Thursday, June 30, 2011

From Grief to Hope: My Pathway to Healing Through Journaling

A Guest Post by Kathleen Pooler:

I still have the blue cloth, three-ring notebook that I created for my senior English teacher Miss Philips back in 1964. The page dividers have pictures depicting the section: hopes, beliefs, thoughts, ideas with varied colored plastic tabs where the white labels were inserted. At the time, it seemed like a silly project. What did Miss Philips know? I can still see her, pencil-thin frame, always dressed in some dark colored--grey, navy blue or black-dowdy dress or suit. Standing so straight by her desk, she never smiled or wore makeup. Her brown hair was pulled back in a tight bun and her wire-rimmed glasses dangled at the end of her nose. What in the world would I ever do with that silly notebook?

I packed the journal when I went to nursing school and every once in a while, I’d pull it out to glance through the sections. Sometimes, I’d even jot a few thoughts down. For the most part, it lay dormant. But, as I began my career and started out on my path to contribute to society as an adult, the pages started beckoning me.

It turned out that I did plenty with Miss Philips’s notebook and if I had the chance, I would thank her for the gift of that handmade journal which provided with a framework to fill in my life story. What started out as an assumption in my adolescent mind that my out-of-touch teacher was wasting my time became a slowly evolving admiration. She planted a seed that has bloomed over and over again as I have worked my way through my life challenges.

I have journaled through the  heartaches of relationship failures, the searing pain of divorce, the loneliness and exhaustion of being a single parent, the terror of dealing with an alcoholic son, the heart wrenching losses of  my maternal grandmother, Nan and my best friend, Judy, the diagnosis of cancer and the recent illness and death of my beloved father. The seed journal has spawned many spiral notebooks and decorative journals to accommodate my evolving thoughts and feelings; to capture my moments of need, longing, passion, creativity, my life.

The journal tells its own story. The pages sit blank and patient just waiting to receive my words. As the words fall on the page, the emotions get sorted. There is something about labeling a feeling that helps to put it into perspective. The feelings that grip and gauge on the inside take a different shape on the outside. Knowledge is power and when one becomes clear with one’s own feelings, there is a sense of empowerment. When I recently journaled my way through my father’s 11-day illness and death, I found clarity and solace in my own words. In sharing my deepest, heartfelt grief, I received support and love in return.

Journaling has become my pathway to healing and hope. Thank you Miss Philips.

Kathleen Pooler is a Family Nurse Practitioner and writer from eastern New York, at the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains along the New York State Thruway. She lives with her husband,Wayne, on the 130-acres of pastures and woods  his grandfather used to raise dairy cattle on. Together they have six grown children and ten grandsons,ages 2-21. She is working on a memoir about the power of hope through her faith in God. It is about the extraordinary events that have occurred in her ordinary life; how she climbed out of the abyss of two abusive marriages, divorces, single-parenting, raising an alcoholic son, cancer, heart failure to find a life of peace and joy; how she learned to live life on her own terms. She wants to share her hope with others.

She posts weekly on her writer’s blog, Memoir Writers Journey, and can be reached on twitter: @kathypooler, on Facebook and LinkedIn: Kathleen Pooler, and email:

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