Writing through grief. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to hang on, the events in our life spin out of our control. How do we cope when we lose who or what we love? What does it mean to grieve? Writer and writing coach Allison Langer offers insight into how she helps herself heal by helping others. The Brave Files Podcast, episode 136 - Writing Saved My Life

Writing Saved My Life

With Featured Guest

Allison Langer


Top Takeaways From This Episode

  • Emotions don’t disappear. Bad feelings can’t resolve on their own. If you allow yourself to feel all your emotions as they come, they’re less likely to fester.
  • It’s okay (and encouraged) to write for yourself, rather than for an audience. Not everyone may tell a cohesive story, but anyone can feel the therapeutic benefits of putting their story on paper. 
  • Reading other peoples’ stories can help you better understand the world. 
  • Having a loving support system can, literally, save your life.

Content Warning: This episode discusses the guest’s experience with child mortality. 


Writing for Herself

Allison Langer loves writing. She teaches it, both to people in prisons and as a private coach. She reads it—Her favorite memoir is Half a Life by Darren Strauss. She talks about it with her best friend Andrea on their podcast,  Writing Class Radio. And, of course, she writes it: You can find her work in periodicals like The Washington Post and 50GS Magazine

Allison wasn’t always a writer. Her first career was photography. She came to discover writing after unimaginable tragedy rocked her life. After giving birth to twins, Allison discovered one of her babies had a congenital heart defect. Her daughter passed away when she was just sixteen months old. She died on the morning she was scheduled to have life-saving surgery. 

 “You think you’re doing everything right, but life sometimes has its own plans,” Allison says.

Not long after Allison lost her daughter, she heard an advertisement for a writing class on the radio. Writing had always been a dream of hers, so she took the class. It wasn’t until the last day of the class that she finally wrote the story of losing her daughter. “I realized writing was allowing me to rid myself of some of this pain,” she explains. 

Writing for Others

She finished the course with both a sense of purpose and a new friend: Her writing teacher. Both women now co-host their podcast, Writing Class Radio. She describes the podcast as a resource to help other people who are “writing through pain.”

Her determination to help people write through pain doesn’t end there. She also teaches writing to men incarcerated at Homestead Correctional Institution in Florida City. She learned of a program that partners incarcerated people with writers through a TEDx talk called Voices from the Inside. “It has really opened up my heart to people I would never have chosen as friends,” she says. “By hearing their stories and understanding them, I am less judgmental and critical.” 

Tragedy strikes again

In the last year, tragedy struck Allison’s life once again. She had ovarian cancer. Although she was scared for herself, Allison's biggest concern was her children. As a mom who had children on her own, without a partner (using donated sperm), if something happened to her, who would take care of her children? 

In the end, however, Allison didn't need to worry. Her incredible community came together in the most magical way. Allison's friends promised to take care of her children while she undergoes treatment and always support them if the worst case happened. Allison credits her friends for helping keep her spirits up. Their love and support mean everything. 

Writing through grief. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to hang on, the events in our life spin out of our control. How do we cope when we lose who or what we love? What does it mean to grieve? Writer and writing coach Allison Langer offers insight into how she helps herself heal by helping others. The Brave Files Podcast, episode 136 - Writing Saved My Life
Allison share's this very real photo of herself today. In the midst of a global pandemic and cancer treatment. She told us how proud she is to be a survivor of all life has thrown at her.

Fission–Fusion Society

“In the wild, the female elephants gather around other female elephants who are in trouble and they protect them, and that’s what all my girlfriends did.” Allison gifted each of her friends an elephant hat to honor this coming together and to show her gratitude.

Her favorite way to celebrate life, she says, is to celebrate with her friends. 

Books, books books

Throughout the interview, Allison and our Host, Heather Vickery, shared many wonderful book recommendations. 

Memoirs referenced in the show


Get to know Allison

Allison Langer teaches memoir writing in prisons. Additionally, she is a private writing coach, tutor, and editor. She also co-produces the podcast Writing Class Radio with Andrea Askowitz. You can find her work in The Washington Post, Mutha Magazine, Scary Mommy, Ravishly, Modern Loss, and 50GS Magazine. She currently lives in Miami with her three children. You can contact her here.

Giving is Good

Allison supports Exchange for Change and The Pink Wig Project. Exchange for Change offers writing courses in prisons. They also offer letter exchanges between incarcerated students and writers on the outside. “They’re a family,” Allison says, “and they’re busting their ass for our world.” This organization inspires Allison’s work as a writing teacher for incarcerated people. 

The Pink Wig Project, founded by the late Terri Trotter, believes that every breast cancer survivor should feel more than their diagnosis. They help women feel free, fun, and uninhibited by giving them a free pink wig. Allison donated all of the proceeds she received from making her elephant hats to The Pink Wig Project and encourages everyone to support them as much as they can.

"We're all skating through life thinking, "I'm not gonna think about that now." I just pushed [my pain] down and moved on because I had to. But I know I can't do that anymore. I feel the pain when it comes up."

- Allison Langer

Meet your Host, <em style="color:teal">Heather Vickery<em>

Meet your Host, Heather Vickery

Heather Vickery is an award-winning business owner and global leader with over 20 years as an entrepreneur. She leverages her entrepreneurial skills and expertise to coach individuals towards greater personal and professional fulfillment by helping them leverage their fear into intentional bravery. Heather says “When we choose bravely, on purpose, we choose bigger, have bigger successes and it’s contagious” A celebrated public speaker, Heather inspires audiences and empowers attendees with the tools they need to live bold and successful lives through creating balance, time management, mindfulness, as well as countless systems, strategies, and boundaries. She’s the author of Gratitude Journal: Shift Your Focus and Grow Grateful: A Gratitude Journal for Kids and Families. Heather is also the host and executive producer of The Brave Files Podcast.

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