Grief is a powerful emotion. So powerful, in fact, that you might be inclined to think that writing is nothing more than a drop in the bucket. But in fact, it can greatly help to break through the lethargy often associated with grief, and reach for pen and paper.
Nowadays, there are numerous studies that prove that writing about traumatic events can have a positive influence on the healing process. And the loss of a loved one is definitely a traumatic event.
The grieving process
After a loss, you are forced to learn to cope with a new situation – one that you initially reject rigorously. You do not want this new reality, reject it, resist it. With time, however, acceptance comes. Gradually, you get used to the new circumstances, learn to live with the grief, and thus, step by step, come to terms with the loss.
The role of writing in this process
How can writing support this process?
Writing provides a good method for reflection. It’s a way to explore the feelings that come with grief. Do you feel more paralyzed? Sad? Angry? Do you feel regret about something? Once you engage more deeply with your emotions, exploring and questioning them, you can gain valuable insights. These, in turn, support the grieving and coping process.
You can confide everything to paper. There may be things you don’t want to tell others for fear of being judged or that they might tell others. You don’t have to worry about that in journaling. Here, you can be completely open with your feelings, without shame or fear.
Alone or with others
Journaling for grief is first of all a method for you alone. However, it is also increasingly used in grief groups. Here, participants are given the opportunity to share what they have written with others. In this way, it can happen that other people report similar feelings and experiences. When this happens, there is a sense of connection: you are not alone in what you are going through! For many, this realization is liberating and brings them a good deal further on their path.
You always decide for yourself whether you want to write for yourself alone or share your inner life with others. If you feel the desire to do the latter but don’t want to join a grief or therapy group, you can ask friends or family members if they would be willing to talk about it with you.
Methods for journaling when grieving
Of course, you can just go ahead and write everything off your chest without any concept. That’s one of the appeals of writing – that it can be so simple!
For those who don’t know how to get started without a concrete starting point, here are a few tips.
Letter to the deceased person
Write a letter to the person you lost. Feel free to write more than one! Share with the person everything you feel or write things from your heart that you were no longer able to share with this person. If you think that this method could be something for you, then read this article – there you will learn more about it.
The word “loss”
Take a closer look at the word “loss” and what it means to you. Forget about common definitions from the dictionary, but write only about what the word means to you personally. What external circumstances do you associate with “loss”, what feelings go along with it? To what extent does this idea fit to what you are actually feeling right now?
The ups and downs
In this journaling method, describe how you experience the different phases of the day. When do you find grief particularly hard – more in the morning or in the evening? When do you feel a little better? What activities are good for you? Document your ups and downs in your journal. Healing is by no means a linear process! Just because you were doing well once doesn’t mean it’s all uphill from here on out. But you may be able to identify in what circumstances, at what times, and in what company the bad times feel a little easier.
Did you learn something from the person who died? If so, what? Write about it. You may have learned things that are still useful to you today, that may have changed your life for the better. Cherish those lessons and the memory of them. In this way, you are reminding yourself that something of the person who died has stayed behind and is still with you.
A new life
The world continues to turn as before, everything goes on as usual – only in your case life has turned upside down. This can feel confusing, uncomfortable and uncertain. Often, mental chaos is the result. Describe to your journal what your life without this person is like, getting as detailed as you feel comfortable. You’ll be able to organize your thoughts a little better this way, and you may even find that some things haven’t changed at all – that can be sad, but also comforting.
Have you had any experience with journaling for grief? What has helped you? Share it with me and anyone else who might benefit!