The Power of Journaling

And so … her memory returns, as do her words, here along the writer’s way. In December 2012, blogger and author Kathy Pooler wrote about the power of journaling for our Women’s Writing Circle. A few weeks later, she would come to suburban Philadelphia and teach a workshop on journaling. As many of you who read my Facebook page know, Kathy passed away last week. Words cannot express how supportive she was of me and so many writers, who put pen to page and “mapped out” the most painful stories of our lives.

I want to note that the importance of journaling seems, at least to me, timelier than ever in this age of isolation and remote work. Putting our deepest thoughts and feelings down on paper can be revelatory, answering that most sought-after question … Who am I? As we describe events and circumstances that lead to more exploration, the practice can be enlightening and enriching, while, hopefully, easing loneliness and lead to reflection. Now to what Kathy wrote.

Ever since I was ten years old and wrote plays for my maternal grandmother, Nan, and her little Italian lady friends, I enjoyed writing. I see them gathered in the living room sipping coffee and chattering in Italian. I never understood a word, but I still feel their fascination and loving attention as they hushed each other when I stood in the archway to announce a play would begin. As I grew older and began facing life with all its complications, I’d grab a pen and pour my feelings into a journal. I had stacks of spiral notebooks filled with the heartaches of relationship failures, the exhaustion of being a single parent, the terror of living with and loving an alcoholic son; heart-wrenching losses . . .  my Nan . . . my best friend, Judy . . . my beloved father . . . the uncertainties of my own cancer diagnosis.

Journaling became my pathway to healing, capturing my moments of need, longing, creativity . . . my life. These journal entries morphed into vignettes as I followed my dream to write my story. Here are my thoughts on why writing has been a journey of the heart:

1.   Writing my story has helped me clarify the things that have really mattered in my life: Often when I sit down to write, the story I intend to write does not end up being the story I write. The story reveals itself to me in the writing, when I listen to the whispers in my heart.

2.    Resurrecting my memories keeps me connected to people and events that shaped me: Flashing back to those plays acted out in front of Nan and her friends is heartwarming and fills me with validation and inspiration to keep writing through the harder parts.

3.    Writing through the pain has helped release the burdens of my heart: For years I held on to the guilt of making poor choices and putting my children through so many upheavals as a result of my choices. Writing has helped me to forgive that young woman and believe that she acted in good faith.

4.    Writing out my painful memories has helped me forgive those whom I perceive have hurt me: In attempting to capture the essence of my characters’ personalities and the impact they have had on my life, I have gained new insights into their behavior. Forgiveness is freedom and my heart feels lighter.

5.    Revisiting my past self and reflecting upon my motivations and needs at the time have increased my self-awareness and filled me with gratitude for the growth I have experienced: When I recreate a scene from my past and feel, deep in my heart, that I would never do the same thing today, I realize how far I’ve come. Writing has helped me to heal the painful parts of my past that I have carried around for years.
It truly has been a “Journey of the Heart.”

With Kathy at a book signing in Amsterdam, New York

Kathleen Pooler is remembered as a writer and a retired Family Nurse Practitioner who wrote memoirs about the power of hope through her faith in God. She wrote of divorce, single parenting, loving and letting go of an alcoholic son, cancer and heart failure to live a life of joy and contentment. She believed that hope matters and that we are all strengthened and enlightened when we share our stories.

You can read her obituary here.

Published by Susan G. Weidener

Join me as I share reflections, always with an eye toward the challenges and struggles we women encounter and embrace in both creative and personal ways. My memoir, Again in a Heartbeat, was selected as a 2011 editor’s pick by Story Circle Network. Its sequel Morning at Wellington Square has also achieved critical acclaim. A Portrait of Love and Honor, a novel based on a true story, is centered around a story of two people, Ava Stuart and Jay Scioli, who are destined to meet and Jay's commitment to honor following his years at West Point. My new novel And the Memory Returns continues the story of Ava Stuart who begins asking herself those questions so many women face as they age. What had it all meant? Where does she go from here? In 1991, I joined the staff of The Philadelphia Inquirer and worked as a reporter covering news and writing feature stories until 2007. A native of the Philadelphia suburbs, I attended the University of Pennsylvania. In 2010, I started the Women's Writing Circle, a critique and support group for writers in suburban Philadelphia, which meets the second Saturday of the month at the Chester Springs Library. I live in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania with my Yellow Lab, Lily.

7 thoughts on “The Power of Journaling

  1. Oh, I am in shock. I missed your FB post about Kathy’s passing. I am so sorry. She was one of the first writing bloggers I established a relationship with and admired her resiliency to keep writing despite her health challenges. May her beautiful soul rest in peace.


    1. I was devastated at her passing. That said I wasn’t surprised because her health had seriously declined. She was always there for us; a tireless advocate and supporter of the memoir revolution we have witnessed over the last 10 or 12 years.


  2. I was deeply saddened to learn if Kathy’s passing. Even though I knew how seriously she had been for some time. We met through our blogs and writing. I appreciated the friendship that developed. May she Rest In Peace.


  3. Your lovely reflection here certifies the power of words and helps assuage the grief I feel at Kathy’s passing. I met her only once, at the writers’ retreat in Chincoteague, but our friendship continued. We texted off and on until March. Once in a while we chatted. As I recall in our last conversation she said, “I have so much to live for!!” She is indeed living in Glory now, and her words and works live on too. Praise be to God!


  4. Sorry to hear about your loss, and I agree with what Kathy said. I use my journal for the same reasons, to discover what it is I’m really thinking and to look at my past and see how far I’ve come. Great post. Thanks for sharing!


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