Getting Started With Keeping A Journal
By Claire Bidwell Smith
As a writer and a therapist, I’ve always believed in the importance of journaling during the grief journey. Simply keeping a journal can help regulate emotions, provide an outlet for all the big feelings you are grappling with, and serve as an incredible way to reflect on your life as you move forward.
The truth is that we never get over the people we lose but it’s understandable that finding ways to move forward in our lives and be in the world without the people we love can feel daunting when you are going through a big loss. It’s also true that one of the most effective tools I’ve learned for this is writing about it.
The best part is that you don’t have to be a writer to take up journaling. I know that some people feel intimidated by the idea of writing, but this isn’t the kind of writing you need to stress about. The things you write in your journal are just for you. Your sentences don’t have to be perfect, you don’t need to use big words, and your thoughts don’t even have to be concise. No one has to read the things you write, including you – once you’ve journaled it’s up to you if you even want to reread what you wrote.
The point is to get your thoughts and feelings down on paper. When we are grieving we experience so many varying emotions, such as anger, disappointment, envy, self-doubt, sadness, guilt, and anxiety. It can be hard to navigate all of these, especially when you feel different ones day to day, or even hour to hour. Writing about what you’re feeling is one of the best ways to move through the rollercoaster of emotions.
When my mother died when I was eighteen, I wrote all the time. It felt like the only place I could hear myself think. I also wasn’t sure who to share all of my complex thoughts about her death with, so writing in my journal became a vital outlet for my grief process. I see this all the time with my clients as well. Taking a few minutes in the morning to write about how you’re feeling can better prepare you to deal with the responsibilities you have to face in your daily life. Or, taking some time to write in the afternoon or evening after a demanding day can help alleviate the pressure that builds up over the course of a day.
The best part about journaling is that it doesn’t have to be an arduous task. Don’t feel like you need to sit down and write for an hour, or that you have to write anything too complex. Try freewriting anything that comes to mind, or even setting a timer to write for just five to ten minutes can reduce any pressure you might feel around this kind of activity.
I also think that when we keep a journal during our grief process it can serve as a wonderful way to reflect on all the ways you have changed or grown since going through your loss. Oftentimes in grief we can experience the feeling of being stuck, but using your journal to examine how you felt a few months or weeks ago can enable you to see how you are growing in ways that you might not be aware of.
There are even studies that show that journaling can have positive effects on our physical health and even our sleep! That’s because writing provides an outlet and a release from all the heavy emotions we carry on a regular basis, especially when we are grieving.
I love the journal that is included with the Remembering a Life Self-Care Box because it includes beautiful quotes like, “Your memory feels like home to me. So whenever my mind wanders, it always finds its way back to you.” The box also includes essential oils and a candle so you can really make a ritual out of the journaling process.
Lastly, if you’re not sure what to write, the Remembering a Life Grief Journal includes a list of helpful prompts that will help get your pen flowing. Remember, writing doesn’t have to be intimidating – it’s a form of self-care and reflection that will help you navigate one of the most difficult experiences of your life. Grief can be a transformative process and finding ways to allow ourselves to open up to this journey is the way to heal.
By Claire Bidwell Smith is a therapist, renowned grief expert, and the author of three books of nonfiction: The Rules of Inheritance, After This: When Life is Over Where Do We Go? and Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief. Claire offers numerous online programs for grief in addition to working with people one-on-one. Led by her own experiences with grief, and fueled by her work in hospice and private practice, Claire strives to provide support for all kinds of people experiencing all kinds of grief.
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