Writing about traumatic experiences helps us heal from psychological wounds. Using our hands to physically put words onto paper detailing our experience is directly linked to the brain’s processing system, bringing forth a profound type of healing.
I’ve discussed the importance of writing about emotional experiences as a therapeutic process in a previous post, Written Word is Powerful Enough to Heal Trauma. I encourage you to read that article for more information on the incredible power of writing for healing, supported by research.
If you aren’t sure where to start when staring at a blank page, hoping for some healing words to pour forth onto the page, a great way to begin is by using prompts. I’ve compiled a list of writing prompts to heal trauma and sorted them into two categories: journal prompts, and fiction writing prompts.
Remember, these prompts are for your eyes only (unless you decide to share them with a therapist) so it is vital that you write without judgment or restraint. Healing through writing is possible, but just like any other form of processing trauma, it requires you to be honest and willing to open your heart. Meet yourself where you are in this moment without rushing, and if it becomes overwhelming, allow yourself a break.
Journal Prompts for Healing Trauma
These prompts are perfect for your healing journey. Pick ones that feel right to you, and that provokes an emotional response. You do not have to do them in any order, nor do you need to use any that don’t feel right for your lived experience. Be as truthful as possible and use your answers to learn about how your past impacts your behaviors today.
- Write about the experience itself. Focus on the facts and not the emotional state.
- Write about a time when you felt your needs weren’t met. If something similar happens in the future, what can you do to stand up for yourself?
- Write a list of your common triggers. Then write what you need from your partner when triggered. Use this as a communication tool for you and your partner to discuss how they can better help you.
- Write about a time when you felt you weren’t good enough. What events lead up to that moment, and how can you show your past self-compassion for things out of their control?
- Write about a time you showed vulnerability and were not received with compassion. What would you say to your past self if you were the one being confided in?
- Write about the moment you realized your traumatic situation was not normal, and that you needed change. What steps did you take toward that change? Tell your past self what you are proud of them for.
- Write about what makes you a survivor, as opposed to a victim.
- Write about the ways your unresolved feelings toward the situation show up in your life today. What can you do to move past those fears or resentments? Consider who you might be able to communicate these feelings with.
- What is holding you back from being happy at this moment?
- When is the last time you spoke about your experience out loud? Write about that encounter, how it went, who it was with, and if it brought any relief.
- What emotions do you feel when you think of the experience?
- What things in daily life trigger these unresolved emotions?
- Write about a time you downplayed your experience when talking about it to someone. Why did you feel you couldn’t be truthful?
- What is holding you back from feeling proud and grateful for yourself, your brain, and your body, for getting you through the event?
- What negative ideas about yourself came from your trauma? List them and explain why each of them is not true and is only a product of a traumatic situation. Write what ideas you can have of yourself instead – are you a good friend? Are you a talented writer?
- Following the event, what did you do to cope? Was it healthy? How can you cope in a more healthy manner?
- How have you made progress in your healing journey?
- How has your sleep been affected by the trauma? Do you experience nightmares with recurring themes? Do you have difficulty getting comfortable in bed? Write about how it affects your energy throughout the day.
- Do you recognize that your trauma does not define you? Write about how your experience is separate from you as a person.
- Write a list of self-care activities you can do daily, weekly, or monthly, to show yourself kindness and compassion.
- Write about a person who makes you feel safe.
- Write about someone you look up to that has faced adversity in their life.
- Write about your most frequent triggers. How do you feel in your body when these occur? How can you recognize the trigger early on? What can you do to stay safe in those moments?
- What do you feel like you lost due to your trauma? Write about how you can grieve the loss of those things – maybe you grieve the person you could have been or the time that was stolen from your hobbies.
- Write about a place where you feel the most at peace.
- Write about things you are holding guilt for. How can you show yourself forgiveness and compassion?
- Write about what you would most like to talk to a therapist about. What key points of your trauma would you be sure to address? If you have a therapist, consider bringing them this letter.
You can use a regular notebook or diary to jot these prompts down, just be sure to leave space for thoughts and notes. You may want to come back to these prompts once you’re further along in your journey and take note of how far you’ve come.
Another option is to find a guided healing workbook or journal. The all-ages workbook Superhero Therapy for Anxiety and Trauma by Dr. Janina Scarlett was recommended to me by my therapist and has a lot of great in-depth content for healing trauma on your own. She also has Super-Women: Superhero Therapy for Women Battling Anxiety, Depression, and Trauma which is specifically aimed at women.
Creative Writing Prompts for Healing From Trauma
Writing trauma in fiction by drawing on our own experiences can provide healing by giving us a creative outlet for the difficult topic of our trauma. By writing about our triggers, struggles, and aftermath of personal trauma from the view of a fictional party, we can discover new ways to show ourselves empathy and self-compassion. Use these prompts to write about a fictional character, drawing on your own experiences with trauma and mental health.
- Write about a character who is struggling to cope with persistent negative thoughts. What coping mechanism do they use? Is it healthy? Do they have a friend or family member that encourages them toward something healthy?
- Write about a character who refuses to think about their unresolved trauma. How does that trauma leak into their life anyway? Do they have a phobia of something, maybe dark rooms, that they don’t realize is due to their experience?
- Write about a character opening up to a loved one about something that happened to them. How does their loved one respond?
- Write about a character that is triggered by something that also triggers you. Give them an obstacle that requires them to get past that trigger. Do they overcome? If not, do they persevere?
- Write about a character who blames themself for something in their past, and allows that guilt to steer them astray from their goals. Give them an enlightening moment where they see they have been wrong to blame themself. Do they believe it? What other obstacle will make them see the truth?
- Write about a character put in a terrifying situation where their fight/flight/freeze mode is triggered. What do they do? What are the consequences?
- Write about a character who is aware of their triggers. When they face a triggering situation, what do they do to stay calm? Do they have a mantra? Do they check for an exit? Do they call their mom?
- Write about your character’s physical symptoms during a scary scene. What do they feel in their body? Do their hands get sweaty? Does their heart race?
The psychological benefits of writing about our trauma are astounding, with scientific studies to back it up. The American Psychological Association reports that writing about negative experiences not only aids the healing process of the mind, it even strengthens the immune system.
Do you suffer from anxiety or panic attacks while at the grocery store, driving, or at work? Contact an anxiety coach now.
Finding the meaning behind your trauma responses and identifying the corresponding emotions provides deep healing. Healing journal prompts and creative writing prompts are a great addition to your self-discovery toolkit for resolving trauma on your own. Writing as a tool for healing is also an invaluable way of improving your emotional regulation skills, which is incredibly important for trauma survivors.
I recommend you find a way to make this journey special. Set up a safe, comfortable environment to write in, and use writing utensils that make you feel good. That may mean glittery pens that bring a bit of color to the difficult words on the page or an especially pretty notebook that invites you to open it up and share your deepest truths.
I have found immense healing in unexpected places from letting my trauma unveil on the page during fictional writing, as well as setting a daily journaling routine and repetitive affirmations. I am positive that you will be empowered by the use of these prompts on your healing journey.