Journaling for Grief and Loss

“There are no happy endings.
Endings are the saddest part,
So just give me a happy middle
And a very happy start.”

–Shel Silverstein, A Light in the Attic

At some point, all of us will experience the death of someone we know and love. It can be hard to talk about what we are feeling so journaling can be a great way to release emotions when we can’t find the words to speak.

There are 2 strategies you can use to journal about grief. You can use your journal as a record for memories or you can use your journal as a way to work through your feelings. You can do either or both, whichever is the most helpful for you. There’s no wrong answer.

 

If you want to use your journal to record memories, here’s some ideas:

  1. Write about your favorite memory of your loved one. What made that memory so special? Try to include as many details as possible. Put yourself back in that moment with them, what did it feel like?
  2. Write about the greatest lesson you learned from your loved one. How did they teach it to you?
  3. What do you miss the most about your loved one?
  4. Keep a log of “captured moments.” When you’re really missing your loved one, write about a memory you have of them, keep it brief, but as detailed as possible. Try to include descriptions of what you were thinking and feeling at the time as well as descriptions from your 5 senses.

 

If you want to use your journal to work through your feelings, here are some ideas:

  1. Write a letter to your loved one. All the things you would like to say to them, all the things you’d like them to know. One of the hardest parts of grieving is coming to terms with all the things we didn’t get to say to the person we love. Here’s your chance to get them out on paper.
  2. Think about and write down the things that your loved one liked about you. This can be a good exercise when we are feeling guilty. It’s just as important to remember what the person liked about you as it is to remember what you liked about the person.
  3. Write about how you can honor your loved one’s memory in your life going forward. To honor someone’s memory means that you remember and respect them and the life that they lived. Think about what they would have wanted for you and your life. How can you make those things more likely to happen?
  4. Sometimes we can feel “stuck” in our grief. Put yourself into your own shoes one year from now. Write about what you will be thinking and feeling at that time.
  5. Sometimes we feel guilty or bad about a situation that occurred with our loved one. If you feel like that, write about it. What sorts of things do you feel guilty or bad about? Write what advice you’d give to someone who was feeling the way you are.
  6. Write the story of your loss. Talk about all the things that happened, all the things that you wish happened. From beginning to end. Include your thoughts and feelings.
  7. Write about the story of your loss from the 3rd person. Tell it like it was a story and you are narrating it as an outside person looking in. What do you observe happening? This can help you gain perspective on your loss and help you work through some of your feelings.
  8. Write about the “meaning” of loss. All of us go through loss at some point in our lives, what does it mean to you? What advice would you give to someone who is experiencing grief?

 

Remember, these are just suggestions, do what feels right for you. It’s okay to cry when journaling, in fact, it’s really healthy to. Don’t worry about getting your page messy with tears, or writing/drawing sloppy because you can’t see well, don’t worry about spelling or grammar or anything like that. It’s about the “process” of journaling, not the “product” of it looking nice at the end. Just express yourself, whether it be through writing or drawing or anything else that works for you. It might feel too painful to start journaling right now, it’s okay to take your time, but try to challenge yourself, you will likely feel better after journaling. As always, if you’re having a hard time dealing with your emotions by yourself, speak with an adult and ask for help.

 

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