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  • Writer's pictureSurviving Breast Cancer

Can Expressive Writing and Poetry Provide Emotional Healing?


I know breast cancer can be an incredibly overwhelming and emotional experience. I'm preaching to the choir. It is common to feel scared, angry, sad, isolated, and uncertain about the future. Your scans and oncology visits are nothing if not stressful events. However, there are tools available for managing the flood of emotions that come with a breast cancer diagnosis, recurrence, and/or progression. One way we've found to be incredibly helpful at SBC is to begin working through your emotions through expressive writing and poetry.


Expressive writing is any form of writing that allows you to explore your thoughts and feelings about a topic (and no, you don't have to be a writer!). It can be a letter, journal entry, poem, or anything else you feel comfortable writing and don't even have to share! This is just for YOU! Expressive writing has been shown to help reduce stress, boost immunity, and improve mental and physical health.


Although there are many ways to cope with a breast cancer diagnosis, expressive writing and poetry can be two of the most effective tools. In this blog post, we will discuss how expressive writing and poetry can help with emotional healing for those diagnosed with breast cancer. We will also provide examples of how to get started with your own expressive writing or poetry project.



Background

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women. It can be a very emotional experience, both for the patient and their loved ones. Breast cancer can cause a great deal of anxiety and stress, as well as sadness and grief. Many people feel scared and alone when they are diagnosed with breast cancer. Thus breast cancer can have a profound effect on your emotions and mental health. The experience can be overwhelming, and it’s often hard to cope with the changes in your body and life.


It’s important to find ways to deal with the emotional challenges of breast cancer, both during and after treatment. Some people find it helpful to talk about their feelings with friends or family. Others find it helpful to join a support group or participate in counseling.


Some find expressive writing to be helpful. This is when you write continuously about your thoughts and feelings surrounding breast cancer. It can be a way to release the emotions you’re feeling and to make sense of what’s going on.


Studies have shown that expressive writing can have emotional benefits. In one study, women with breast cancer who wrote about their experiences had less anxiety and depression than women who didn’t write about their experiences.


If you’re interested in trying expressive writing, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

  • First, you should write about your deepest emotions and thoughts. It’s okay to write about the negative emotions you’re feeling, such as anger, fear, or sadness.

  • Second, you should write continuously for at least 10 minutes a day.

  • And third, you should do this for at least consecutive three days.

A stressful event that has shattered the sense of security can result in emotional pain and psychological trauma. There is helplessness, hyperactivity and anxiety observed. There are upsetting emotions and making it look like having little or no control over the situation. Expressive writing has been shown to help reduce stress, boost immunity, and improve mental and physical health. Poetry can also be a powerful tool for healing. Poetry can also help you express your emotions in a creative and cathartic way. It can also help you make sense of your experience, connect with others, and find hope.


Keep in mind that expressive writing is not so much what happened as it is how you feel about what happened or is happening. The connection between expressive writing and wellness has been notably explored by Dr. James Pennebaker at the University of Texas at Austin. 1 In his landmark research project, Pennebaker developed an expressive writing prompt to uncover the potential health benefits of writing about emotional upheaval.

There are many ways to get started with expressive writing or poetry. You can write in a journal, create a blog, or even just start scribbling down your thoughts on a piece of paper. There are no rules – just start writing! If you’re not sure what to write about, try prompts like:

“I feel....”

“I need....”

"I love..."

"I appreciate..."

You can also try free writing, where you just let your thoughts flow onto the page without worrying about grammar or punctuation.


Don’t worry if your writing isn’t perfect. This is for you, and no one else needs to see it. Just let the words flow and see what comes out. You may be surprised at how therapeutic it can be.

What Is Emotional Healing?

Emotional healing is the process of acknowledging, allowing, accepting, integrating, and processing painful life experiences and strong emotions. It may involve empathy, self-regulation, self-compassion, self-acceptance, mindfulness, and integration. Many people have a tendency to want to control the process of emotional healing by minimizing the pain and controlling their emotions, but this can actually inhibit the healing process.

Reclaiming your emotional health is an important part of the healing journey. Breast cancer can take a toll on your emotions, but expressing yourself in expressive writing or poetry can help you process your feelings and find peace. It’s okay to feel all of the pain breast cancer has caused you – it doesn’t make you weak or less than. By taking the time to express yourself, you can find solace and even strength in your own words.


Take care of yourself and give yourself permission to heal. Writing can help you recognize and accept that Breast Cancer has had an impact on your life and work through all the emotions it brings up.


The Emotional Challenge of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer can have a profound effect on your well-being and mental health. The experience can be overwhelming, and it’s often hard to cope with the changes in your body and life. It’s not uncommon to feel down, anxious or stressed during and after treatment. If you’re having trouble coping, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional.

It’s important to find ways to deal with the emotional challenges of breast cancer, both during and after treatment. Some people find it helpful to talk about their feelings with friends or family. Others find it helpful to join a support group or participate in counseling.

Some people also find expressive writing to be helpful. This is when you write continuously about your thoughts and feelings surrounding breast cancer. It can be a way to release the emotions you’re feeling and to make sense of what’s happening.


If you’re interested in trying expressive writing, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Find a comfortable place to write, where you won’t be interrupted. This could be at a desk, at a table, or even outside in nature.

  2. Start by writing stream-of-consciousness style, in the present moment, without worrying about grammar or punctuation. Just let the words flow onto the page.

  3. It doesn’t have to be perfect or polished. This is for you, and no one else needs to see it.

Set aside time each day to write. This can be as little as 10 minutes, but it’s important to be consistent. Try to compose for at least 10 to 15 minutes a day, for 3 consecutive days. (This has become part of my morning routine while she drinks her coffee before starting her day!). Consistency is key and the more consecutive days you can string together, you will start to naturally find your own rhythm.

  1. Once you’ve written for a while, you can start to edit and revise your work if you want. But it’s also perfectly fine to just let the words be.

  2. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to do this. Just do what feels good for you and go with the flow.

Once you start writing, you may be surprised at how therapeutic it can be. Writing offers us a sense of control. It can help us process emotional pain, make meaning of our present relationships and situations, and be an effective way to bring clarity to extremely personal situations that we may not necessarily feel comfortable talking about.


According to the American Journal of Public Health, expressive writing increases positive emotions, reduces negative thoughts, and in term have a profound effect on our mental health, making us feel more confident, in control, and less overwhelmed.


Additionally, according to the International Journal of Cancer Management, poetry therapy increased hope based on Miller Hope scale 1 week, 8 weeks, and 6 months after the intervention The researchers found that group poetry therapy can be a good psychotherapy and a way to increase the quality of life of people with breast cancer.

Similarly, poets who have been diagnosed with breast cancer often share their work as an ode of strength, inspiration and courage to their community – so don’t be afraid to express yourself in whichever form that you feel comfortable with!

No matter which form of expression you choose, remember


Sharing your story



Sharing Your Story with others can also help you feel connected and supported. Breast cancer doesn't have to define you, but it can be a part of your story. Embrace your emotions and don't be afraid to express them.

There are many ways to share your story, including:

-Writing a letter to your cancer

- Starting a blog

-Joining an online support group

-Sharing your story with a friend or family member

Whatever you do, remember that you are not alone in this journey. There is help and support available


How to write a poem about breast cancer

There are no rules for how to write a poem about breast cancer. Just let the words flow and express whatever you're feeling. Breast cancer can be a difficult and emotional journey, but poetry can offer you a way to process your thoughts and emotions. It can be therapeutic and even cathartic. So don't worry about rhyming or writing perfect prose. Just let the words come out however they need to. Write from the heart and don't be afraid to be vulnerable. Your poem can be as long or as short as you need it to be. And there's no right or wrong way to write about breast cancer. Let the words flow and see where they take you.


When writing, you may experiment with typing in all caps. If you are writing with pen and paper, how does the pen feel? Are you pressing hard onto the paper or using a softer lighter touch? If you are writing in cursive, are your letters whimsical and dancing on the page, or are they structured and methodical? All of these elements help us express ourselves through the written word.


When writing a poem about breast cancer, you may want to explore topics such as:

-Your experience with a particular time during your diagnosis and treatment

-Your experience receiving a specific chemotherapy, the first time you went in for radiation, or waking up from surgery.

-A love letter to your breasts

-A breakup letter as you experience grief.


Take advantage of available resources

We believe firmly in the power of writing as a tool for healing and encourage you to join us and take advantage of the free programs and services we offer at SBC.


Questions to ask your doctor about expressive writing for emotional health:

Asking your doctor about expressive writing is a great first step in getting started with your own project. Some questions you may wish to ask:

1. What are your thoughts on using expressive writing as a tool for emotional healing?

2. What are some of the benefits of expressive writing?

3. How can I get started with my own expressive writing project?

4. Are there any resources you would recommend for further exploring expressive writing and poetry?

5. Are there any risks associated with expressive writing?

6. What should I keep in mind while I am writing?

7. Who can I talk to if I need help or support while I am writing?


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