Journaling and Grief Process
Regular brief journaling may be helpful in your grief and horror regarding significant personal losses of self and/or others. Here are the various ways it may be helpful to you.
- Writing and reading about your personal loss experience may help you to make sense of the process, and at the same time guide you gently on that path.
- Journaling may open up past and present realities – both positive and negative – about your loss experience.
- At times anger, resentments, and regrets will come up. These realities open you up to the depth of the grief experience. Do not linger too long there!
- S. Kierkegard reminded us that our lived experiences are processed forwardly, but better understood if observed backwards. Journaling helps to focus us on the present but never lets go fully of the past.
- It may be important to you to make your personal journal more balanced with both negative and positive experiences. For example, it may be helpful to list all simple pleasures you experienced in any given day. It may also be a good idea not to linger emotionally too long when such experiences trigger negative states.
- I have always found it helpful to list my personal gratitudes, even in the midst of painful loss and suffering. It is not uncommon for the most valued experiences to be linked with the lost love-object and your shared life.
- If fear and trepidation occur as you move through the grief process, I suggest that you break down the scary moments into smaller, more manageable periods of time, space, and emotions.
- Pay attention to and write about both helpful and unhelpful thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and sensations related to your grief process. Be aware keenly of small improvements in all.
- You may notice that as you slowly heal you spend less time journaling. This is natural.
- You may wish to do “grave worship” practices, or simply write many good things about the lost person.
- V. Frankl noted that when we cannot change the reality of a situation, we may have to change ourself.
- When you find yourself crying over your loss, that is a very good time to contemplate and do journaling.
- Reading related poetry or writing your own may help you.
- If and when you experience the emptiness of the void inside, do your best to find words for the experience. And, work to fill that void by re-engaging with your life as it is now.
- It is always a good idea to develop and practice personal rituals about your healing. Write about this in your journal.
- S. Becket reminded us that we must go on! As painful as it may be, we cannot stop the process.
- As P. Chodron noted, we must allow it all to fall apart before we can find the resilience to face what comes next. In most situations, what comes next is slow improvement in your emotional condition.
- Rest in peace with your breath, and do more meditation or yoga if that suits you well.
- You may wish to visit optionb.org or other sites that support grief work.
Refer to Sandberg, S. and Grant, A. (2017). Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. New York: A. A. Knopf, pp. 58-76.
Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont and the Home of The Monkton Sangha
Author of Mindful Happiness