Soothing Trauma through Words

Aging in wonderful. This Thanksgiving, I sing praises for 54 year of precious time, particularly the time to mend devastating childhood wounds. As my colleague, Wendy Lustbader, always says, “Life gets better and better when we acknowledge and work through our deepest hurts, and continue to grow.”

Both personally and professionally I have witnessed those who took this path and others who chose the bitter road of resignation and blame instead. For some reason, the advancing years seem to bring this conflict into glaring relief.

I have been fortunate to receive guidance from a variety of wonderful people and disciplines. Writing, in combination with a supportive writing group, has been absolutely pivotal to healing inner pain, as well as discovering buried treasures and strengths. Writing turns dross into gold.

I am eternally thankful to the Amherst Writers and Artists method of writing practice, developed by founder Pat Schneider, and their local affiliate writing group, Temescal Writers. Most especially I send kudos to our group leader and author, Joan Marie Wood, a senior partner with Amherst Writers and Artists. Wood carefully follows Amherst guidelines as she gently encourages us to plumb our depths and develop our true voices.

“Your obsessions are your treasure,” she says. When it is time to read our work to the group, and one of us grumbles, “This is awful and really different from everyone else,” Wood responds, “Great! I am doing my job when each of your voices sounds more and more uniquely your own.”

Wood’s own voice rings clear and achingly beautiful in her recently published book of poetry, “Her Voice is Blackberries.” The lush poems chronicle her struggle to find emotional peace after her mother’s suicide, when Wood was just 15. Knowing Wood and reading her poems is proof positive that we can triumph over trauma and that life can indeed get better and better.

“Writing is very much linked to the internal work we do on ourselves,” Wood explained during a recent chat. “Writing within a safe community invites our words and protects us as we write what is true for us, gradually discovering our own voice.

“When we describe a person, episode, or long ago memory with minute sensory detail, we uncover something new—long forgotten memories, feelings, or new realizations. And the reader more easily identifies with our work.

“I prefer the word restoration to the word healing,” she continued. “Beneath our pain, we are fundamentally whole. But sudden trauma tears at us and the social fabric close to us. Writing restores us to our deepest being and restores our connection with others.”

To learn more about Amherst Writers and Artists, go online to To purchase “Her Voice is Blackberries,” go to or call (510) 653-4576.