The ceremony is over. The burial is complete. The concerns and dinners offered by others are less frequent now. The same old struggle greets each new day: how do you cope with loss while facing the reality that your life must move forward and return to “normal”? It’s at this time that most people will stay close to family and friends who will provide comfort and support. Some individuals will take proactive measures to relax the mind and body in an effort to manage their grief.
But only a few will think about a simple, practical, inexpensive, every day function that may be of service to them during this life changing event. It only requires a pen, a notebook and the openness to write what you’re feeling. It’s called, Journal your Journey through Grief.
Journaling is writing what you are feeling. Some people journal with the intent of self-inquiry. Your paper may contain random thoughts and feelings. You may find yourself writing poetry. Whatever it might be, writing what you are experiencing is healthy and can help you to heal at a time of loss.
“Writing seemed to be the only way I was able to give voice to my grief,” says Mark, who suddenly and tragically, lost his sister in 1992. “Journaling allowed me to express the rage I had for being deprived of growing old with the one person I loved more than anything in life.” He continues, “Now as I read over those entries from many years ago, I can see how important it was for me to face the darkness head on. By facing the unthinkable, I was able to return to the light.”
Personally, my own journaling began nine (9) years ago when my father’s health was failing. He was 82 years old, a paraplegic and couldn’t live alone any longer. My mother had passed a few years before and being an only child, I had the responsibility to make sure his last years were as comfortable and safe as possible. But this was a challenge. I lived 230 miles away and it was impossible to care for him on a daily basis. After much discussion, he eventually moved into a nursing home. During this time and while he was in the facility, I recorded my reactions to conversations I had with my father’s nurses, social workers and his accountant. On the paper in front of me, I took out my frustrations and fears as I tried to process my new role of ‘care taker and decision maker’. After he took his last breath in October, 2005, journaling helped me to accept the finality of his passing. Writing through these experiences allowed me to channel my emotions to the paper which assisted me to empty tension and feel physically “lighter”. And like Mark, writing what I was experiencing helped me to feel better as I worked through grief.
But besides feeling better, journal writing has other benefits when you are submerged in the emotional wounds of grief. From my experience, I find there are at least four major ones.
- Journaling will keep you busy, give purpose and allow you to perform a task that is constructive, especially at those times when you are alone. Writing will offer you “meaningful conversations” with yourself. These conversations may be satisfying as you engage in a worthwhile activity that stimulates the mind.
- You can relieve stress when you write. This is a huge advantage. Journaling will act as a vessel to release the bottled up emotions and intense feelings that bubble under the surface. Releasing pain and sadness on paper may make you cry or scream. These are healthy and normal as they both are stress reducers.
- Writing is cathartic; it helps heal because it allows for honest self-expression. You can release your emotions at that moment you encounter them. Journaling is personal and will bring out issues that you may not want or be able to share with others. There is value in recording what you experience. One day you’ll return to your journal, read these heartfelt words of expression and truly appreciate how far you’ve traveled.
- Finally, you can learn so much about yourself through writing. Just the process of journaling forces the eyes, hand and mind to work in unison to deliver something “tangible”. The result is visual and you can read what you’re feeling as many times as you want. Each time may shed more light on the original idea. This may detail a clearer understanding of why you grieve and what’s behind it.
And because of these four benefits, you may find that journaling assists you to concentrate and sleep better. In turn, this may allow you to be more in control of your daily functions.
In next month’s article, we’ll answer a few questions about journaling and provide pointers to help you see if this activity is right for you.
In the meantime, if journaling does pique your interest, you can start doing it right away. As you will see next month, there are no rules or boundaries in writing what you are experiencing. The only thing journaling is meant to do in this situation is to help you maneuver through grief and adjust to a new life.Tags: grief, hope