Writing Can Heal You


Please welcome back novelist and friend-of-Magical-Words, author Tamsin Silver!

photo 3

Writing can heal you.

Let’s think about that for a moment.

Why do you think that is? Why do you think that writing is so therapeutic? I’ve always been one to write or sleep when I was upset. In fact, the first book I ever wrote (by hand, mind you) was when my first boyfriend broke up with me (on Valentine’s Day…the jackass) when I was sixteen. I still have that book. It’s in a folder. I need to type it up and make it better. It’s a fun story…a YA Murder Mystery actually…but anyhoo, I don’t want to get off track, which I’m good at doing.

Words have always been my thing. If you know me, you are aware that I’m a wordy gal. I’m talkative AND I write long stories. Let’s be honest, even my short stories aren’t really short. They hit the limit of word count to actually BE a short story. So imagine how I felt when spoken words failed me.

A close friend of mine was murdered on September 9th. We were childhood friends since the age of six and we’d dated briefly about five years ago. Paul Butterfield was a State Trooper in Michigan and was shot in the head during a routine traffic stop by a nineteen year old boy who had just boosted the car. He was with his twenty year old pregnant wife and didn’t want to get caught and go to jail for a second offense as he’d stolen a car before. I found out by reading Facebook the morning of the 10th and my world crashed.

For someone who has always been good with words, I had none. I kept saying words out of order in sentences, I couldn’t articulate anything without getting stuck on things, and I couldn’t sleep. I tried. I cried and cried and wanted to yell and hit something, anything. I fought the need to either for days. I think if I’d not been near people I’d have let that scream rip, save for fear of looking like a crazy person. So I never did. I still feel it under the surface from time to time. Vibrating under my heart.

I’ve never been “depressed,” so to speak. I’m Hyperactive Disorder (no ADHD, or ADD, just HD….and many of you are now going….”Ahhhh, now I get it!”) and it is partly why I don’t battle depression often (not really since I was in Jr. High). Because of that, I had no idea how to deal with it…a level of depression that can only be called desperate grief. And not that anguish you feel when a boyfriend leaves you on Valentines Day or when a pet dies…this was so much deeper that it scared me. I didn’t know what to do to pull out.

photo 1So I wrote. I wrote a tribute to Paul and posted it at http://tamsinsilver.blogspot.com (on 9/11/13) and then listed it everywhere so others could hear me. I wrote to friends online to talk about Paul. I texted friends back home…for a lot of the problem was that I wasn’t there. No one knew Paul where I was. In fact, I was so bad off, my cousin (God bless her) used her points to fly me home for Paul’s funeral. I was the only person who wept loudly and openly at his casket; the need to scream as I lay my hand on his closed casket was so present it was almost tangible. I swallow hard now just thinking about it. My dad and friends surrounded me and put hands on me during points in the service where I was having a hard time. And they are half of how I began to heal. The other half was writing. 

I’ve had this romance novel story in my head and I focused on it on the train in NYC so I wouldn’t cry (doing so on the train is both embarrassing yet liberating, it’s weird). I began writing the story on my iPhone. I came home Thursday night and was all excited to tell my roommate Emily about the section I’d written and she said something to the fact that she was glad I’d written for it was the first productive thing I’d accomplished since Tuesday morning. Three days where I really didn’t do anything. For me, that’s enough to have had my roommate worried. I’m so, go go go, ya know?

But this new novel has helped (as has writing this MW submission). Sitting down to write it, or research for it, has been my “hiding place”, so to speak. It’s going to be a safe platform for me to deal with my grief when my main character will deal with it as well. It was the gateway to being in the real world and not crying 24/7. Writing was the tool that brought my head back into the game, to remember the good things about my life…like I’m still living it and Paul would be so pissed at me to not do everything I could. To stop to grieve is important…but I needed to find the balance between my life and my grief.

Writing did that for me. Maybe writing helps you through things…maybe it doesn’t…maybe it’s just where your imagination plays (as mine does, too)…but this time around, this story, “Duality of Surrender” (working title), has been that bridge for my brain. Writing doesn’t need to do this for you…in no way am I saying it should. I just am home in Michigan surrounded by my memories of Paul and am due for an article for Magical Words…so I thought I’d talk about this, as it helps me, and who knows, it might help someone else.

*Note: For more information about Paul, just do a search for “Trooper Paul Butterfield”.

photo 2


6 comments to Writing Can Heal You

  • Tamsin, *hugs* I’m so sorry for your loss. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to go through something like this. It’s good to hear you’ve been able to find solace and honour your friend’s memory in writing. That’s our power. What is remembered, lives.

  • I’m so sorry for your loss, Tamsin, and for all of those who knew and loved Paul. I know that you wrote a tribute, but this is one as well, in a sense. We create to live; we create to express love and loss, joy and grief, anger and confusion and emptiness and desperation and all the other things that consume us in times of mourning. And so by turning your sadness into this simple statement about how writing can heal, you’re honoring your friend. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  • Ken

    Welcome back, Tamsin.

    Thank you for sharing this. I completely agree with you. A couple of years ago, I lost my dog (though she was so much more than just a pet, she was family). She was a little, white border collie (I named her Muse) and she’d sleep on my feet while I was writing. I can still remember with crystal clarity the last time I saw her and I can’t remember the 72 hours after I’d got the news that she was gone. I was a wreck for weeks afterwards and it wasn’t until I started writing (longhand) what would eventually become a blog post about that loss and what it did to me, that I started recovering from it.

    Like you said, maybe writing will help other folks and maybe it wont. It helped me.

    I’m deeply sory for your loss and I’m here with support to lend if you need it.

  • Hugs, darlin’. Lotsa hugs. I totally understand. Everything I write is therapeutic. Just everything.

  • quillet

    So sorry for your loss. As David said, this post is a beautiful tribute to your friend. And I agree with you, writing is definitely therapeutic. Hugs!

  • Thank you all for your kind words and hugs. This kind of grief is new to me so it’s been hard. I’m so glad you like the post. I wasn’t sure if I should have Misty post it as its a bit of a downer…but I couldn’t seem to write anything except something about Paul. I tried, and nothing was working. So thank you for your support on this. It means a lot. *hugs back*