Grief Journal Scrapbook
Looking Back Exercise

This page tells about one of the first grief journal type of scrapbook pages that I come up for saying good-bye to my life in Thailand. When you lose someone you love you find that there are many secondary losses as well. For me the loss of my husband meant the loss of what I thought would be a longer time living in Asia.

As a means of working through this loss, I spent some time reflecting on my years there. I came up with the three things I loved most or were most life-giving to me about living in Thailand. As well as the three things I disliked or were least life-giving to me about living in Thailand.

I then went through photos to find some that fit these stories. I wrote a few paragraphs to tell these stories. I reflected on my emotions surrounding these various stories. This was helpful to me because it gave me some specific things to say good-bye to rather than just a whole general way of life. This writing exercise along with the photos developed into a grief journal entry for me even though I didn't originally intend it that way.

Ideas you might try:

You may want to adapt this grief journal exercise to your own situation. Like my story it could be a place that you miss. It could also be a relationship. It could be a season of life. Perhaps it is a certain level of freedom. For me as a single mom, I miss the freedom of having another income-earning adult with whom I was partnered in life. So perhaps it is a life-style or way of being in the world.

The exercise can be done with many different situations, find the one that seems to be calling your attention today. Then ask yourself the questions:

1. What was most life-giving to you about (your situation)? What gave you joy? What did you love?

2. What was least life-giving to you about (your situation)? What was difficult? What did you dislike?

You don't have to find three things like I did. One may be all you have energy for. Write a few sentences or paragraphs to tell as much of the story as you wish. You may find the following reflection questions helpful as you write:

1. What is it like now for you to write about these stories?

2. What are you experiencing in your body as you take time to relive these memories?

3. What meaning did these events/persons/feelings hold for you?

4. What might you be invited to as you remember these things?

5. How do you feel God present (or absent) to you in these situations?

6. What is your desire surrounding these stories?

7. What would it be like to take your desire to God?

Visual images

Visual images have a way of getting us past our head and taking us straight to the heart of our emotions. Do you have a photo that expresses what you are feeling around these stories? They don't have to be photos related to the actual stories, they could be photos that depict similar emotions. (See the contemplative photography section for more on this.) You can cut up old magazines, try your hand at some abstract artwork with colored pencils, or cut and paste a paper collage.

Then decide how you will put these pages together in your grief journal. There are many books and websites about the art of scrapbooking, and my purpose is not to repeat the many good ideas out there. Everyone has their own personal style. Perhaps you prefer the simplicity of a digitally printed book. I personally like My Memories Suite for this type of journaling because you can print pages from your own computer. Perhaps you enjoy the cutting and pasting and arranging of paper. Go with what works best for you. You can't do it wrong. And, of course, even if you don't consider yourself a "scapbooker" this exercise works well in a written journal as well.

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