As an expressive writing guide and healer, I think a lot about words, their meanings, the shapes of the letters that form them, and the way certain words cause a physical response within us.
Are there words you can’t handle seeing on a page, let alone, hearing? I have a few that make me cringe so much, I can’t even mention what they are!
It’s crazy how much power a single word has. I’ve worked with over 1500 people who followed my prompt to name a word that mattered most to them in that moment (or chapter) of their life, and the responses as I drew it for them were often unforgettable.
Too young to die
This all started the morning I walked into a 30-something patient’s room at a local hospital, needing to find a way to engage her in a literary way that would take her away from whatever pain and fears she might be feeling. When she told me she had been given one week to live, I knew writing a poem or doing anything that involved effort on her part would be out of the question.
She was frail and weak, but her eyes were absolutely glistening.
I think I had a God moment, because out of nowhere I asked what word mattered most to her in that moment, which she pondered as she looked deeply into my eyes. When she finally told me her word, I asked if I could draw it for her, and she nodded yes.
She raised her bed so she could watch me draw, and as I did, a peaceful feeling began to fill the room. Then I sensed a protective bubble form around us that blocked out all other sounds. She quietly spoke of her fears, her children, her grief over the shortness of her life. When I finished and held the drawing up for her to see, a beautiful light emanated from her and she asked if I’d hang it on the wall at the foot of her bed. She weakly grabbed my hand and held it for a long time.
I did not want to leave that room.
But when I finally had to, I wondered whether I had given her something that mattered, because every moment of her fading life deserved that.
I also wondered if anyone else would react this way to such a prompt?
Words matter to everyone
They most definitely did. And what it took time to realize is that this process gave people permission to show up, both to me and to themselves. It only took a little self-reflection on their part, and I did the rest. I made something as beautiful as I could to honor the importance of their word to them. I gave them a healing way in which to leave their cares behind. I left them a reminder that they had truly been seen and heard.
But what about after I left the room? Did their word matter, anymore?
Two years after I created a word for a patient, she called me out of the blue. She had lost her word after being released from the hospital, and she couldn’t stop thinking about it. Would I draw it again and mail it to her, please???
Thinking back to when I walked into her room and told her what I was there to offer, this woman’s face was not exactly welcoming. She was sick and just wanted me to leave, but didn’t say that. (She didn’t have to.) But suddenly she spit out the word bilious, and when I laughed and told her how much I loved the honesty of it, she brightened and we were off and running.
I believe her word empowered her to feel a sense of control. People can lose themselves when they’re sick, in pain, and undergoing difficult procedures and treatments. Based on her word and the way she said it, she wasn’t about to be a victim to what was happening to her. And let me tell you, she was not!
All of this to say that words have weight. They matter. They shake us out of the places where we get stuck. They inspire us. They clarify us. They release things from us, and they give us hope.
Watch the magic happen in real time
Here is a video from The Healing Place podcast, which I’ve had the honor of being on twice. When I learned the host, Teri Wellbrock, was dealing with toxic mold poisoning and her body was in a state of crisis, I reached out to offer this healing process to her. Watch what happened in real time with Teri, the most openly vulnerable (i.e., brave) person I’ve ever met. As a voice of hope for trauma survivors, she is an incredible model for not just them, but for anyone who is on a healing journey of any kind.
Why not give yourself a chance to reflect on the word matters most to you right this moment. Doodle it, or haiku it, or write a song about it. In other words, explore it with your creative self and see what happens.
Or if you want me to turn that word into visual medicine, schedule a session with me for what I promise will be an unforgettable hour of your life.
Your word really is everything, and then some.