Senior Spotlight: The Value of Expressive Writing in Healing

May 6, 2019

Sydney Grob, a senior majoring in Biology, reflects on her experience with the Bass Connections project team Expressive Writing for Resilience in Adult Pediatric Oncology Survivors and Their Caregivers. For the past year, this team has explored how reflective writing practices can be used to promote healing, cultivate resilience and improve health and well-being in survivors of childhood cancer.

Sydney Grob.

I think regardless of who you are and what you have going on in your life, taking time for reflection is so important. Over the past year we learned about and worked through an expressive writing series as a class, and it was the first time at Duke that I truly was given the space to be authentic with myself and my own experiences thus far. It gave my teammates and I the opportunity to get to know, open up to and be vulnerable with each other – complete strangers when we first started.

Every day at Duke we are surrounded by incredible people, and yet, I think we can get bogged down in the tantalizing to do list and aren’t always receptive to getting to know other people. This was different. This project was about getting to know the people around me, and this lesson is especially valuable as I finish senior year and aim to be a physician one day. I have learned to always take the time to get to know the person in front of me – to be an active listener and receptive to whatever they may say.

I think I always heard that being a great physician is as much about being a humanitarian as it as about being a scientist. One must always treat the patient as a person first and foremost. I didn’t really understand what that meant though. I learned what that meant by exploring and practicing expressive writing and active listening.

Having gone through the expressive writing series and working towards my certification as an Expressive Writing Facilitator through Duke Integrative Medicine, I believe that reflection can and should be done in the form of expressive writing. Doing collaborative research became a place of safety and security each week where I was receptive to hearing the experiences of those around me and vice versa. Making time to get to know those around you, not judging before you know the whole story and supporting those around you, is something that can extend beyond this research project.

This collaborative research with Bass Connections inspired me to begin my own startup endeavor, QuestED, that is bringing gamified, educational based apps to teach kids about their chronic childhood illness. We educate from diagnosis through treatment and emphasize the psychosocial component of being diagnosed with an illness as a child. This was inspired by Bass Connections.

Team's poster.

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