she liked. Me and my family pour as much love and laughter into he and his family’s life as we can. Hearing him laugh gives me hope that he’ll be okay. What I want more than anything is just for him to be okay. To be able to continue his life and be joyful in spite of the loss.

    If you guys ever think about my family or the family of my friend, keep them in your prayers.

    • Kellie McGann

      Thanks for sharing and writing this. The hope that you will see your grandfather again is so great 🙂
      Your writing hits home, I bet your friend would love to read what you wrote, it certainly shows how much you care.
      You guys are in my prayers. <3

      • 709writer

        Thank you so much for your kindness–it really touches me. : )

    • At twenty-one, that is very similar to the hardest day of my life. I appreciate you sharing as it reminds me even though I have this last year felt much harder days, our connections to others and memories of loved ones help us keep going. My parents living in a very small rural community have been blessed with an outpouring of love and support as they have moved through my nephews death. If we all could realize the strength we give one another we could really heal this world. Blessings to you and your friend and families.

      • 709writer

        Thank you, Laurie. Praying for your family and wishing you comfort in the loss of your nephew. Hang on to those precious memories.

    • Good to read this, even though it’s sad. I absolutely believe in the power of writing as therapeutic.
      Thank you for sharing this with us.

      • 709writer

        Thank you for your kindness. I know this is a safe place to share–no one ever puts people down and everyone builds each other up. Thanks again. : )

  • Love this post. I can think of two separate things I’ve written about that were quite obviously unpleasant; the passing of our Welsh Corgi and a hike through the mountains that went sideways.

    I’ve linked to both for anyone interested in them;

    My father-in-law and I attempted to hike the first part of the Arizona Trail at the tail end of 2013 and it didn’t go too well when snow came in a little early.
    https://crzydjm.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/the-hike/

    Last May we put our Welsh Corgi to sleep and it was easily one of the worst experiences of my family’s time together
    https://crzydjm.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/hanna-the-lovely/

    • Kellie McGann

      Thanks for sharing!
      These stories are very relatable!

  • Stepping off the plane, I shouldered my carryon bag and quick-stepped down the jet bridge. It was the end of a very, very long day of travel, which had started in a sleepy English village that morning, continued through to the city of Manchester, over the ocean to Chicago O’Hare, and culminated here, over 4,000 miles away in rural Arkansas. One day, a car, a train, and two planes later, I was home.

    My brother ran towards the gate. Rumpled hair standing up in all directions, his backpack bouncing up and down, comfortable shoes skimming across the floor, he ran for all he was worth toward the end of the hall. I imagined the waiting area where our parents would be standing just across the line, craning their necks for a glimpse of us. I’d looked forward to this moment for nine long months.

    But for some reason my feet would only movie sluggishly. The white tile floor felt like molasses dragging me down. Coming almost to a full stop, I made myself round the last corner. When I saw my family up ahead, their tear-streaked faces and wild smiles, I could only muster a tired grin.

    We greeted, hugged, laughed, and rejoiced that the waiting was over, but it wasn’t as I’d imagined it. It wasn’t a fireworks-and-birthday-cake moment. It wasn’t Christmas. It was coming home, except that my soul rebelled against calling it home.

    I felt numb, and it was the most painful non-feeling I’ve ever experienced. I wanted to laugh with a light heart, I wanted to hear everything, say everything, but I also wanted to go to sleep and not wake up for a very long time. And I wanted to wake up somewhere else. I wasn’t even sure where. The word “home” didn’t have much meaning anymore.

    In the next weeks I remained numb. Sad farewells back in England, happy returns here—neither seemed to matter. It was a time of limbo, dazed confusion. Nothing had changed here, and yet everything had. This was the next step in my adventure, but why did it feel as if I’d stepped off into dead space?

    My heart didn’t cry for a very long time. I didn’t feel the need to cry. But then the memories came knocking one by one, and at last I wasn’t able to shut them out. They brought back feeling, like that horrible hot tingle you get when you move a sleeping limb. It hurt, it hurt worse than I’d hurt in a long while, but at least it wasn’t numbness.

    And after a while, the happy feelings came back too.

    • Kellie McGann

      Abigail, thanks so much for writing this! This is so great, I’ve experienced this before after coming home from a lot of trips.
      Embrace how you have changed.
      Thanks for writing this experience in such a beautiful way!

  • Thomas Furmato

    Pain is often tolerable when it all comes from forces without. Within, there can be a fortress of strength that can be relied on for protection and comfort. To me, the worse kind of pain is there I, in myself, have contributed to bring the pain on, or to assist in it’s attack.

    Consider the scene of betrayal in a walled city that is being buffeted on every side. It’s strong walls are a defense. There is damage taken from the warring armies, but within it’s gate there is a core of fortitude, bearing even the most brutal attack. The city will stand long after the enemy has retreated.

    But what of the injury that comes from within? When the gates are left unlocked, or the weaknesses exposed? What if when danger comes to our personal lives that is nothing but brute force or sharp words, our own heart and mind betrays us?

    My deepest memories of pain are not of broken relationships, or physical torments, though those are catalogued in my life’s memories. My worse pain is thinking about the prefaces to such stories, knowing how I failed. Thinking about how I helped lead the onslaught, or even instigated the calamity.

    It is acknowledging these faults that can help scour my self, to prevent such pain in the future. There will be emotional turmoil slung in this direction, and even physical pain almost beyond endurance; but, when my core is solid and I stand upon a rock, I can say at any time, bring it on.

    • Kellie McGann

      Wow, Thomas thanks for sharing.
      This is really deep and descriptive; it’s great!

    • Marilyn Starks

      So true, more powerful for me has been the inner pains I carry in my heart and soul. I’ve learned that with each step and phase through my life, the inner pain is slower to ease, than the physical. Thank you for sharing.

  • madeline40

    I totally agree. I wrote a memoir about my son’s bipolar disorder and surviving his suicide and it did change my life. It helped me heal, it allowed me to rant and grieve in my own way, and it gave me the gift of a published book. Since then I feel empowered to write honestly and rawly about the tough events of my life.

    • Kellie McGann

      Madeline! I love this success story!
      I’m so glad that writing did that for you, thanks for sharing!

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  • Amanda B.

    I think this is a great way to face emotions you may not even know you’re experiencing. Here is part of a story I had written, and believe me, it really did help.

    ******
    I never really knew my father. I knew I had one, I knew he
    had kidnapped me when I was two years old, and I knew that when my mother found
    me I was filthy, in torn clothes, and matted hair. Yet, with this knowledge I
    had an odd idea of the kind of man he was. This perfect figure, this person,
    that if he just met me, got to know me, all this doubt about who I am would
    shed away. I would finally be able to fill this emptiness, this feeling of not
    quite being a whole person.

    My teenage years were hard. Not because of my upbringing,
    not because I didn’t get enough love as a child, but because I made them that
    way. I was the cause of all my problems, I was the reason everything was so
    screwed up, and I was the reason that my father never made an attempt to
    contact me, not even a birthday card. At least, that’s what I always told
    myself.

    It wasn’t an especially cool day, a slight breeze that
    rolled in off the ocean, but not enough to warrant a jacket of any kind. But
    for Florida, in November, that wasn’t unexpected either. I was fidgeting in the
    passenger seat of my mother’s car. The fabric smelled of smoke and I had to
    roll my window down to escape it. Neither of us said anything as we drove down
    the road heading to get lunch. She was angry with me, I knew that. I knew that
    what I was doing was killing her. And to be completely honest, at the time I didn’t
    even know why I was doing it. I just knew that I couldn’t be in her house
    anymore. Like she was this horrible person, and through my jaded immature eyes
    at fifteen, she was.

    “I have something to tell you.” She said, finally breaking
    the silence between us. Without even turning my head to look at her, my eyes
    rolled in complete teenage sarcastic fashion before I finally responded “You’re
    pregnant.”

    “No, I’m not pregnant. We’re not going to lunch. We’re going
    to the sea turtle.”

    “Why are we going to your work? I don’t want to sit in that
    damn hotel all day.”

    “First, don’t you dare talk to me that way. And second, we’re
    going there because your dad is here and wants to see you.”

    Dad…. My dad was here? I felt like my heart had stopped.
    This fictitious man, one I had only imagined in my head, one who if he had
    passed me on the street I never would have known. Was here.

    I remember the feeling wash over me. I remember feeling cold
    and hot at the same time. I remember the goosebumps rise on my arms and the
    back of my neck like a prickling cactus. I remember the hurt, the anger, and
    the fear. The fear that this man, the one who I had only ever known through my
    own imagination, would reject me all over again. I remember it all.

    As I look back on that day, I am grateful. Grateful for my
    actions that led my mother to calling him, while regretting them at the same
    time. Grateful to her for sending me to live with him in another state for six
    months. For the chance to get to know my brothers, brothers who I had never
    even known existed till then.

    It’s been almost twenty years now since that day. I can
    still recall every moment of it. I had always wished that I could have a
    relationship with my father. But the day I left his house to return home to my
    mother was the last time I had any real conversation with him. Over the following
    years I would try. I would call him, and talk with him, my brothers, and my
    step mother. I would tell him about my own children, his grandchildren, and I
    would talk about my life. Getting him to talk was like pulling teeth.

    Finally I gave up. I stopped trying to reach out to him. I
    stopped trying to force something that would only work if it went both ways. I
    had resigned myself to the notion that if my father wanted a relationship with
    me he would try. He would call me. He would make an attempt. Those attempts
    never came.

    On the day my cell phone rang, and I saw my aunt’s name, my
    dad’s sister, I answered right away. It had been a while since I talked to her,
    and I was excited to tell her everything in my life, and see what she had been
    up to.

    “Are you sitting down sweetheart? Do you have someone there
    with you?” her voice was broken and horse. It cracked as if she were eighty
    years old, which she was very far from.

    “Yes, I’m sitting down. Why?”

    “I have some bad news. Your father passed away this morning.”

    I felt the tears burn as they flooded my eyes. My breath
    caught in my throat, and my chest tightened. Nothing. No words came to respond
    to her. I crumbled and hung up. Not meaning to hang up on her, but I just fell
    onto my bed.

    My emotions swirled through my whole body. Hurt, sadness,
    confusion, until one emotion roared to the top of them all. I was angry. I was
    angry at him. I was angry that he never reached out to me. That he never
    attempted to have a relationship with me. That he didn’t seem to care about me enough
    to even want to talk to me. Angry at the rejection I felt. I was angry and hurt
    that now I was never going to get to have that relationship with him. My
    children would never know him.

    Suddenly, as quickly as the anger rose, another feeling came
    over me. I heard a voice in my head “Selfish, you’re selfish to be angry with a
    man who is dead. You should feel sad for him, No other reaction is right. You’re
    wrong. WRONG to feel this way!”

    I walked around in a haze for a few days after that. In
    shock. It didn’t feel real. It couldn’t be real. He wasn’t old enough to just
    be gone. But yet, he was. The anger came back, welling up in my stomach. I
    could feel my face getting red and I could feel that voice coming back to tell
    me again how wrong I was to feel this way.

    “I’M NOT WRONG!” I shouted.

    Just saying it made me feel better, let alone shouting it.
    And I wasn’t wrong. I had a right to feel how I did. He treated me horribly. His
    actions made me feel unworthy of his love, time, and attention. His actions
    shaped how I judged the men in my life.

    Eventually my anger subsided. I didn’t wear it on the
    outside anymore. But when I think back on it, I can still feel the twinge of
    anger in my stomach. You’re feelings, no matter what they are, are not wrong.
    Everyone has a right to their feelings. Something I wish I had learned sooner.

    *****

    • Kellie McGann

      Wow, you wrote this beautifully, I’m so sorry.
      You’re right. Everyone has a right to their feelings, I’m just learning that too. Glad you know you are worthy of that.
      Thank you for sharing your story. <3

  • I have so many worst experiences in my life that I could write a book. WOW, what a concept. Seriously though, one that comes to mind had something to do with my military experience in Germany many years ago. I was stationed as a military police officer and was investigating a crime in a rural section of the Baden area. Myself and four others were checking out a building in the forest and realized that it was a dead end. We decided to bivouac there that particular night. These were erected buildings for travelers throughout Germany as a place to rest. We had noted that there was a small village a few klicks down the road where three of us decided to go get some schnitzel and beers. I declined and the guys said they would bring me something back. About two in the morning, I was sleeping soundly in my zipped up sleeping bag when a thunderous sound startled me from the rafters above me. It sounded like something or someone was there, and since we hadn’t made contact with our suspect, I immediately decided that getting out of there was the best course of action. Shortly thereafter, my comrades returned and we made a thorough search. We discovered our suspect and took him into custody. Shortly thereafter we went back into the cabin to pack up and to our amazement discovered my sleeping bag was still zipped up to the top. Was I that frightened that I was able to jump out of the bag without unzipping? I’ll never know.

    • Kellie McGann

      This is a really interesting story! Draws the reader in and definitely makes me feel like I’m there with you. Thank you for your service, and writing!

  • I think reason #2 resonates with me the most. Not because Kid President is cool (which he certainly is), but more so because it helped me realize that I enjoy reading stories that allow me feel deep and intense emotions. No overwhelming surprise there, right? But, it is surprising, perhaps, that I welcome those stories that border on painful. Those stories immerse you completely inside human conflict. You become the character and the revelation of their internal thoughts and external actions almost help to train your own emotional muscles to deal with difficult situations in a safe environment.

    But, there’s another word that is coupled with that pain – hope. It is in the hope that we can prevail in the face of any obstacle or difficulty that we willing embark on what can be an emotional roller coaster ride. It’s stories, memoirs, and insights such as these – centered around deep human emotion and hope – that have shaped my own writing and outlook on life.

  • Kellie,

    I learned about expressive writing recently and have been trying to write about my personal experiences to channel my pain. It takes time for me to go into my past childhood abuse and neglect, but your post made me realise this could be a path to recovery or a form of “free therapy”.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Cheers,
    Anh

  • Carol Anne Olsen Malone

    About two years ago, my husband went through a crisis of faith. We had been totally and “equally yoked together” in our particular belief system and shared our faith and religious practices. Because he listened to and read from a man claiming our religious path was wrong, my husband abandoned our faith for another. This action devastated me because I no longer had his support or faith to shore me up. I was left to flounder in a sea of his disbelief and navigate by myself. It was then that my desire to write started to taper off. It had steadily decreased until I’m not writing at all on new novels and have left several incomplete without the will to finish them. I recently found “The Artist’s Way” by Julie Cameron and began her 12 step program to rid myself of the pain and angst and start believing in my creativity as being a gift of the Creator. So each morning I write out my pain and frustrations. I have written a book about my experiences with my husband. I hope it will help other people. I haven’t completely healed, but the act of writing every morning in something Julie calls “morning pages,” I’m able to write about the worst experiences of my life in the hopes that I can turn around and help other people. Thank you, Kellie for your timely and extremely wise words even though I didn’t find them until today. Here’s to the HOPE of overcoming our worst experiences so we can bless the lives of others.

    • Amen to you Carol. Look to the sunrises each day for confirmation that this is the day that was made for you.

  • Kellie,
    Perfect timing to read this article. I am going live with my blog at the end of the month with the theme of hope. Your article just primes the pump as I anxiously create blog posts for the inaugural upload. Also thanks for sharing your blog with us. I hope your new book meets with great success. In a bit I will post my 15 minute offering.
    Jon

  • From Down Here Up Looks Better

    In high school I was a model student, a serious athlete, I held down a part-time job, dated frequently, and was a volunteer tutor at a nearby homeless shelter. I had direction and purpose.

    And so freshman year at college began and for the first two semesters all was going well. I ended the year with a 3.2 gpa. My parents were not happy or disappointed. They expected me to do well. No discussion, no pep talks. I waited all summer for them to say something that affirmed what I had done.

    Then came sophomore year. It was the late 60’s and there were lots of distractions. Going to class and keeping the training rules for my two sports was wearing thin. I also joined a fraternity and life there was always a party. The first semester of sophomore year I posted a 1.1 gpa. Two F’s, a D, and a 2 C’s. Thank goodness freshmen year would save my overall gpa. Nothing to worry about.

    Grades were sent home just as we returned after the holiday break. That was great because the holidays weren’t affected by grades good or bad, although I pretty much knew what mine would be. I had been back to school for about a week and I assumed by then that my parents had seen my grades. That fact was confirmed when the next day I was summoned to the Dean of Students office. He asked if I knew what my grades were. I was 100% correct in my knowledge of my grades. Then very quietly, he asked me, “Why should I allow you back for this next semester? It’s obvious you aren’t taking school seriously.” He said that he had been in touch with my parents who assured him that whatever the school decided was quite ok with them. He mentioned that they let him know they would pay for one more semester and that would be that. No matter what, I would be on my own.

    The Dean asked, “So, if I do allow you back for the second semester, how are you going to pay for the final two years of school, assuming you don’t screw up second semester?” I figured at this point honestly was the best policy and I confessed to the excesses I had enjoyed the first semester, the lax attitude about sports and studies and my concern that I had disappointed all the folks who had had confidence in me. This was the very first time I had lost control since grade school. It didn’t matter what I wanted now, it was whether or not the Dean wanted me back.

    He and I made a contract that set out the school’s expectations for me for the remainder of the year. He did not ask me to do anything or achieve anything that was beyond my capability. But he insisted that I quit the fraternity, get back to sports and check in with him every week. If I missed one class, one practice, one weekly appointment, I was done. He then added that I also had to convince the business office that I had some way to pay the re-enrollment deposit due the first of August. I agreed to all the conditions. Except for the humiliation I felt, this seemed almost too easy.

    Then came the letter from my parents. Mind you, when I was doing well and teachers in high school would say to my parents what a great guy I was, or coaches would say they wished they had five more guys like me, or the homeless shelter told my parents they should be proud of my work with homeless kids, never did my parents say a word. Nothing.

    But now, when I could have really used a kind word or some encouragement, I received that letter – a letter I kept for several years before returning to my parents after I was promoted in the Navy. The letter basically said that in their opinion I was a failure, a disgrace, selfish, untrustworthy and generally an embarrassment to my parents. Not only were they not going to pay for the last two years of college but they wanted me to know they expected repayment for the semester just concluded. My parents wrote that they were ashamed to call me their son. By the way, most every other word in the letter was a profanity used as adjectives to describe my character and my multiple failures.

    I don’t know what came over me but I called home to let them know I had just received and read their letter. I wanted to report to them the results of my meeting with the Dean of Students. I wanted to assure them that I was not anything like what they had laid out in the letter they had sent. My parents both got on the phone and said nothing as I went through my explanation and my confession ending with an appeal for forgiveness and assurance that they would not lose faith in me. They hung up without saying another word.

    One day a few weeks later as I was training for the lacrosse team, the coach called me over after practice. I will always remember his words. “I don’t know what happened to you last semester, but I have been following your grades and your campus activity. I have watched you in practice. You are a survivor and I am proud of you. Finish strong. This is your moment to decide who you are and who you will be. I have faith in you. Trust that things will get better from now on.”

    I have never forgotten that coach, a man who challenged me to decide who I would become. He gave me hope, he helped me find my purpose. A happy ending to a horrible experience.

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  • Marilyn Starks

    My worst experience was the last night with my ex-husband. I had finally reached the breaking point. In fact to the point of no return. The arguments were as usual, his usual put down of me, the way I dressed. His belief I was cheating on him. I don’t remember all of the words which were flung at me. But I remember the look in his eyes, his tone and I made that almost fatal mistake of turning my back on him. That meant for me, the conversation was over and I was going to bed.
    Out of nowhere though as I heard him spew the words, “This is what a bitch like you needs to be controlled.” I also felt the blow to the back of my neck with the axe handle he was holding. I should been killed with all the force he put in to that hit. But I did not. My head and neck felt like the sun had fallen out of the sky and landed on me. I saw more stars then, than ever before when he would hit me.
    Usually it was with his fist, one time he tried to stab me with a knife. But this, no this was far more serious than I could have imagined. What really saved me was his passing out because as usual he was drunk. I just looked at his sorry butt, while tears fell from my eyes as my mind registered the pain.
    Then I looked down at the axe handle he had hit me with laid in his hand. No grip, just lying there calling to me. I picked it up and stood over him. I raised the handle and as I did every bit of pain, every word of degradation, every ounce of hate I had neatly tucked away in my soul began to rise. As those emotions rose, so did the axe handle, accompanied by the thoughts of, “an eye for an eye.”
    I leaned back ready to give back threefold what I and my daughter had received. As I tilted my head back, my eyes went up and I cried out to the God I believe in asking, “If you really exist, if you as are all who I’ve taught you to be, then you will let me see the light of day. I’m going to kill this man. Right here and right now!