Blogging Through Trauma

Some Background

The term “blog” a combination of the terms “web” and “log”–was first coined back in 1997 by computer programming types (who are notoriously lazy, one word is better than two).However, it wasn’t until hosted web services like Open Diary and Live Journal and of course Blogger launched in 1999 that blogs began to rise in popularity.At least among the more tech-savvy crowd. And it wasn’t until about 2004/2005 that blogs hit the mainstream.Bloggers were prominent at the Democratic National Convention (July 2004), and during Hurricane Katrina (August 2005).Note that a Google Blog Search for “Hurricane Katrina” between August and December 2005 netted over 24,000 blog posts; a search for “Hurricane Isabel” between October and December 2003 netted just nine.

Blogging through trauma fulfills some important roles:

Journaling / Story Telling / Community

Some people use blogs as an internet based manifestation of therapeutic journaling, whether its journaling about day-to-day life or around a specific theme (e.g. parenting, arts & crafts, computer programming, or tools).Others use their blog—or establish a new blog– in response to a specific trauma.Common themes include death of a loved one, diagnosis of a major/ life threatening illness or response to a catastrophic event.

From a 2008 article Blogging About Trauma: Linguistic Markers of Apparent Recovery


“Over the past 20 years, several studies have demonstrated that writing about traumatic life events is beneficial in the post-trauma recovery process.”


….the agreed-upon definition of cognitive processing includes the ability to express insight about the traumatic event, to assert causal relationships relating to one’s life before, during, and after the traumatic event, and to process discrepancies between one’s ideal world and the traumatic event. Recent work on repetitive writing tasks has shown that words reflecting these cognitions in written and spoken trauma narratives (e.g., realise, should, would) are reflective of better recovery outcomes following a traumatic event (see Chung & Pennebaker, 2007).

In other words, blogging (and writing) can be used as a therapeutic tool for dealing with a traumatic event.In the Hoyt study note that bloggers that they considered more along the road to becoming “recovered” exhibited in their writing increased awareness and as noted in an increase in the passage of time between posts and the content of posts, an integration back into pre-trauma social activities As writers (of our own trauma or the imagined trauma of our fictional characters) this kind of linguistic understanding can be beneficial in rendering our complex characters and creating authentic dialog…

As we’ve learned from TRAUMA AND RECOVERY the presence of absence of community can greatly affect a person’s ability to work through the trauma….Blogging is one way to reach out into the internet and create community….Eg. Mothers With Cancer (


I met Jen Lemen at a conference on blogging for business in New York in 2005, after which I began to read her blog sporadically.On February 7th, she posted this:

…. Last but not least, I have a request. Would you be willing to help my friend Meg and I encourage the lovely and dear Jen Ballantyne? Jen’s cancer is back, it’s not looking good, and she needs companionship and hope for this part of her journey. Email us at weloveyoujen at gmail dot com if you’re interested.

So I clicked and followed over to Jen Ballantyne’s site–she’s blogging through her experience with cancer and parenting….

And she had a link to Mothers With Cancer

So Jen Ballentyne’s community has expanded via blogging

From “A Public Trust:Cancer Patients Connect and Cope by Blogging the Journey” BY JOSEPH BEDNAR, Healthcare News of Western Massachusets:

“Cancer can be very isolating,” [Oncology social worker Marlene] Quinlan said. “You can feel like you’re going through it alone; even if you have lots of support from family and friends, you’re the one going through it. To feel a connection with people who are going through similar experiences can be very beneficial.”


Support from around the blogosphere, evidenced by:

·Allowing visitors to the blog, or readers, to add a comment to the blog post, or “trackback” by commenting from his/her own blog

Fellow Bloggers posting

·Hyperlinks or references pointing to other websites or blogs.

·Display of links to other blogs that the web author reads, showcasing the blogger’s community online.

..  and sometimes the blog stays online to memorialize someone….

Eyewitness / Citizen Journalism

For large traumatic community events, bloggers serve as eye witnesses and a new-ish term “citizen journalists.Note that even though the mass proliferation of blogs had not yet occurred in 2003 during Hurricane Isabel, the ABC affiliate in the tidewater region of Virginia hosted a blog like platform that allowed locals to post live reports. (

Because blogs are accessible to so many people, another function of these eyewitness accounts is to tell the stories that the mainstream media may not be telling (whether because of lack of access or bias).


Consider this account told at by Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky, two medical services workers in New Orleans for a conference with Katrina hit:

TWO DAYS after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the Walgreens store at the corner of Royal and Iberville Streets in the city’s historic French Quarter remained locked…. Outside Walgreens’ windows, residents and tourists grew increasingly thirsty and hungry. The much-promised federal, state and local aid never materialized, and the windows at Walgreens gave way to the looters.

…. We are willing to guess that there were no video images or front-page pictures of European or affluent white tourists looting the Walgreens in the French Quarter.

Some of these kinds of stories these may not have been told if it weren’t for these kinds of eyewitness reports being told via emails and blogs and spread throughout the internets…

Organizing for Disaster Relief / calls for help


As we all know, the Red Cross and FEMA were slow to get their acts together…grass roots groups began picking up the slack, and blogging their experiences and their needs facilitated disaster relief.One of my favorite post Katrina stories –The forming of the Waveland Café, by evangelical church groups and the rainbow family…This account is from Rainbow family member “Hawker” (an electrical engineer living in North Carolina and one of the instigators of the Rainbow Katrina Relief)

….For reasons I don’t fully understand Waveland was almost completely ignored by larger relief groups. The only folks doing any real work were the small, mostly church based, relief groups.There was no sign of the Salvation Army. The only Red Cross presence was trucks picking up foods from other groups and re-distributing it.This seemed like the place we were needed.

We arrived in the parking lot of a Freds food store and met a local Christian relief group from Bastrop Texas called BCOC were down there, as they said, “to just love on everyone as much as we can”. That sounds like Rainbow to me. We joined forces in a common goal to serve and help as much as we could. We were two totally different groups united by a common cause….

These accounts began to circulate among various internet communities, along with the calls for supplies and donations….

Read more here:

And one that is near and dear to my heart…  my friend’s son Max Spartacus….

Help our hero win his battle against life threatening cancer.

Max Spartacus Kleckner is a brave four-year old boy diagnosed with stage 4 embryonic type rhabdomyosarcoma. This is an inoperable condition requiring a long fight with mounting medical expenses. A group of family, friends, and neighbors have gathered to support Max and his parents Mark Kleckner and Natalie Young. We hope you will join us on this journey towards healing.

The blog ( keeps friends and family near and far updated on Max’s progress… and has an option to donate…  because even people with good jobs and “good” health insurance plans end up spending a lot of money out of pocket for things that are not covered…     btw Max’s  lastest tests are good!


When cruising through some of the Mothers With Cancer blogs, I ran across several who had died.  Often family members left the blog up as a sort of memorial

For more reading on Blogs as Literature:

The Labyrinth Unbound: Weblogs as Literature by Steve Himmer, Emerson College

Imagining the Blogosphere:An Introduction to the Imagined Community of Instant Publishing by Graham Lampa, Hamline University

Trauma Blogs

Katrina Our story from waveland, MS
Daily Kos: Waveland, MS Cafe & Relief Center: Help Still Needed
The Forming of the New Waveland Café
Crossroads Dispatches: Going Home, More Tsunami Stories
Poynter Online – Poynter Ethics Journal
The world according to me
India Uncut – The Tsunami Posts
Crossroads Dispatches: A Tsunami Survivor’s Perspective: The Press and Blogs
The Comfy Place
Mothers With Cancer
Poynter Online – Taking Tsunami Coverage into Their Own Hands
Poynter Online – E-Media Tidbits
The real heroes and sheroes of New Orleans
All About My Divorce | Too Much Nonsense – My Personal Blog
Columbine High Tragedy WebRing Columbine Tragedy,Littleton Colorado,highschool shootings,Columbine high,Eric Harris,Dylan Klebold,Lost loved ones,Anti Hate Sites,
RUOK? Blogging Communication Technologies During Crises
Thousands of Blogs Cover Hurricane Katrina’s Impact

Hoyt, T., & Pasupathi, M. 2008 Dec 23. Blogging About Trauma: Linguistic Measures of Apparent Recovery.E-Journal of Applied Psychology [Online] 4:2. Available:

2 thoughts on “Blogging Through Trauma

  1. I’m glad I found this post – it has given me things to think as a family member begins a journey with a serious illness. It wasn’t my first thought (if it had been, I might have given up on myself), but I pretty quickly wondered what kind of stuff I could write about it all. I don’t hesitate to write about & from the sometimes-challenging experiences of a loved one. The question for me is always making it public; the negotiation is the line between their story and mine. It seemed easier to figure out back when the poem or story might be in a journal 300 people would see. Or maybe I was just kidding myself. But now, there’s nowhere to hide.

    Thanks, Jen.


  2. Thanks for reading! this was actually a presentation I gave in a class on Trauma in Literature. We read the book TRAUMA AND RECOVERY by Judith Herman as a lens through which we looked at literature.

    The thing about writing about trauma, specifically crafting story out of our experiences (whether it is public or not) is that it really helps us process our feelings.

    And yes, the memoirists dilemmas: who has the right to the tell the story? is this story mine to tell? will the telling hurt someone I care about? all things to consider when making our work public.


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