The Tough Stuff: 3 Reasons Why I Document Life’s Harder Moments

by | Storytelling Ideas | 8 comments

This is a guest post from team member Lauren Madsen.

One of our themes this month at Simple Scrapper is “life’s big events”. As I have pondered on this topic I have come to a conclusion: many of the big events in my own life that have determined who and where I am today have been actually been difficult trials.


There have been weddings, graduations, births, and holiday celebrations. At the same time there have been health problems, financial struggles, family problems and even deaths. I tend to get excited about scrapping the happy times, the moments when everything seems right with my world.

In the past year or so I have re-evaluated and decided that there are some important reasons for me to tackle the tough stuff in my scrapbook pages as well. Below are three reasons I want to share about why I now scrap ALL the big events.

1. It provides a more complete picture of life.

When I read the journals of my ancestors, I feel a strong connection with them as I read about their struggles. There is something empowering about knowing that not only did they go through trying times, but they made it through them. The good times make for wonderful reading experiences too, but my point is that I want to know what life was like and that includes the times when life was hard.

2. It allows me to acknowledge the trial and then move on.

I guess when it comes down to it, documenting the tough stuff is therapy for me. I am able to look back, reflect a while, and then face the future. Maybe this reason doesn’t ring true for everyone, but in my case the therapeutic aspect can’t be understated.

3. It creates an opportunity to share what I learned.

In the past few years life didn’t go as planned for my little family. I would bet that many of us come to a point where we ask ourselves, How did I get here? This wasn’t the plan.  The truth is the things that kept me from getting me where I wanted to go actually taught me lessons I wouldn’t have learned any other way. And as it turns out I am actually incredibly grateful for those tough times and the lessons learned. Sharing those lessons with my children and grandchildren seems like a good way to show that gratitude.

I think it’s important for me to point out that I don’t usually document the tough stuff right as it’s happening, or even right after for that matter. It takes some time for me to be in a place where I am emotionally ready. Almost two years went by before I was ready to document the events surrounding my second pregnancy and move. Sometimes distance and a little courage will make the difference. 

Editor’s Note: Have you shared Lauren’s experience of finding meaning and personal revelation from scrapbooking the tough stuff? Leave a comment sharing your perspective.

Layout Credits: April 2013 Simple Scrapper Premium Membership Template, My Sibling My Friend Kit by Jady Day Studio, Alpha from Storyteller Collab Kit by Scrap Orchard, Recycle Bin Alpha by Julie Billingsley Design

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  1. Elizabeth

    Good article. Most projects I hold over my head as not being finished are the tough stories. I’ve been working on a photo book about the passing of my dog for over a year. Instead of beating myself up about it, I am recognizing the pain I still carry, it also means I still remember.

  2. SherriS.

    It took me 15 years to create a 2 page spread about my son’s battle with leukemia. I wanted to document that journey in my Book about Me. We are so blessed to still have him with us but it was a tough fight and even tougher knowing that other children that we met didn’t make it.

    Life isn’t always sunny and it helps me to appreciate it by looking back at the tough times too.

  3. linda

    great topic! I agree that some time and space is required before you might be ready to tell the story of a difficult time. But I agree that it helps to complete our stories… it’s real life and there’s always something positive and empowering to be learned from those memories I think.

  4. Nat

    I totally agree. It’s why I also include pages with newspapers and current events. I feel like it’s worth it to include these things so the picture is more complete.

  5. Kimmy Davis

    I’m going thru a divorce right now, and while it’s not as acrimonious as most, it’s still not what I had planned for myself or my son. I’m using Project Life to scrap this year so that we both can look back and see how far we’ve come, but I find myself glossing over the bad times or not documenting them at all. For example, my son’s birthday was in February, only 6 weeks into a new school in a new town, and it was heartbreaking for me and a disappointment for him to be in a new place without friends to celebrate the day. While I have the photos and a page protector there, I’ve not yet worked on his birthday page at all. I just can’t bring myself to do it, and when we look thru the album, I always brush past that page even though he always asks “When is my birthday page going to be finished?”

    I know this is a much-debated topic among scrapbookers, and I appreciate this post very much. I have the materials, I have the photos, so maybe by next year I can come back to properly document his birthday. After reading this, I think I can just set aside the page (and the guilt) knowing I’ve done my best for now.

  6. Laurel

    I definitely do pages about the tough times, but not as they are happening. I’ve done a couple pages related to being widowed eight years ago.

  7. Marina D-K

    I think this is so important for all the reasons Lauren listed. While your family members may enjoy seeing the happiness in the things you are documenting, if you haven’t already shared your struggles verbally with them they will probably want to know about those too. It can also be helpful for processing your own feelings about a difficult time.

  8. lynne moore

    Really good topic. Yes, we should tackle the tough stuff, but when ready. And sometimes with humor. But it does help put it into perspective.


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