Writing their stories can often aid abuse victims in their healing
By Denise Baran-Unland Correspondent November 27, 2012 12:18PM
As former Lockport resident Karen L. Boncela was writing her first book, "Words to Love By," she gained fresh appreciation for her "knight in shining armor" and healing from the wounds of a past marriage. | Submitted photo
At A Glance
Buy Boncela’s book, “Words to Love By,” through her website www.karenlboncela.com.
“Journaling, the Footprints of Your Life…” is available at Off the Press, LLC, 16041 S. Lincoln Highway, Plainfield.
For more information on storytelling and journaling programs at Leeza’s Place at Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center, call 815-741-0077 or visit www.provena.org/stjoes/leezasplace.
Updated: December 29, 2012 6:16AM
When former Lockport resident Karen L. Boncela left her spouse and began a new life with her “knight in shining armor,” whom she met through playing online Scrabble, she began journaling their courtship as a way to remember the joyful details.
As Boncela began assembling her notes into story form, she grew amazed at the beautiful sentences and paragraphs she had composed. That’s when Boncela knew she wanted to share her story of love, courage and hope with others.
Reader response to “Words to Love By,” Boncela said, is overwhelming. Many have purchased the book either because they or someone they know is experiencing abuse. One person, Boncela added, encouraged her mother to read the book, saying, “Use this motivation to stand up to Dad.”
“I think it’s my honesty that has drawn my readers to me,” said Boncela, 57, of Naperville. “It makes them trust me enough to continue reading and to look forward to the next book, which will be just as brutally honest.”
Writing to heal
Many people believe writing possesses cathartic and therapeutic benefits. A 2005 article, “Emotional and Physical Health Benefits of Expressive Writing,” published in Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, states that contradictory evidence of the benefits of cathartic writing but agrees it can have a clinical role in healing.
This, the authors felt, is especially true when the writer relates both the troublesome events and the emotions surrounding them, instead of focusing on the emotions alone.
For instance, the Georgetown Lombardi Cancer Care Center in Washington, D.C., offers an expressive writing program for cancer patients and their families. The goal is to provide an outlet for patients and their families to confront and communicate their experiences, thus giving them greater insight into them and control over them.
Lisa Schneider, clinical program director at the Cancer Support Center in Mokena (www.cancersupportcenter.org), encourages patients of all ages to journal as way to process the cancer experience. This Schneider said, is especially useful to children because they often have difficulty defining their feelings. Such writing is therapeutic in two ways.
“There’s research that writing improves the immune system,” Schneider said. “And people have reported feeling like they have much more control over their situations.”
Kim Jackson, Leeza Care advocate at Leeza’s Place at Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center and the author of “Journaling, the Footprints of Your Life…,” has used both storytelling and journaling as a way for Leeza’s Place clients to remember and chronicle their stories. These can be left as a legacy for loved ones or be used as a vehicle for healing painful memories.
Jackson said newcomers to Leeza’s Place often assume such storytelling means only divulging happy tales and never venturing into retelling incidents that dredge up fear, shame, guilt or sadness. But when individuals relate these stories, they often find relief.
“One woman told the same story over and over, but she added more detail each time,” Jackson said. “Once she felt better, she left and never returned.”
Ways to connect
As a therapist, Vicki Thompson, who has a master’s degree in counseling psychology and is a certified parent coach and mother of three children (www.FullLifeParenting.com), said storytelling and expressive writing helps patients connect to others and gain perspective with life struggles and challenges.
“Clients find that going back and looking at past writings can help them see a bigger picture,” Thompson said. “They realize people share similar feelings, experiences, struggles and ideas.”
Boncela said writing not only helped her honestly examine parts of her life, it enabled her to be objective about her current situation.
As a bonus, Boncela developed her latent writing abilities and recently accepted her first ghost-writing job.
“Writing has helped me to let go of so much of the emotion that goes along with these kinds of challenges. I have laughed and I have cried as I wrote,” Boncela said. “The more time that goes by, the more I realize just how dysfunctional my life had become, which makes me so grateful for the way that I live now, peacefully and with a smile every day.”