How writing helped Alexandra Hamilton, co-founder of River’s Gift, to heal 

By Sarah Cannata

While I am interested in the research about the benefits of writing, my path with writing as a healing tool began way before I knew about the science. My lived experience tells me that writing is a powerful healing tool. What I have become increasingly interested in recently is how other people incorporate writing into their life for healing purposes. I interviewed Alexandra Hamilton, co-founder of River’s Gift about the role writing has played in her life, and the impact her writing has had on others. Here’s what Alexandra shared.

How has writing helped you in your own healing journey?

When my son, River, died it just felt natural to express my grief on social media. I didn’t even care if anyone read it, but it felt like a place I could spill all of my feelings and once I hit “post” just feel some form of relief. The posts morphed into blogs and articles and soon became my most authentic outlet for healing. It was a safe space to share what I was feeling. Whether that be the good, the bad and often, the very ugly. The braver I got to share my deepest and darkest thoughts, the more engagement and more comments of “I feel that way too” were flooding my inbox. This helped immensely to know that the way I was feeling was normal and somehow I’d crawl out of the hole I was in. I believe it also allowed me to articulate my grief at a time when my heart felt so heavy. By describing the heaviness and pain I was able to open up the channels for my family and those around me to truly understand what I was going through and for them to be able to help more. 

Alexandra Hamilton, co-founder of River’s Gift

How has sharing your blog helped others through their grief?

I noticed that the more honest, open and raw I was, the more other families were reaching out to me, expressing their grief and thanking me for sharing. Other mums who were up through the night worried that their rainbow babies would also pass away from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), would message me, and thank me for being there and supporting them. It made them feel less alone and able to cope with another dark night; I feel so grateful that I was able to do that for them.

I’m in the process of writing a book based on the experiences of a mum who has lost a child. It’s loosely based on my journey but also that of other families who impacted how I got through each day, the evolution of other relationships and the rollercoaster of emotions that can be felt. In those early days, I searched for others who might be able to tell me I would survive this heartbreak; I feel like this book will do that for others. 

What does your writing practice look like?

In the early days there wasn’t any structure to my writing. I would just write when I felt the urge, which was often in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep. I’d find myself in the depths of despair and needing to get it all out of my head so I could have some rest. As the years have gone on and my grief has evolved, I tend to plan my writing about significant days that are coming up such as my son’s birthday or the anniversary of his death. But at other times, the need to express myself seeps out without warning and I find a need to just start typing. Writing for me is a brain break and it’s an outlet for creativity that we’ve been able to incorporate into River’s Gift, founded in honour of my son.

Is there a message about SIDS you’d like to share with people?

The devastation of SIDS is that you have a healthy baby who, for no apparent reason, dies in their sleep. It’s an unimaginable trauma that changes your life from the moment you find your baby not breathing.

River’s Gift aims to one day find a cure so that no parent must live through this nightmare, and through our research funding and education we are taking steps to do this.

For any parent, grandparent or caregiver who wants to learn more, they can download our safe sleep and SIDS brochure.

I’m confident that my baby boy’s gift to the world is to save lives.

How have you incorporated writing to heal into your life? Feel free to reach out and share your story.

Love the idea of having a regular writing practice but have no idea where to start?

Storytelling for the Soul’s Write Your Way to Healing Quick Start Guide is designed to teach busy people like you how to use embodied writing as a healing tool. In just 5 easy-to-follow steps, this PDF arms you with the basics for writing your way to healing and includes writing prompts to get you started. Set aside 10 minutes a day (or whatever you can manage) to write. Download the free PDF.

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