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Journaling Your Way Through Grief

Grief hits us all in different ways. Coping with the loss of a loved one is never easy but the burden can be lifted a bit in many ways. Bereavement services may benefit you if you have just lost a loved one in Alameda County and elsewhere, ranging from support groups to counseling. But there is one specific step you can take to try and ease your pain: journaling. It’s been found that writing about your feelings, the act of putting pen to paper can be very cathartic throughout the grieving process.

Journaling is a proven coping tool for exploring grief and other complicated emotions. Why does it work? Firstly, it helps us become more aware of our own emotions, as writing something down on paper (or typing it on a computer) forces us to slow down and really concentrate on our thoughts, points out What’s Your Grief. Journaling is an opportunity to reflect on our own behaviors, emotions, moods, and actions, thus improving our self-insight. Plus, it can reduce stress, increase problem-solving abilities, and improve sleep. And as we all know, rest is critical to maintaining our physical and emotional health.

Getting things out on paper, in essence, puts distance between you and the words, allowing you to gain a new perspective on your situation or even slow down just enough to relax.

Journaling as a Form of Self-Expression

There are no rules for journaling. Just grab a notebook and a pen, and get going. Free-style writing is especially cathartic because you don’t have to worry about perfect grammar, spelling and sentence structure. Just write whatever comes to your mind. Who cares if it doesn’t make sense to others? All that matters is that it makes sense to you and brings you some release. You may start off journaling to sort out your emotions about the person you lost, but you may end up learning a lot more about yourself than you did in the beginning.

At its core, journaling is very personal. Every person’s grief journal will be different, as they reflect different goals, expectations, experiences, and preferences. Especially when a loss is traumatic, you may have difficulty discussing or even disclosing to another just how much you’re suffering, yet the psychological and physical burden of holding in painful memories without a release of sharing those words can be far more destructive in the long run, says the Mindfulness and Grief Institute.

There’s lots of research out there suggesting that grief journaling after a loss has a therapeutic value. Indeed, the task of revamping your personal self-narrative is an important piece of the healing process puzzle. A grief journal gives you a medium for expression with no fear of being judged, plus it has the added benefit of acting as a written record of your experience that can show recurring patterns and growth.

Write Fearlessly

Grief journaling is more about self-expression than about writing perfectly. There are no steadfast rules when it comes to grief journaling, but here are some helpful tips to guide you:

  1. Always keep your hands moving. Don’t stop to read the line you just wrote. Keep going. Don’t stall; rather, stay in control.
  2. Don’t edit as you write. Remember, this should be a free-style flow of writing, so don’t worry about crossing out and re-writing.
  3. Forget about spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Heck, you shouldn’t even be concerned with staying within the margins and lines of the page!
  4. Let yourself lose control. See where it takes you.
  5. Don’t think and don’t get logical.
  6. Don’t shy away from intense emotions. Go for it — write it down, then explore that energy-packed statement. That’s where the real emotion is.
  7. Feel free to get off-topic. Some days you won’t feel like getting so intense. Some days you may just want to do some light reflecting. It’s all good. Just keep writing.

Journaling seems to be so effective because it’s repetitive, and revisiting the loss promotes meaning in a way that single tellings do not. Try to journal for at least fifteen minutes a day, four times a week. But you don’t have to be constrained to that. Pick up your journal and write whenever the mood strikes. Keep your journal near your bed, on a coffee table, in your car’s glove box — anywhere you can easily access it when inspiration hits.

Having trouble starting an entry? Try these “jumping-off sentences”:

  • I remember when….
  • The first time I….
  • My happiest memory of you is…
  • The greatest lesson I have ever learned from you is…
  • This is what I want to say to you that I never got the chance to…

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

We offer many bereavement services here at Pathways, from support groups to counseling to memorial workshops. You can also receive quarterly newsletters and pamphlets with helpful information about the grieving process and how you can cope after loss. Contact us at 888-978-1306.