Episode 60: Writing through the ghosts of the past with Max Friedman

49m | Apr 9, 2024

Have you ever heard a story that just makes you feel all the feels?

When I met Max Friedman and heard his story, I knew I needed to bring it to all of you—for so many reasons.

Max Friedman’s parents were both Holocaust survivors who never spoke about that horrific time in their lives. He and his sister grew up understanding that something was different in their family, that there were stories under the surface that no one was telling, stories that were impacting their lives.

After his parents were gone, Max, who was a journalist his whole life, decided that it was time. He needed to find out his parents’ story, and the story of where he came from. So in his late sixties, he embarked on a journey to find out who his parents really were before that terrible time.

It took him five years and a lot of sleuthing, but he did it. And now the book, Painful Joy, is out in the world.

Max’s story is incredible. The story itself, of course, and also the proof that writing can heal you. Writing about emotional experiences has been scientifically proven to help mental health.

The Harvard Business Review reported that since 1986, more than 200 studies have been done that show “emotional writing” can improve not only emotional health but physical health.

In Max’s case, his book brought healing and closure to a family that had lived with ghosts for many years.

We talk about:

• Why he made the decision to investigate and tell his family’s story

• How his journalism training helped him navigate the research and have empathy for

himself as he faced his life story head on

• What he found out about his parents’ lives before the Holocaust

• What he learned about himself in the process

This is such a heart-wrenching story, but so beautiful to hear it finally be told. And we need to

tell—and hear—stories like this so we always remember the mistakes of the past.

You can find out more about Max and buy the book at

And make sure you’re following me on IG @lizmugavero for the latest episodes!

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