The phrase “Dear Diary” conjures images of teen and pre-teen girls sticking to the adolescent tradition of recording their every passing thought and emotion in a padded pink notebook secured with a bejewelled padlock.
But, in fact, the practice of journaling has benefits that extend far beyond any adolescent predilection for chronicling (what these days now seem to be) trifling life events.
All of us have kept a diary of some sort during our lives. Whether it was of the sparkly pre-teen variety or had the more serious purpose of recording our work whereabouts, we’ve all taken the time to note various aspects of our personal and professional lives in a diary format.
Why should recording our grief journey be any different?
When you love deeply, you also grieve deeply. And when a loved one dies, it’s hard to know how to navigate the unpredictable waves of emotion that can follow. A grief journal can help you along your grief journey by providing an outlet for your thoughts, feelings, emotions and pain.
What is a grief journal?
A grief journal can be anything you want it to be. A notebook. A moodboard. A photo album. Even a good ol’ fashioned mixed tape – or, these days, an iTunes playlist! Ultimately, it’s about recording your feelings in a way that is meaningful to you.
There’s something very intimate and grounding about journaling how you’re feeling. Your emotions come to the fore. What you’ve lost is priceless. It can’t be replaced. But it can always be treasured.
The path to healing starts when you name your pain. And that’s the beauty of a grief journal – it not only brings remembrance, but also healing as you record your grief journey.
So how do you go about starting a grief journal?
1. No rules
First things first. There aren’t any rules when it comes to grief journaling. It’s not like making your bed in the morning; you don’t need to do it in the same way every day. And it’s not a school assignment; your spelling and grammar don’t matter.
Give yourself permission to record whatever comes to mind, whenever it comes to mind and however it comes to mind. Remember, you’re not being judged or graded by anyone else. Your grief journal is your own.
2. A fitting form
The form your grief journal takes is a personal choice.
Some people enjoy the act of putting pen to paper. They find it incredibly satisfying to write with a beautiful fountain pen in a purpose fit journal. For others, a disposable pen with a chewed-up lid and spiral bound notebook does the job. Others still prefer to tap out their thoughts at a computer keyboard.
Whatever form your grief journal takes, the most important thing is that it’s conducive to your thinking process.
3. Three words
Make a habit of writing down three words to describe your feelings. Do this at the start and end of each journal entry. Put down the first words that come to mind.
Not only is it a good way to track how your feelings change over the course of writing a single journal entry, you’ll also see how your emotions are shifting over time.
4. Let it flow
Don’t overthink it. Try not to get stuck on what it is you’re writing. Instead, just write it down. Empty whatever is on your mind and in your heart onto the page.
It doesn’t matter if you find yourself writing the same thing over and over, day after day. At some stage you’ll notice that you’re thoughts start to shift as you move through your grief journey.
5. More than words
You can use your journal to express your grief in any way you choose. You’re not limited to only words.
If you’re artistic, try drawing or doodling in your journal. If you see a picture in a magazine that resonates strongly with you, cut it out and glue it in your journal. Or if you have a favourite photo of your loved one, use it as a bookmark so it’s the first thing you see each time you open your journal.
6. Note the date
Always start each entry in your grief journal with the date. Time can sometimes feel like an enemy when you’re adjusting to the loss of a loved one, so it can be comforting and reassuring to be able to track your feelings over time.
By flicking back through the pages, you’ll see that your grief does indeed soften.
7. Set aside time
Think of grief journaling as being a little like meditation. Meditation daily at the same time and same place has been shown to yield many benefits.
You might like to try applying the same philosophy to your journey through grief. While there are no hard and fast rules for when, where and how, some people do find that allocating a particular time of day to sit down with their grief journal can result in great benefits. It’s all about finding what works best for you.
Start your own grief journal
When you lose a loved one, you experience the life-changing effect of grief. While it may seem that there’s no relief from the sadness, your grief journal can prove otherwise.
Try it and see.
If you’d like a copy of the Walter Carter Funerals ‘My thoughts’ grief journal, please email [email protected]
For more information about coping with grief, please contact the Walter Carter Funerals team by emailing [email protected] and we’ll help you find the services and resources you need.