Women reveal why they turned to the keyboard

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By Sarah Wayland

Posted on August 15, 2012

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‘Would I have done it this way?’ It is a common question people ask themselves when they watch others coping with sadness and trauma. A decade ago it would have been unfathomable to expect that the online world would be a place that someone could turn to, somewhere they could share news of their loss, establish online memorials or explore their innermost thoughts.

A decade ago it would have been unfathomable to expect that the online world would be a place that someone could turn to, somewhere they could share news of their loss, establish online memorials or explore their innermost thoughts.

Today two women share how their online community provided much needed support to them in a time of need.

Just over 18 months ago when Lori Dwyer’s husband Tony died from a sudden psychotic episode, her blog was the first place she went to. It was the only place that made sense to her as she grappled with the reality of what had happened  and it helped her explore the confusion and terror about being left behind with two small children. The post that greeted her readers on that day was drastically different from draft she had prepared about a Dorothy the Dinosaur concert:

‘I don’t know how to write this post. The Lori you know is gone. My husband is currently in the Intensive Care Unit, fighting for his life. He is in a critical condition. No one knows what will happen’.

Three days later Lori’s husband was gone but in contrast her blog continued to morph and flex with her changing moods. She talked about the darkness and light that came with the shock of losing her husband before her thirtieth birthday but also found that it was a way to honour him. It gave her the chance to share her story: ‘in terms of recovery and self-esteem I have relied on my blog without question. I look at my blog and I don’t know how else I would have made it’.

It seems that blogs are not just machines that allow people to stretch their writing muscle, they are excellent ‘therapy’ tools too. Charlie Stansfield, facilitator of the course Writing the difficult stuff explains that ‘writing about thoughts and feelings, past and present about a traumatic event can be very healing for some people.’

She thinks that one of the benefits is that writing a blog post helps the person to ‘gain distance from the trauma and gives opportunity to get in touch with their resilience and the survival part of the story’. They are an online portal to the inner recesses of a person’s psyche and provide insights to new ways of coping with loss and sadness. In death there is little privacy about the person that is lost but those that surround them can reach out and share as a way of making sense, to give people a sense of the person they’ve lost and they way they chose to survive.

Lisa King has had to survive two massive losses in the last year. Her son Noah, 10, passed away last October after a long illness and then in January 2012 she lost her husband Aaron from a suspected heart attack. She is now raising her three boys alone but her blog is something she is determined to continue.

‘I actually did make a conscious decision to blog after Aaron and Noah died as it just seemed like the natural thing to do – to continue blogging our life including the bad’.

For some, when sudden losses happen, they feel the urge to curl inwards and shield themselves from sharing the stark reality but Lisa found that the online community embraced her in ways she hadn’t expected. She found strength in the continual comments and well wishes left for her as she began to explore a new normal in terms of how her life now looks.

When reading both Lori and Lisa’s blogs you experience clearly that moment where their lives changed forever. Neither women has held back from cataloguing their darkest moments, points in time where the raw disbelief and shock they feel is palpable. Despite all the darkness there is hope though. Each new post serves to illustrate the remarkable resilience of the human spirit while giving valuable insight into the people they’ve lost as well as those that were left behind.

Do you keep an old school or online journal? Have you ever shared some really tough times and benefited from the support of your online community?

Why not share this?

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Sarah Wayland.

Sarah Wayland is a Social Worker who has spent the last 15 years working in the fields of trauma and loss. She is currently conducting postgraduate research into the way hope influences a persons ability to survive loss as well as establishing a private practice in Sydney. She is a mum of 2 and a step-mum of 2 more who is passionate about exploring those areas of life that we don't often discuss openly.

Website: http://sarahwayland.com.au

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  • http://www.copingwithjane.com Jane Copeland

    Wonderful post Sarah. I can personally relate this topic. When I was diagnosed with an illness I turned to the Internet for research and ended up joining various online support groups. I was amazed at how much value I got out of doing this. Times of need often coincide with isolation. Online communities can be great for this too. On a side note this is part of the reason I created this site-so woman can share stories and know that in life, love and motherhood they are never alone.

  • http://mum-abulous.com/ mumabulous

    I have read Lori Dywer’s blog, Random Ramblings of A Stay At Home Mum. Its not always easy going. The shock, trauma and heart wrenching loss she has suffered is palpable. She is a wonderful writer and I hope that one day she’ll be able to find some peace. In the mean time I commend her for using her blog as a platform to raise awareness about mental health issues.
    Mumabulous@mum-abulous.com

    • http://www.thatspaceinbetween.com Sarah Wayland

      I agree, it isnt always easy to read, but I guess thats what draws most of her audience. Its authentic and really takes a leap with trusting the online world with the inner and outer works of such an awful loss. Using blogs as a platform for social change is a movement that is gaining momentum…thanks for commenting!

  • http://www.jarmanfamilyblog.blogspot.com Mary Jarman

    Our family too went through a difficult loss five years ago, and I started blogging shortly after. We are raising my niece, whose family died in an automobile accident. This is the week of the anniversary of their deaths, and once again, we feel the embrace of an online community. Our family does a “Random Acts of Kindness day” every year on the anniversary of their deaths to celebrate the kindness that came our way during those difficult months. This year, via facebook, we have nearly 900 people participating (and counting). It’s amazing to feel the warmth of support as this event spreads. As I have blogged, I also see my thoughts and feelings “morph” in front of me. I see myself and our family change as the ripples of this event continue. I also see the healing. It’s been a blessing.

    • http://www.thatspaceinbetween.com Sarah Wayland

      Thats a huge loss for you and your niece Mary. How lovely that you have been her safety net. I think the bonus of a blog is a chance to revisit the tough times and then flick back to the moments of light. To see how you’ve travelled since the time the loss happened.
      One of the new pieces of research on bereavement focuses on the fact that most people go on to live well even after such devastating losses, that they discover new things about themselves and grow despite whats happened – I think blogging helps us key into our resilience and to force us to see the wider community out there.

      Random acts of kindness are an important way to show what is good in the world – you’ve reminded me to do this more with my kids, we get so focussed in on what isn’t working that we forget the beautiful stuff in between. Thanks for sharing x

  • http://www.lifeonplanetbaby.com/ Jane

    I completely relate to this post. When I started my blog 2 years ago, I had severe PND and 3 young children. A year ago tomorrow, my father died. Writing my blog has helped me through all those challenges. I’ve blogged through it and been amazed at the extraordinary empathy and support I have received from people the world over. I can’t imagine how I would have coped without my blog.

    • http://www.thatspaceinbetween.com Sarah Wayland

      Severe PND must have been really tough for a mum of 3 Jane. I remember when I first started blogging I did some posts of the Gidget Foundation and I realised what a huge role the online community plays in making us all feel less isolated. There is always so much discussion about angry anonymous commenters, its nice to acknowledge the warmth that people send when they say they are thinking of you. Glad you related to the post x

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