The Benefits of Journaling when Coping with Grief

Grief is a difficult process for anyone to go through. It’s a mixed jumble of emotions that can land people in a sea of confusion. Grief isn’t necessarily always related to the loss of a loved one, it can be due to the ending of a relationship, a job loss, among other things. When dealing with these complex emotions, you may not know where to begin in the grieving process. Starting a journal is a wonderful first step in your journey and can be beneficial in many ways.


Why Should I Start a Journal?


When grieving, we may not have the ability to step back and work through this difficult jumble of emotions. While in the depths of despair, we really don’t have the ability to stop and ask ourselves what is going on, and how we can be kind to ourselves. By sitting down and writing out what we are feeling, we really begin to self-reflect and have the ability to wade through our state of mind. 


As our memories can sometimes be fleeting, journaling can provide an opportunity to reminisce and document some of favorite times we experienced with our loved one. In between the sadness, it can bring comfort and moments of happiness. You can even write letters to the one you're missing, which can be very cathartic. 


Grief can be isolating. While it’s something we all experience in our lives, we all process it differently. Some like to lean on others, some like to be alone. View your journal as a friend who can provide an outlet to vent your emotions; your sadness, your anger, your fear, whatever you are experiencing. Your writings will not judge you, there are no rules when it comes to journaling. 


Your sorrow can be challenging to talk to others about. However, getting your feelings out is an extremely important part of your healing process. In the book Lessons of loss: A Guide to Coping, Dr. Robert Niemeyer explains, “Especially when losses are traumatic, they may be difficult to discuss or even disclose to another. And yet the psychological and physical burden of harboring painful memories without the release of sharing can prove far more destructive in the long run.” 


By unburdening yourself in writing down your feelings, your journal will serve as an important therapeutic tool in your journey. 


How and Where Should I Journal?


Pick out a journal that is appealing to you. Find a pen or pencil that you find enjoyable to write with. Think about where you’d like to write. Would you prefer to write at the end of the day? Find a cute journal to stash in your bedside drawer. Think you’ll be partial to journaling while out in nature, or the quiet haven of a library? Find a smaller journal you can easily transport in your purse, briefcase, or even your pocket. 


Not a fan of handwriting? Consider a digital journal. You can set up a basic word document or look toward a journaling app - of which there are plenty. An example of a wonderful journaling app is DayOne. In this app, which you can password protect, you can include a multitude of extras. For example, in entries you can attach pictures, the weather, your step count, your location, and other details. You can also look back on past entries as well, to see how far you’ve come. 


If you feel it is more therapeutic to be open and share your story with others, consider starting a blog. It may be helpful to see comments of support from your friends, family, or other people going through their own struggles with grief. 


I Don’t Know Where to Begin 


Whether the words pour out pen to paper, or you have some help; there are ways to get your creative juices flowing. Get comfortable in a favorite chair, wrap yourself up in a soft blanket, light some yummy smelling candles, crack open your journal, and see where your mind takes you. 


If you need a bit more help, look up journal prompts. They can help you get unstuck when nothing comes to mind- use them as a starting point in your journal entry. Some prompts pertaining to grief include: 

Today I miss…
How loving you has changed me…
How losing you has changed me…
I know I’ll be alright because…

Once you get started writing, just go, don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, even margins. Don’t look back and re-read what you wrote as you are journaling - stay in the moment. Stay present and allow journaling to help you through your healing process.

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