A grief journal is a beneficial tool to help you understand and process your emotions during your healing process.
Keeping a grief journal has many benefits, helping improve your mental health and well-being. It can also aid you in moving forward.
Grief is a natural emotional response caused by loss. You may experience grief for reasons such as losing a loved one or pet, ending a relationship, losing a job, or going through major life changes, like moving to a new city.
Here, you can learn what a grief journal is, ideas to get started, and some prompts to help you along. You’ll also learn how to journal consistently and how you can use it to help you through hard times in life.
A grief journal can be different for everyone, but in general, it’s a space for you to write your feelings or thoughts as you go through the healing process. It has many mental health benefits, serving as an effective coping strategy when you’re experiencing grief.
Deysi Vatman, a licensed master social worker based in New York City, explains that “Some of the advantages of journaling include its ability to address intrusive thoughts, assist in managing anxiety symptoms, and facilitate the articulation of one’s narrative. It also aids in reorganizing memories, making them less traumatic.”
A grief journal also promotes self-reflection, allowing you to work through your emotions and understand why you feel the way you do. It can help you gain perspective and determine your next steps.
Writing your thoughts in a grief journal promotes a sense of control. Feeling in control of some aspect of your life encourages you to accept the things you can’t change.
You can also use your journal to reflect on your healing journey. Looking back at where you started, what you went through, and how far you’ve come can give you hope and allow you to find happiness in your progress.
Some of the other mental health benefits of using a grief journal include:
Sometimes you’ll know what you want to write or express and, other times, you may not know where to begin. These grief journal prompts can help you get started on an entry:
- I keep remembering…: Write about what you miss, like appearance, smell, mannerisms, or anything else. You can also write about favorite memories that have been on your mind. Research shows it can also be beneficial to relive the hard times because it offers a way to cope.
- I’ve been feeling…: Your feelings will change as you process grief. This prompt is beneficial anytime you experience a new emotion during your journey.
- I had a hard time…: You can use this prompt to write about a difficult part of your day. Reflect on how you could have coped better with your struggle.
- I was proud of myself when…: Giving yourself credit for each milestone is a beneficial part of your healing journey. It helps you recognize your growth and gives you a helpful idea for coping in the future.
- I am going to take care of myself by…: It’s easy to forget about yourself when you’re grieving, but self-care is essential and helps you through your journey. This prompt reminds you to set aside time to care for yourself and can help you think of ideas that will be especially beneficial in each moment.
Your grief journal can be whatever you want and doesn’t have to follow a specific format. You can also do whatever feels right and helps you express your thoughts and feelings. You can choose multiple ways of using the journal and follow different formats each time you write.
You can use a journal with lines for writing or one with blank pages to do anything you want. Here are some grief journal ideas you can use to help you get started:
- Scrapbook journal:
2019 researchindicates that writing about positive memories of a loved one can be beneficial. You can include photos, mementos, and other things that help you memorialize the happy times and what occurred throughout the experience to help overcome your grief. Scrapbook journaling allows for creativity, embellishments, and using artistic expression as a healthy outlet.
- Writing letters: Letter writing can be a positive way to express yourself to someone you can’t see in person. Consider writing to the person you miss and being open about everything you would say if they were here today. Sometimes you’ll cry, and other times you’ll laugh or smile. Either way, it’s a way of working through your pain and grief.
- Digital journals: You can keep a digital journal from your smartphone, computer, tablet, or other device. Any writing software will work, including Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Other digital options allow for more customization and creativity.
You’ll benefit the most from your grief journal when you make it a consistent habit. It can be hard to do it consistently at first, but these tips may help:
- Pick a journal you love: A notebook will work, but choosing a journal you love and look forward to using will help you make writing a habit. If you use a notebook as your journal, consider decorating the front.
- Don’t worry about making mistakes: Journaling is an opportunity for expression without judgment. Worrying about mistakes can hinder your process and prevent you from reflecting on or expressing your feelings. Instead, open your journal and start without overthinking how it looks or if you should withhold anything.
- Set goals: Your first goal can be to use your grief journal once a week and then increase the frequency. Small milestones will help you recognize your progress and encourage you to use it more often.
- Keep your journal nearby: When thoughts come to mind, it’s best to express them quickly and figure out what they mean or what you should do. Keeping your journal handy allows you to pull it out spontaneously and use it often.
- Embrace freewriting but don’t shy away from prompts: Freewriting, or starting with the first thing that comes to mind and seeing what flows, often results in beautiful writing and emotional comprehension. It’s often the best way to make sense of your thoughts. But using prompts is OK if you don’t know where to begin because new concepts can help with self-reflection, growth, and consistency.
Using a grief journal has many mental health benefits and can help you with your healing journey. There are no rules, so you can do whatever feels right as you express yourself.
Consider starting one right now, using a notebook or loose-leaf sheet of paper. It doesn’t matter how or where you begin because all that matters is beginning the habit of getting everything out on paper.