My graduate degree is a joint degree in Counseling Psychology and Pastoral Ministry. I have an affinity for interdisciplinary studies and the fusion of psychology and theology was right up my ally. It was perfect for working with survivors.
In working with survivors, I began to understand that sometimes there is an intangible piece of darkness, a near unreachable wound that psychotherapy, group therapy, referrals, and case management could not touch. Regardless of religious preferences or label of agnostic or even atheist, survivors would talk about a spiritual disconnect that resulted from an assault. It was beyond body or physical wounds, a brokenness that they themselves could not explain.
I wondered what possible alternative practice I could try to offer survivors to incorporate creativity, memory, and sharing.
Years later, I would find myself working with different feminist activists, writers, editors, and thinkers. Alexis Pauline Gumbs, a brilliant Troublemaker in Durham, North Carolina, asked me to take part in a tribute to women of color feminists. Some wrote poems, other fantastic essays. I wrote a letter.
I wrote a letter to my friend, Amanda, about my life. What I was noticing. How feminism changed my eyes. How the bravery of women before me paved many pathways for me. I wrote about the big things, the small things. The reality of my life. I wrote about how Boston was that day. The colors of winter. The buzz of the sidewalk.
The art of letter writing came alive for me. Letter writing is a form of reflection, co-authoring, perhaps even re-framing what your life is and can be. We are not slaves to our past, we have the power to bead the erratic pieces to form a bold – daring even – tribute to our experiences, to ourselves. And we get to share that with someone. The reader. The relationship in letter writing can be intimate, close, confiding, and lasting. Letters have the power to transform our spirits, find our identities, preserve our strength.
Pieces of narrative therapy – a psychological theory and practice that believes our identities can be discovered through our stories and narratives – are at play here. Try it. Write a letter. Any letter. Choose someone you trust. Or a stranger. Write what needs to be written.
We all hold the power to transform ourselves. A letter may not always bring closure, justice, or even peace. But it does offer a beam of light to shine upon ourselves and tell our story.