Helping Chronically Ill Kids Dig Deep For Healing

Garth SundemGarth Sundem is a parent, husband, and author of books including “Real Real Kids, Real Stories, Real Change”.

The Diary of Anne Frank is one of them. Zlata’s Diary is another. Journals of young people going through horrendous circumstances, who found a way to record their experiences in a way that tangibly helped them in the moment.

Therapists tell us that children and teenagers with chronic illness can also benefit from processing their pain and fears in a journal. Now, a book called Digging Deep: A Journal for Young People Facing Health Challenges can help show the way.

Digging Deep is the work of two authors dedicated to helping support the emotional needs of children facing severe illness or disability. Rose Offner, a writer, artist and teacher, has written several books about the art of journaling (Journal to the Soul and others); Sheri Brisson is a brain tumor survivor who now counsels adults and children with serious illnesses.

“I have made it my life’s mission to empower sick kids and their families,” Brisson writes on her website. “I know firsthand that these kids need more than distraction; they need to heal their hearts.”

The product of their collaboration is a book that has plenty of blank space for children to write whatever they wish. But it also has several pages of helpful text at the beginning of the book, as well as questions at the top of individual pages, prompting kids to write about a particular topic. Here are two examples:

“Sometimes life isn’t fair and things happen that we can’t immediately understand. Have you ever wondered, ‘Why me?’ Describe what you felt the day you were diagnosed. What do you understand about your illness now that your couldn’t back then?”

At times, it may seem like your family and friends just don’t understand. Who can you talk to? Who doesn’t hear or listen to you? Write about what you would like to tell those who are not listening so that they could understand.

The book is beautifully designed, with colorful borders around the blank spaces. But the authors also encourage young journalers to embellish their book any way they like, with stickers, markers and even “secret pockets.”

Ten years ago, when my daughter was a young teenager struggling through treatment of chronic Lyme, someone suggested that she start a journal. To my surprise, she not only started it, but kept it up for several years—recording her thoughts, and fears and hopes. It became an important outlet for her, a way to deal with the tumult of her life. (All that practice also helped her become a very good writer!)

Notes Rose Offner: “It is my belief that journaling has the power to help us discover our unique voice, connect with our inner wisdom, and help us heal. Asking ourselves uncomfortable questions isn’t easy, but those questions open our minds and help us connect with our own hearts. It’s this deep awareness that allows us to find our voice and trust it.”

I witnessed firsthand how writing a journal helped my daughter heal. If you know a young person who is struggling with chronic illness, Digging Deep could be a valuable gift.


– Dorothy Leland, Lyme Disease blog “Touched by Lyme” (Amazon book review, November 24, 2014)