Grief Journaling: Don’t Let a Blank Page Scare You

By Harriet Hodgson —

A blank journal page or computer screen can be intimidating. But this thought did not enter my head after my daughter and father-in-law died the same weekend. Journaling was the only way I could cope. It helped me cope then and continued to help me when my brother died eight weeks later and when my former son-in-law died a few months after that.

Four losses in nine months made? journaling more important than ever. Bob Deits discusses journaling in his book, “Life After Loss.” Over time, you will see the importance of daily entries, he notes, and the emotional progress you are making. “The journal helps you stay in charge of your grief experience,” writes Deits.

This sentence is reason enough for journaling. The benefits of journaling are amazing. I learned about grief, clarified ideas, identified problems, worked on solutions, found ways to heal, set new goals, and created a new life. Journals end and I decided to end mine on the first anniversary of my daughter’s death. To my surprise, I started a new journal about the 18-month, 20-month, and two-year responses to grief.

Here are some excuses we often use to avoid journaling.

1. There isn’t enough time. You must make time for journaling. Think of your journal as a gift to yourself, a real, and often raw account of your loss and grief. Therese A. Rando, PhD, author of “How to Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies,” thinks mourners need to “give some form of expression to all of your feelings.” Journaling can be that expression.

2. I have to be a professional writer to benefit. Everyone has a story to tell and you are no exception. Writing your story makes you a writer. If your experience is like mine, journal entries will help you set new goals and create a new life. Even better, regular entries help you discover yourself and tailor your life accordingly.

3. Occasional writing is okay. Some journaling is better than none. Christina Baldwin cites the benefits of journaling in “One to One: Self-Understanding Through Journal Writing.” Baldwin says you will not always be comfortable with your journaling. As she explains, “The level at which you ask yourself questions and the responses which come to you are determined by what you are currently ready to know and deal with in writing.”

4. My writing has to be perfect. Scream if this idea pops into your head. Your journal can be messy, wrinkled, coffee-stained, illustrated with doodles, filled with lists, and language errors.

5. Journaling threatens my privacy. According to Kathleen Adams, MA, author of “Journal to the Self,” privacy is a major issue. You worry about people reading your journal without permission. While this is a legitimate concern, Adams says you may hide your journal, ask others to respect your privacy, and put a privacy statement on the first page. Your journal is an historical document — a snapshot of a specific time in your life — and you may want to store it in a safe deposit box.

Do not let these excuses, or others, stop you from journaling. Years from now, you will read your journals and say, “I’ve come a long way. I’m a survivor. I wrote my way to a new life.”

Copyright 2009 by Harriet Hodgson

http://www.harriethodgson.com

Harriet Hodgson has been an independent journalist for 30 years. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Association of Health Care Journalists, and the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Her 24th book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief,” written with Lois Krahn, MD, is available from Amazon.

Centering Corporation in Omaha, Nebraska has published her 26th book, “Writing to Recover: The Journey from Loss and Grief to a New Life.” The company has also published a companion resource, the “Writing to Recover Journal,” which contains 100 writing prompts. Log onto Harriet’s Website to learn more about this busy author and grandmother.

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Harriet Hodgson

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Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 38 years, is the author of 36 books, and thousands of print/Internet articles. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. In 2007 four of her family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling), and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and recovery, and she is the author of eight grief resources. Hodgson has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, dozens of blog talk radio programs, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website, and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, hospice, grief, and caregiving conferences. Hodgson’s work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy wife, grandmother, author and family caregiver, please visit www.harriethodgson.com.

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  • I lost my daughter, It will be 3 years in September. The last year I was hospitalised twice. I have learnt to journal and my journal is my best friend. I can tell it anythig I want. I can scream and vent. I can write letters to my daughter. I can complain about my husband or the world.
    It definatly is a wonderful tool. My journal is with me at all times just like a best friend.
    Thank you for sharing