Gregory Orr x On Being | the distilld

One way to start the process of healing is by talking about our trauma. If this is too painful, we can write about them through poetry. By writing, we don’t just heal from our suffering, but help others overcome their grief.

Gregory Orr x On Being | the distilld

One way to start the process of healing is by talking about our trauma. If this is too painful, we can write about them through poetry. By writing, we don’t just heal from our suffering, but help others overcome their grief.

Below is a short discussion inspired by Alain de Botton on this episode of On Being with Krista Tippett.

There’s so much uncertainty in life, including accidents that can end up wounding us for the rest of our lives. One way to heal, according to poet Gregory Orr, may be to write about our traumas in lyric poems. Language can be a tool in dealing and overcoming trauma. Having the courage to face them through poetry can help us acknowledge these events and move past them.

In this episode of On Being, Gregory talks to Krista Tippet about how the accidental shooting and killing of his brother affected him and his family. He shares how writing poems helped him heal from the traumatic experience.

How can we work through trauma?

  • Live with meaning. When we experience trauma, we are in shock. We may become confused about why things had to happen. To work through these experiences, we can find meaning through them by expressing them through poetry. When we put our thoughts and feelings into words, we can free ourselves from the shadow trauma casts in our lives.
  • Lyric poetry can restabilize. With all the chaos that we feel because of trauma, our next aim is to find footing. As lyric poetry is written or spoken in the first person, it allows the writer to focus on themselves. It grounds the entire narration from their perspective.
  • Be an active soul. In having the courage to write and tell our story through poems, we don’t become victims that are “passive experiencers.” We can give opportunities for others to learn from our stories or heal with us as they read our poems.

When we work through our trauma by expressing them through outlets like lyric poetry, we allow ourselves to begin healing from our experiences.

the distilld lessons

Here are the distilld lessons inspired by the episode "Shaping Grief with Language" featuring Gregory Orr, from On Being with Krista Tippett:

When he was just 12 years old, Gregory Orr accidentally shot and killed his younger brother. This harrowing experience changed his family’s life.

To work through his trauma, Gregory started writing. He discovered how lyric poetry can be healing.

Gregory quoted a Danish writer who said, “Any sorrow can be borne if it can be made into a story, or a story can be told about it.”

Some people attribute traumatic experiences as part of God’s plan. Others just shrug them off and suggest for victims to rise above it. Neither acknowledges the personal suffering of the victim.

When we suffer from a traumatic experience, we feel chaos within. To restore our footing, we try to understand what happened to us and find meaning.

If we want to understand our traumatic experience and why it happened to us, we can start by talking about them. When that is too much, we can try writing about them through lyric poems.

Writing lyric poems can restabilize us. This is because when we remember what happened to us and write about them, our understanding of the traumatic experience grows.

When we understand why traumatic experiences happen to us, we stop resorting to self-blame. We also realize that we are not responsible for what happened to us.

Every word and every line we write in our poem carries with them a bit of pain we have in us. By simply telling our story through poems, we can gradually free ourselves from suffering.

Lyric poetry is written or spoken in the first person. In this way, we can narrate our story from our perspective and experience. We can feel empowered and honored when we do this, knowing that we can speak in our voice.

When we write about our traumas, our pieces can reach people who may have experienced a similar incident in their lives. In letting them know that they are not alone, we can give them solace, and we can help in their healing.

Applying It

  • Have the courage to talk about your traumas. Although it’s not easy to open up to other people about our pain, we need to talk about them for us to heal. If we don’t, we will carry the pain with us longer than we should.
  • Try writing about your pain. If you’re not comfortable talking about your trauma, you can resort to writing about it instead. You can unburden yourself of the pain by simply putting them in words.
  • Lend an ear. People who have gone through traumatic experiences carry with them a great burden of pain. Simply listening to them is more than enough to help them in their healing process.
  • Be gentle with your words and actions. As we know that words and actions can have a great impact on people, we should remind ourselves to use kind words and be gentle with them. We don’t always know what situation they’re in, so we need to be mindful of how we interact with them.

For a more in depth conversation, the distilld lessons (extended) are here.


On Being

Hosted by Krista Tippett, On Being is a podcast which examines what it means to be human and how we want to live. The distilld lessons here.

Great! You've successfully subscribed.
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.