Living life to the fullest is often an extremely difficult undertaking after the death of a loved one. Memories of the death, the funeral, even arguments cycle through the mind. Exhaustion becomes an ever-present companion. Wondering if life will ever feel good again becomes a common thought that weaves through the mind and heart intermittently throughout the days, weeks, months, and years. The stages and cycles of grief (denial, bargaining, anger, depression, acceptance) can change quickly or slowly. Wild swings in emotions are completely normal after experiencing a beloved one’s death. Therese A. Rando* defines grief as a reaction or response to loss and includes physical, social, emotional, intellectual and spiritual dimensions and that mourning includes rituals or behaviors associated with grief. Grief is the beginning of mourning.
There is one tool that has proven effective for many people experiencing grief or the long process of mourning. That tool is journaling. Journaling is just a fancy word for writing down your thoughts, feelings, wonderings, and what if’s on paper or computer. Journaling can be used in many different ways as a tool in self-discovery. What are some general benefits of journaling?
Journaling through grief can be done very simply with a notebook and pen. Many stores sell beautiful journals that you can write in. Some people will use a sketch pad which allows them to draw or doodle and to write their thoughts and feelings. Still, others put together a type of scrapbook of memories that helps them through the mourning process. Poems, stories, letters to your loved one can all be included in your journaling. It is a very individual process. One person I know recommended looking at inspirational pictures and letting your thoughts flow from what feelings the image evokes.
Often people want to know how to start journaling. Usually, a writing prompt can help in that process. Below are some writing prompts and a few quotes that can help you get started with journaling.
Prompts- Select one to write about each day or week.
Three things I wish I had done with __________ before she died are …..
What do you think about when you can’t fall asleep?.
I wish I had known …….
If I could change any part of our relationship I would……
One of my favorite memories of _______ is when …….
What do you miss the most about your loved one?
Quotes- Think about the quote. What does it bring to mind? Write about it. (Thank you to Lorenzo Jensen III who compiled these and other quotes about the loss of a beloved friend or family member.)
The death of a beloved is an amputation.
—C. S. Lewis
Without you in my arms, I feel an emptiness in my soul. I find myself searching the crowds for your face—I know it’s an impossibility, but I cannot help myself.
Do not stand at my grave and cry
I am not there.
I did not die.
Losing people you love affects you. It is buried inside of you and becomes this big, deep hole of ache. It doesn’t magically go away, even when you stop officially mourning.
Tears are God’s gift to us. Our holy water. They heal us as they flow.
For more quotes about losing a loved one click here.
Journaling can help you move through to the other side of mourning. Hopefully, these ideas can help you on your path to healing.
Rando, T. A. (1993). Treatment of complicated mourning. Research Press.