Grieving can be a long and lonely journey. Journaling offers significant therapeutic benefits. Whether you intend to share your stories or keep them to yourself, writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you cope with and process life after loss.
Grief can take on many forms, such as the passing of a loved one, going through a divorce, enduring the effects of infertility, losing a home in a natural disaster, losing a job, and more. We are fortunate to have access to a countless number of resources and activities that can help ease our pain. Books and blogs about grief and healing are available across the internet; online grief groups welcome newcomers in safe virtual spaces; we can talk to our friends, family, and therapists; and we can engage in grief yoga, among other activities, that allow our bodies to process and heal. But what about journaling?
Healing Through the Written Word
One of the most affordable and easiest things you can do to grieve is to journal. Whether you prefer writing with pen to paper, recording your thoughts in a note on your phone, or typing your memoirs in a document on your computer, as long as you have a way to jot down your thoughts and feelings, you have everything you need to get started. Journaling has been proven to make positive impacts on the psychological and physical effects of grief and other physical and emotional issues.
Journaling has many benefits, primarily enhancing stress relief. Long-term effects of journaling can include improved immune system functioning, reduced heart rate, lower blood pressure, improved sleep, and reduced stress-related illnesses. Journaling can provide several emotional benefits, including an increased sense of well-being, as well as reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Oftentimes, when we experience emotional trauma, the enormity of our feelings can be overwhelming. The power of journaling can be effective for meditating and getting things off our chest. Be honest and genuine with yourself. Give your thoughts and feelings a space to run free from your mind, allowing you to get at the heart of your distress. Putting our thoughts and feelings into concrete words and descriptions can make our grief feel more manageable. In some cases, we may be able to better identify the distress we are feeling, especially if we are prone to feeling emotionally confused.
Reconnect and become more comfortable with your suppressed memories and experiences. Journaling can help calm the fear center of our brain, which typically runs on overdrive throughout the grieving process. Being able to write, read, and re-read your journal entries can help you process painful memories as they fit into your life story.
Tips for Grief Journaling
Journaling is not meant to be about writing perfectly. It is about self-expression. There are no right or wrong answers. Engage mindfully, with the intent to find meaning and understanding towards your thoughts and emotions. You can share your writing with those you connect with in your grief circles or keep your entries for personal reflection.
Here are some suggestions to help you get started:
1. Decide how you would like to document your journal entries. Are you more comfortable typing your thoughts or would you rather hand-write your feelings?
2. Find a comfortable place and time where you can write without interruption. Make this your special space for journaling.
3. Develop a routine that works for you. Some choose to write daily, while others prefer to write two or three times a week.
4. Journal writing is a stream of consciousness. Allow your inner thoughts to flow from your mind to the page. Do not worry about spelling or grammar – this is only meant for you to see.
Reflective Journal Prompts for Grief
Blank pages in a journal can be intimidating. Guided writing prompts can help you focus on meaningful, long-term improvement to prolonged grief disorder, depression, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress. To help you start writing, try these journal prompts to get started:
- Today, I miss…
- I remember when…
- This experience taught me…
- If I could say something to you, I would say…
- The first time I did ____ without you, I…
- What feelings am I looking forward to? What feelings do I want to leave behind?
- My happiest memory of you is…
- Here are five ways I can be compassionate with myself today…
- The greatest lesson I have learned is…
If you need more journal prompts, questions, or ideas, our counselors at Diversus Health can help you reflect and work through your grief in a way that works best for you. Contact us to book an appointment and get started today.
*If you or a loved one is suffering with a mental health crisis, reach out to our crisis hotline at 844-493-8255, or text ‘TALK’ to 38255.