I just posted an article by Joanna Campbell Slan titled, "Journal the Hurts; Scrapbook the Highs". It's an article that has stayed with me for years now -- if you'll notice the copyright at the end of the piece, it reads 2001. (That's practically a lifetime in scrapbook industry years!)
In my classes, I continue to reference this article. It expressed succinctly a key point I try to stress -- that scrapbooking about challenges can be rewarding and healing, but it doesn't have to include every last sordid detail of each experience. When I first read it, I immediately appreciated how Joanna was able to put those thoughts into words.
Unfortunately, even though I mentioned the concept in my classes, I had no where to point students so they could read the article on their own. The article was originally (and exclusively, I believe) posted at Graceful Bee, a now-defunct online scrapbooking magazine (may she rest in peace -- GB was a pioneer in online scrapbooking magazines, truly innovative and groundbreaking). Since the GB archives are gone, so too was Joanna's article.
So I recently bucked up my courage to email her and ask if I could reprint it here on my blog, so I could use the permalink in my class handouts. Joanna graciously agreed. Yea!
As I said, the article sums up most of my thoughts on scrapbooking and journaling about challenging topics, whether sad times, regretable times, bitter times, hateful times, traumatic times, times of betrayal, times of deep loss, or a multitude of other "negative" emotions or situations. Poor health, death, school bullies, depression, natural disasters, divorce, the loss of a close friendship -- none of us are immune to these kinds of life events. The question often comes to me (and Joanna, obviously) -- how do I scrapbook the 'hard times'? Should I even scrapbook them?
Both Joanna and I seem to agree -- yes, you can definitely scrapbook about life's challenges. Do you have to? No. Can you? Yes. It's a personal decision.
For example, divorces (or just past relationships) are often hard to handle in scrapbooks, but still valuable...
In my Book of Me scrapbook, I created a layout about a friend from high school that I no longer see (page 36). I journaled about how we met, how strong our friendship was, the decline of the relationship, and what I miss most about her. It was not easy to do, as it almost felt like a divorce at the time, but I found it cathartic. Now my kids have that record of who this person is, and what she meant to me. They also have a little guidance, should they face a similar situation in their lives.
If you're considering scrapping someone else’s divorce, there are several ways to handle it -- you could just slip the photos in a photo album, with names and dates, and no comments (or judgements) in the form of journaling. You could scrap the photos simply, noting the Who-What-Where-When -- after all, it was an event that took place in your family's history. It's still "valid" content for a family scrapbook. If you would like to note that the couple eventually divorced, you could include that simply in your journaling -- "the family was all happy to see each other at the wedding. It was nice to catch up with everyone. We were all sad to learn five years later that Tim and Margie decided to divorce." Or something like that.
I do believe some things are “better left unsaid” – scrapbook journaling is not the place to vent or process feelings. You can do that in a personal journal entry, like Joanna's article suggests – cry, vent, scream, curse, tear your hair out.... THEN work on what you want to preserve in your scrapbook journaling. That's the key point I take away from Joanna's article -- not that everything in your scrapbook has to be happy-happy-joy-joy, but rather that the journaling doesn't "spew" bitterness or unprocessed grief onto an unsuspecting reader.
If you think it’s more ‘accurate’ to include a rant in your journaling, I would suggest using hidden journaling -- include your journaling underneath a flap of cardstock, or folded up inside an envelope. I’m not saying you need to censor your writing, but rather suggesting that you consider what’s appropriate to share via your coffee table. The people that read hidden journaling are obviously willing to work a bit to get to the story.
However you want to approach it will be fine. You don't have to sugarcoat it -- divorces happen often in today's society; relationships change; loved ones die; natural disasters disrupt our "best laid plans". Describe the events as they took place, how you felt and what you thought at the time, and what lessons you've taken away from them, and you've done your job.