Grief journaling and all forms of writing have long been recognized as an important and helpful tool for healing. In his book Waking the Tiger
Peter Levine says that "[traumatic symptoms] stem from the frozen residue of energy that has not been resolved and discharged; this residue remains trapped in the nervous system and can wreak havoc on our bodies." (p. 19)
In My Brother
Jamaica Kincaid says, "I became a writer out of desperation, so when I first heard my brother was dying, I was familiar with the act of saving myself: I would write about him."
For me writing a journal has played an important part in helping to release that frozen energy of pain that I carried as a result of the loss of my husband. Yet there were many months that went by where I couldn't write a thing. This too is natural, and I need to be gracious with myself about not doing what I was sure I should be doing. Writing prompts were very helpful to get journaling restarted.
Throughout much of this site, there are reflections questions that could serve as writing prompts. Simply find a notebook, read a page and journal your reaction to it. Whatever your reaction is--I'll never know!
Keep it Simple
Grief journaling does not have to be hard or complicated. If words seem to fail, jotting a sentence or two may get you started and eventually lead to more. What would it take for you to complete these two sentences on a regular basis?
I feel . . .
I desire/need . . .
"Today I feel like as powerless as a feather trampled underfoot. I long for security and hope."
"Today I feel as shattered as a glass thrown against a rock. I need to know someone cares."
The Comfort Company has a selection of several different grief journals to choose from. I especially like Angel Catcher.
Journaling with Quotes on Grief
When I'm in an overwhelming situation in life, I sometimes find it hard to know where to start journaling. And so often I don't start at all. Most often I just need a direction in which to start writing. Here is a page of quotes on grief that could serve as a starting point for your reflection on your story. Pick one that draws you, and write one how it fits or doesn't fit with your own life experience.
Writing Letters to Deceased Loved Ones
Writing Letters to Deceased Loved Ones includes information on why letter writing is helpful as well as suggestions for letters.
Journaling a Psalm of Lament
In the section on the psalms of lament, you will find ideas for using the biblical psalms to express your pain and sorrow. The psalms of lament has a specific structure. This page includes questions based on that structure to help you do your own
journaling with the laments.
Visual Grief Journaling
Another way to deal with the lack of words you may feel in various stages of grief is to work at a visual journal. You can make your own photos, which you can learn more of in the photo reflection section. But an easy way to get started is using a stack of old magazines that you wouldn't mind cutting or tearing up. (Check out your local second hand store for an inexpensive source of used magazines.)
Read the specifics for this
visual grief journal here.
If the idea of visual journaling appeals to you, be sure to check out the ideas under the photo reflections tab. You will find more ideas to fit the visual journal there.
Digital Scrapbooks is a page where I write about my two favorite online companies for making digital visual journals and memory books.
During the early stages of my grief journey, I made several memory books using both digital and paper scrapbooking methods. Eventually this led into using scrapbook materials to do some of my grief journaling. I am a visual person. The addition of the visual element to journaling provides a deeper meaning for me. If you aren't into the visual element, there are exercises here that will work fine for regular journal writing.
Read scrapbook journaling questions that you can use to spark journaling about a photo or event from your life.
Here is a journal exercise that I came up with for reflecting on a whole period of my life that was behind me because of the death of my husband. Rather than trying to grief the whole situation, I found a few stories that could help me focus on what was most and least life-giving to me about that period of my life.
This stages of grief scrapbook journal exercise can be used to reflect on your own personal journey through various stages of grief. There are several models for the grief stages, yet your own journey will probably not reflect any one of those models perfectly. This activity will help you look at your own story in various places with grief and reflect on it.
Need to chat with a live person? Read our Online Grief Counseling Interviews.