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~ Articles about Journey of Hearts ~

JOURNEY OF HEARTS ™ Website Offers Resources to Cope with Loss
Kirsti A. Dyer, MD, MS

It was a simple concept to combine elements of medicine, psychiatry, poetry, prose and images to provide resources and support for those who have experienced a loss. It started as a simple idea: create a website that would address the simple, common emotion of loss. It utilized simple words expressed as poetry or articles to help visitors realize that they were not alone in their feelings of loss and the grief response. The responses have been Simply Amazing!

JOURNEY OF HEARTS: A Healing Place in CyberSpace™  was created as a website for anyone who has ever experienced a loss and a place for enhancing physical and emotional well-being. It was my response, as a physician, to not having the time to spend with patients and help them deal with their grief and loss issues. JOURNEY OF HEARTS ™ was also created to be "A Healing Place," a place of hope, encouragement and inspiration—something that I could have used to keep up my spirits during my years of medical training.

Loss is an emotion that does not discriminate as to a person’s sex, race, religion, age, color, or nationality. It is a common universal emotion that unites people across borders, one that most, if not all, people have experienced at one time or another. Loss often is accompanied by grief, an emotion which must be processed or, to quote Elaine Childs-Gowell, R.N., Ph.D,:

If I do not do my grieving about the old hurts and insults, then when I am faced with a here and now grief experience, I will end up having to dredge up all that old energy along with the current experience.
One of the methods that I found useful in dealing with difficult, emotional issues or losses that I encountered during medical school and residency training was the use of poetry. It surfaced as a healthy mechanism for coping with the stresses and the losses of Medical Training. Poetry is a very effective way of expressing intense emotions, or "eviscerating on paper," as I describe the process. Writing poems or stories is a cathartic way to get things out of my system.

It has been said that "Poetry is the mirror to the soul." I find it to be a perfect medium for conveying the common emotions of grief and loss, to connect with a person on the deepest emotional level, to provide words for emotions that people are unable to express, and help them to realize that they are not alone in these intense grieving emotions.

I started to share my writings with friends and colleagues, and then finally with patients. I discovered that many of the poems written to deal with the death of a patient or friend would provide much solace when shared with those who were left behind. I soon realized that a poem written for one type of loss, could ‘speak’ to others who had experienced different types of losses. The reader would add the interpretation needed to have the poem relate to their situation. The simple, common sense of loss was the common factor. The reasons for the loss varied: death, relationship, suicide, loss of breast, loss of self-esteem, loss of physical mobility what was the same were feelings and the subsequent grief response, which in many cases would persist for years.

It was a simple leap of faith to take the poems and publish them, along with other articles and resources, on a website to share across the World Wide Web and the world at large. I saw the world-wide grief response when Princess Diana and Mother Teresa died, and realized there were many people that had not processed their grief for years. The website has since received messages of "Thanks for being out there," from many different countries, verifying that loss is indeed one of the universal life experiences.

One of my poems in particular, "Darkness," has touched those trying to deal with the deepest depths of depression. Several have written to express their thanks for putting their feelings into words. By sharing this poem with others, they have been able to ‘explain’ how they are feeling. The poem, "The Guardian Angel" was placed in the office of one of the AIDS Doctors in Santa Barbara and appeared in a inspirational resource publication for those dealing with life-threatening illness. It also helped an AIDS social worker make sense of a suicide, and was read at a funeral to help the friends and family understand the long struggle and the need to finally let go after many months of battling infections. Another poem, "In Memory of You," was written after I experienced a series of deaths of patients and friends and was used to help the office staff and patients cope with the sudden death of their young physician, where I worked as a temporary replacement. 

We have had people "discover the Healing Place" and share poems written from their heart, from a variety of losses, as part of their own healing process, showing the therapeutic benefits. In sharing these poems and the intense feelings on the website, the hope is that visitors will realize they are not alone in their feelings of grief and loss, that others have experienced similar emotions in the past, or worse, and survived.

Our goal is to help provide support through a variety of resources, poetry, inspirational quotes and readings, and thus help the visitor through the grief process--from loss, through transformation, to healing. After a life-altering loss, a person is forever changed and transformed. We have utilized the butterfly as our symbol of transformation. The site also utilizes images and color to help create a background mood with soothing blues and purples, energizing or happy yellows when reading the poems and articles.

Transitional Medicine is the phrase I have coined for this area stuck between traditional medicine and traditional psychiatry, an area long overlooked in the healthcare profession. Loss and the subsequent grief response cause many cases of depression, as well as many primary care and emergency department visits. This leading cause of many unnecessary health care visits, decreased work productivity, and missed work days, is one that few are addressing.

It was through the creation of the website, utilizing poetry as a means of helping people, that I finally discovered that what I had been using as an adjunctive to medical care with patients had a name: Poetry Therapy.

The responses to the site have been much more than I could have anticipated, and continue to amaze, to motivate, and to confirm that we are filling a need on the Internet. A website such as JOURNEY OF HEARTS ™ is a perfect resource for those who are unable to get out of the home situationally or physically home-bound and for those suffering from insomnia. It is especially helpful for those with depression, to encourage them to assess their level of depression and seek help if needed, or get support and reassurance through the resources that are on the website. Combining the Internet’s ability to reach so many in so many different countries, with the modality of Poetry Therapy, we have been able to create a new type of healing modality, a modality that has already helped many to process their loss.

National Association for Poetry Therapy (NAPT)
This article originally appeared in the March 1999 issue of "The Museletter," the quarterly publication from the National Association for Poetry Therapy. The theme of the issue was "Simplicity." For more information about this organization visit their website at:

Poetry is a perfect medium for conveying the common emotions of grief and loss.
It allows one to connect with a grieving person on a deep emotional level
and help find words for emotions that they may be otherwise unable to express.

Kirsti A. Dyer, MD, MS
See the Emergency 911 Page for links to immediate resources
if you are feeling helpless, hopeless, overwhelmingly depressed, or suicidal.

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Last update July 20, 2002