Death often does not make sense, yet it is a part of our existence. Journaling helps process complicated feelings, which accompany the loss of a loved one. You have the freedom to express when you want and how much. Most people who grieve, keep their journal private to ensure they have a safe place to vent about the specific difficulties they face.
Some grievers prefer a blank journal to free write, which means writing whatever comes into your mind without censoring it. Others prefer a journal with prompted questions specific to a topic of interest to them. You can purchase journals online for energy healing or grief/loss. Inside you will find questions and suggestions to guide you. Often those who are not as comfortable with writing prefer a prompted method. No matter what kind of journal you use, it is a relatively inexpensive way to reduce and manage daily stress.
You do not have to be a writer to journal your thoughts and feelings. It is your decision if you express yourself in bullet points, short sentences or complete paragraphs. Others may feel more at ease drawing pictures or shapes with words or phrases inside.
Journaling in the Early Stages of Grief
Grief is exhausting work and requires a lot of energy. As you grieve, it is essential to learn how to protect your energies from people, places and situations. There are numerous ways to set boundaries and limits. Once you find what works for you, implement these strategies into your daily schedule.
As you write, think about what boosts your energy and fuels your passion. Use your journal to write about all you accomplish in a day (even if it is you got dressed), what you are grateful for (people who support you or your health) and what is good about you as a person. When you experience tough days, look back on these pages to remind yourself of all you have.
Writing is not only creative but also therapeutic. When you grieve, parts of you feel numb while others rage. Journaling can be cathartic by releasing pent up feelings such as anger, depression, fear, guilt, jealousy, regret, resentment, sadness, shock and yearning. The pages of your journal act as a container for these powerful emotions and help you decompress.
Ask these questions to yourself daily:
How am I feeling?
What do I need and want?
Journaling in the Middle Stages of Grief
Moments of clarity, psychological safety and security return in the middle stages of grief. Take this time to write about specific memories or personality traits of your loved one. Now you are feeling steadier, you may choose to share these writings with others. Through your journaling practice, you can develop a way to memorialize your loved one in order to share his or her legacy with your loved ones, community or even the world.
Your writing may expand into poetry, an article or creating a continuing bond with your loved one through writing him or her letters in your journal. These entries may include placing pictures of the two of you or an event you have now experienced and were reminded of this person’s presence.
How do I want to remember my loved one?
Journaling in the Later Stages of Grief
Journaling, especially in the later stages of grief helps make meaning out of your loss. Your sense of identity is different than it once was prior to the loss. Writing increases your newfound self-awareness.
No matter what stage of grief you experience, you connect to the forgotten parts of yourself. The page will not judge you and gives you ample room to explore. By acknowledging the emotional pain of grief, you find hope and healing.
Who am I now?
How Do I Get Started?
• Get a journal and a pen to write with. Purchase a prompted journal or blank one, along with a writing instrument.
• Next, create solitude. Give yourself ten minutes a day of alone time. This could be when you wake up or before you go to bed.
• Now you have created a time and space to journal, there are no restrictions. Write about whatever you like each day, even briefly. Remember, you can speak what is on your mind but there is a certain power in seeing your truth in the written word.
When to Reach out to a Professional
If you find yourself writing about a topic repeatedly or feelings of depression and anxiety are worsening, please reach out to a licensed psychotherapist who can help you. There is no shame in reaching out, especially if you have experienced a significant or traumatic loss. Ask your therapist whether journaling is the best tool for your grief work, at this time. Some therapists incorporate journaling into the therapeutic process.
Lisa Hutchison is a licensed mental health psychotherapist, writing coach and bestselling author of I Fill My Cup: A Journal for Compassionate Helpers. Lisa has created a counseling/coaching program for empathic helpers to rejuvenate their depleted energies. http://www.lisahutchison.net