Living through the seasons of grief.
“I have never processed anything by writing about it,” he said. “That was so powerful. I think I am making progress.”
When a man in my workshop responds to the journaling exercise in such a positive way, I listen.
“After my father died, I had quite a bit of conflict with my brother.” He continued. “Writing about it today has been very helpful for me to let go of my brother’s stuff and just deal with my pain over my dad.”
I often ask this question, “Why is there so much resistance to therapeutic journal writing?” Most listeners hear only the words “writing” or “journaling.”
Here are a few answers I get from those in my audiences:
These are each personal reactions to writing. I understand that. However, when we practice therapeutic writing it is different than any other kind of pen to paper activity. Please allow me to answer the above objections and see if you could be encouraged to experience what the gentleman at the top of this article discovered when he gave grief journaling a try.
Your journal entry has nothing to do with school. If writing seemed like a struggle for you, reframe grief journaling this way: journaling is to the broken heart what Drano is to a clogged drain! It is a release valve that allows your emotions to flow freely in a safe place on paper. There are no grammar, spelling, or handwriting rules to follow when we do our grief journaling. So write fearlessly. Let all your thoughts and emotions, questions and fears flow out on your paper.
If you truly have things to write about that will be damaging to your character or might interfere with current relationships, may I suggest that you still do the healing work of therapeutic writing, but when you have finished put it through the shredder or burn it. However, for most people we have a safe place to keep our grief journaling work. No one will read its contents. As time passes we might find it useful to return to some of our journal entries. There we discover personal growth or pick up a thought that we might have left dangling.
Grief journaling is not keeping a diary. Other than writing about how you are currently feeling or thinking, it will not be a retelling of your day’s activities. Rather, it is a safe place to express your varied grieving feelings such as fear, anger, despair, guilt, blame, regrets, etc. Why put this stuff on paper? Because when we write about it, we can often move past a place we might otherwise get stuck. Writing about your thoughts and feelings, guided by some thoughtful questions and Scripture as found in my book, Comfort for the Day, brings relief to many grieving hearts.
Many of us are great oral communicators. We are accustomed to chatting and being in conversation. However, the time and thoughtfulness that goes behind writing about our experiences gives more space for personal reflection. It is this very reflective process that gives grief journaling such a powerful dynamic in our healing process.
While talking to others about our grief, we might find that we are repeating our same stories, worries, fears, concerns or anxieties. So just notice, the next time you talk about your grief with a friend; have you already shared the same information with others? If so, just talking about your grief might not meet your greatest needs. For many, healing for the pain can come through grief journaling.
Okay, you have a point. Grief journaling is hard work, but in a different way than you might imagine. The hard work is not in the physical writing, but rather in the thinking, feeling, reflecting, and freedom to express one’s most real, honest, and raw emotions. I will not ever suggest that our grief work is easy. It is exhausting. Yet, after a period of physical rest, we find ourselves moving forward with less pain and that is worth all the effort it takes to be real and honest with ourselves.
The clarity and healing that comes through writing is free for each of us. Wouldn’t you like to experience what the man at the beginning of this article discovered. Journaling really helps hurting hearts! Below you will find a few prompts to get you going.
For more useful grief journal prompts you can purchase a copy of Comfort for the Day. It is designed to become the reader’s story of healing. Give it a try and let me know how it helped you.
©Karen Nicola Aug. 19, 2016