I think this is in the right place. My apologies in advance if it's not... I'm still poking around.

Obviously, this is mostly applicable to nonfiction of a personal nature such as [fictionalized] autobiographies, personal essays, and memoirs.

How do you return to moments or eras of your life that were incredibly painful for you? I am really talking about the events that shape us as people (e.g., the death of loved ones, our own big mistakes, etc.). I find it can be quite difficult to ruminate too deeply about some of these things because of their nature, and also that it can be hard to remember all of the pertinent details.

So how do you go about it? You personally, not a general "you." Do you find you need an outline to accurately retell a piece of your life? Do you need to take breaks when writing about something particularly traumatic? That's basically what I'm asking, without revealing anything more than what you're comfortable.

I'm just so curious!

EDIT: Maybe this would have been better in Bio, Autobio, and Memoirs?