Writing a memoir is a very unique writing experience. Often as I began writing about the six major transitional events that happened in my midlife years starting with the birth of my son at 39 in which I developed severe post-partum depression, I had no idea where I would end writing about parts of my life story. Over the course of the three and a half years as I wrote alone and in groups of women who were also writing, I focused on expressing what I was feeling and experiencing while going through these challenges. I focused on just telling my “Truth” of what I remember happened and what I remember feeling. This process of writing my story allowed me to explore the roles and attitudes I went through being a woman, a wife, a mother and at some moments, a little girl. It was healing for me to step out of my role and job as psychotherapist and coach and just be a woman. To just be me!
When I asked for editorial support, in my third year of writing, I was advised by my developmental editor that I had a valuable message for other women in midlife and that my memoir could be really powerful if I narrowed my “arc of the story” to these midlife events. It was difficult to decide which stories would have the most impact and which ones didn’t go in this book.
As I followed that advice and continued writing the final stories of that arc of time: My mother’s death and funeral and the process of grieving many of these losses after my second divorce at age 62, I realized there was so much more coming forth that I didn’t yet understand. In other words, the focused writing took me deeper into my psyche and taught me how to hold myself deeply and compassionately in my despair and messiness. As the final writing process unfolded, I was writing from a place that I hadn’t met in myself before—a deep place of knowing that guided me further.
I didn’t know that this book was going to be about my relationship with my mother until I was in the final year of writing. This has always been a challenging part of my life and even in her death and afterwards, I had not gone deeply into what my inner parts were holding. In other words, my deeper interpersonal trauma was awakened through sitting and feeling the feelings I experienced over and over in interactions with my mom –the good feelings and the troubling feelings. Together, they were totally unresolved and so, to my surprise, I found myself telling the stories of being with her, her being with me as I parented, me being with her as she suffered her stroke– to try to resolve it somehow. Now, a year later after writing and publishing this memoir, I have been able to find more resolution and healing with more trauma therapy and loving buddhist teachers.
My final editing process was painful for me because I really had to wrestle with changing names and not causing harm to those I had written about in my stories. I am sure everyone reaches a point in writing their memoir that this issue arises. I am glad that I did not address this issue until I had written my whole memoir and was looking back at the final editing stage, so that I was able to truly tell my story first. The most important person who gave me final approval to write and publish this memoir was my son, who was a main character throughout. We were able to heal much of our relationship through the dialogue and process we created together to finalize the parts of these stories that were about him.
Throughout the time that I was writing my memoir, I was simultaneously leading other men and women in a monthly Memoir Writing Class. Over these past three years, I have seen how each person was slowly finding his/her own path and how valuable that path is to reaching the unique memoir for each person. My own experience of being guided and supported in my process with coaches and other women writers has helped me to offer my facilitation to this group. In the process of coaching and witnessing others, I learned more about the power of this genre and how many different ways it can heal us.
This genre of memoir is powerful and revealing – and it teaches us so much about what is just below the surface, if we open up what is coming from within us fully and courageously. I recommend the voyage as a powerful healing experience. But be prepared for more when you publish!! The voyage had just begun.
You can read my memoir by just ordering a signed paperback copy from my website HERE or go to Amazon for an e-book copy.