Introducing Denis Ledoux of The Memoir Network

DenisheadshotI’m so pleased that Denis Ledoux, founder and president of The Memoir Network, found me. I am now a subscriber to his newsletter and a huge proponent on his thoughts about writing as a way to heal. I am definitely going to mention his guest blog post tomorrow when Eleanor Vincent and I lead a workshop called Telling Healing Stories at the Story Circle Network’s writers conference. His network is also on the list of resources we’ll give our participants.

If you don’t know Denis and The Memoir Network, I feel honored to introduce him to you now.

Writing Painful Memories: Three Tips To Make It Easier

by Denis Ledoux

Memoir writing is a generally pleasant experience and, by its very nature, promotes healing and growth. But, there are times in writing when pain arises spontaneously and surprises us or times when we know the experience will be painful even before we start. What to do?
Sooner or later, pain seems to come with memoir writing. Sometimes we can handle this pain easily enough, but it is the other times that, if not handled well, can inhibit–and even stop–you from continuing with your memoir.

Sometimes painful memories (poverty, childhood humiliation, abuse, abandonment, addiction, deaths, etc.) you had “forgotten” will resurface. Or, you may be unwilling to evoke certain memories at all. Perhaps they are still too painful, or perhaps you are afraid you will not be able to handle the pain if it comes back.

You might say, “I put that behind me years ago. I don’t want to relive it.” No one wishes you to resume gratuitously the pain which once clamped down on your life. But, if a memory is so painful that you are still afraid of it, take this as an indication that you haven’t gotten over it yet. If a memory is still sapping your emotional energy–whether you are consciously aware of it or not, memoir writing may be very helpful to you.

1) The very act of writing about a painful experience can give you relief from pain. It works because your writing serves as an observant consciousness. In a sense, your paper or notebook becomes a confidant, an ideal listener. When your pain is witnessed and acknowledged by another person, then it is validated as being real and not a concoction. In the same way, writing provides an observer self, an effective way of assuaging your pain and sometimes of freeing yourself of it once and for all.

How many times have you heard people say: “I feel better having shared this with you.” By sharing your pain with your writing–and with your reader (even if that reader is a future you and no one else), you can create relief for yourself.

2) Begin to approach your pain by writing around it. For instance, if the death of your spouse is still too difficult for you to write about, you might try writing about when you first became aware of the signs of illness, or about initial treatments when you hoped a cure was still possible.
When you feel ready, try writing your difficult stories. Eventually, as when you peel an onion layer by layer, you will come to the center of your grief and to acceptance and understanding. Though the process may be difficult, it will lead you to a new relationship with the memory, one relieved of the pain that now surrounds it.

3) Writing your lifestories is not intended to be emotional or psychological therapy, or a substitute for such work under the guidance of a professional counselor. Yet lifewriting sometimes conveys benefits very similar to therapy and can do away with the need for such intervention.
In writing about painful memories, there’s a time when you know you can handle the experience alone. But when it’s clear you need some help, look for assistance from a professional therapist whose expertise will guide you safely and effectively through your quagmire of memories.
Good Luck writing!

About Denis Ledoux
Denis has never gotten used to the stories of difficulties and pain that come from his writing clients. He has been helping people to write memoirs since 1988 through his company The Memoir Network. In that time, he has seen the power of memoir writing to heal. Most recently, he completed his mother’s memoir, We Were Not Spoiled, and his uncle’s, Business Boy to Business Man. He lives and writes in Lisbon Falls, Maine.


Learn my story of writing to heal in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On

Learn my story of writing to heal in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On


  1. Madeline, thanks for hosting Denis today. I know of his work as I follow The Memoir Network.

    Denis, I appreciated your tips on writing about painful memories. I had no concept of what writing could do to benefit my feelings toward an abusive mother until I began work on my memoir. In addition to working on the draft manuscript, I also crafted letters to my mother (following her death) as a way of giving a voice to the abused child who, if she had spoken at the time, would have received additional abusive treatment as punishment. Coincidentally, I just posted on my blog regarding this same topic. Good to see you hear at Madeline’s.

    • Madeline Sharples says:

      Dear Sherrey,
      I’m so glad you follow The Memoir Network. It is wonderful resource. That you are writing your memoir – your painful stories – and letters to your mother – I’m sure is healing for you. I can’t wait to read your book. Best.

  2. Madeline,
    Thank you for featuring Denis in this important post on dealing with painful memories in memoir. The Memoir Network is an excellent resource for memoir writers of all levels.

    Denis, I appreciate these practical and wise tips about the inevitable pain that seems to come when writing memoir–the very act of writing brings healing ;approach your pain by writing around it and writing our life stories is not intended to replace seeking the guidance of a professional counselor. Thank you for leading us all in the “memoir conversation”.

    • Madeline Sharples says:

      Hi, Kathy,
      We have both benefitted from writing our painful stories. I think Denis provides such practical ways for others to find healing in writing their stories. Thanks as always for being here. All best.

    • Kathy, thank you for your comments. It is my pleasure to share with everyone in the “memoir conversation.”


  1. […] are free to write in more depth, deal more readily with past issues of painful or abusive childhoods, or write about controversial subjects when they write in the third […]

  2. […] Denis was last here, his subject was: Writing Painful Memories: Three Tips To Make It Easier. Today he discusses Writing Your Memoir: This Might Be A Challenge. Without further ado, […]

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