Expressive Writing Provides Therapeutic Outlet Post-Divorce


  • Writing about one's divorce can help one process the feelings of the experience.
  • Research has shown the health benefits of writing about a trauma or emotional situation.
  • Recent research also has suggested that rehashing the situation may be harmful.

"Given how emotional issues can sometimes create physical ailments during the trauma of the divorce experience, it is important to monitor how beneficial expressive writing is for one’s physical health."

For those who have gone through the experience of a divorce, it can be difficult to process all of the complex emotions. Many people look for creative methods and mediums, in an effort to make sense of the situation and move forward in their own lives.

One of the most reliable ones that many, including those in Hollywood, have found in order to explore the spectrum of their experiences is writing.

The emotional tapestry of the divorce experience is incredibly engaging and diverse. Considering the individuals involved, the given situation, and the personal dynamics of the individuals in question, the consequential writing on all of the events and feelings of the divorce could easily lend itself to artistic expression.

Supportive studies

Many have found a great source of comfort in journaling their thoughts and feelings during and after their divorce. For some, such as International Bipolar Foundation member Laura Low, journaling and writing letters to an ex-spouse that never get mailed were great exercises that allowed her to let go of all of the emotions associated with her divorce.

Some of the research furthers Low’s findings, regarding the health benefits surrounding expressive writing. The Royal College of Psychiatrists found in their studies that writing about emotional, traumatic, or stressful events generally give participating individuals a significantly better psychological and physical outcome, compared to those who were writing about neutral topics.

Research at the University of Texas monitored the effects of expressive writing on depression-vulnerable college students, which have exhibited both elevated prior depressive symptoms and low current depressive symptoms. They found that the expressive writing significantly lowered depression symptoms at the 6-month assessment. Given how divorce can trigger many mental health issues that can spiral into depressive symptoms, it is important to understand the benefits of expressive writing about the experience.

The Department of Psychology at North Carolina State conducted a study, observing how expressive writing affects working memory capacity. They found that expressive writing reduces intrusive and avoidant thinking about a stressful experience, thus freeing available working memory capacity. This can be significantly beneficial during the rigors of a divorce or custody case, when remembering multiple events can have an impact on the case’s outcome.

Researchers in New Zealand looked into the hypothesis that expressive writing can be beneficial to one’s healing and physical health. They found that 76 percent of the older adults between the ages of 64 to 97 years old, who wrote about daily or upsetting events or activities, had fully healed from a physical ailment. Given how emotional issues can sometimes create physical ailments during the trauma of the divorce experience, it is important to monitor how beneficial expressive writing is for one’s physical health.

Recent research

However, recent research has suggested that the act of writing one’s post-divorce feelings down may do more harm than good. David Sbarra of the University of Arizona did a study of 90 recently or separated individuals, that was published in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, and found that writing about one’s feelings can actually leave some individuals feeling more emotionally distraught later down the line. Those who are left feeling this way, in particular, are those seeking a deeper meaning for their failed marriages.

Sbarra states that while individuals are looking to make sense of their divorce experiences and failed relationships, ruminating about them could often cause an individual facing those circumstances to go to some mentally dark places in one’s thoughts. Furthermore, constantly going to that dark place in one’s thoughts through repeated journaling will only intensify the distress.

However, that does not mean that writing about a divorce is entirely all bad. Even Sbarra said that he still needs to measure whether non-expressive control writing provides healing benefits over not journaling at all. He also said that those avoiding processing their feelings, regarding a divorce, may help them process the events more effectively.

Therapeutic exercise

Before the divorce process even begins, it can be a stressful time on any individual facing marital strife. The issues breaking apart your relationship can often cause mental and emotional damage that requires seeking professional help. Expressive writing can often be a therapeutic exercise that can add context to the hearsay that leaks from an unhappy marriage.

Writing about the divorce process and post-divorce feelings provides an outlet that many who have experienced the situation can attest to. In devoting your energy to your own recovery after a divorce, you are putting yourself and your future health first.

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