Journaling when we are dealing with loss can release bottled up emotions. It can be a time for self discovery and self inquiry. It has many benefits and from my own experiences and others, writing what we are experiencing can temporarily make us feel better.

Since journaling may be new to some, I have anticipated a few questions you may have and provided pointers to help you see if this activity is of interest to you.

What do I need to start journaling?

All you need is a pen, a notebook and the openness to write your feelings in an effort to heal.

What is the proper way to journal, as I’ve never done it?

I suggest you date each entry. Other than that, there are no rules. You do not need to be concerned if sentences are properly written in the “Queen’s English.” This is a time to be spontaneous and write whatever comes to mind. You’re interested in streaming consciousness, not necessarily formulating a great piece of literature. Remember, it’s not how the words read on the page but how you feel after you write them.

How often do I have to write?

There are no rules in this either. You could write daily or weekly. You can write for 3 days in a row and take 3 days off. You can write for an hour one time and a minute the next. Though writing consistently will make one a better writer, you are writing for therapeutic reasons.

What do I have to write about?

I’m sure you have a lot to tell the blank page in front of you. But to “flip the switch,” you may consider the following: What is bothering your mind at the moment? What are your memories of your loved one, such as what you loved most and least about the person? When, if ever, do you feel lonely, resentful or confused? Why do you feel that way? Do you wish to be forgiven or better understood? What do you think the reason is that causes you to mourn, or not mourn?

Journaling doesn’t have to focus on any one thing. You can write about things unrelated to your loss. Scribble down a joke you heard that made you laugh or a new person you met who left an impression on you. Another  good exercise is to journal what you are grateful for in life. This could be your family and friends, a job you enjoy, your own good health or your faith. There is something very spiritual in offering thanks while you are in the grasp of grief.

What if my writings aren’t worthwhile?

Be easy on yourself. Remember writing anything that is heartfelt is worthwhile and has meaning.

Do I have to write in silence?

No. In fact, audio stimulation will enhance the ambience of the environment and may create a mood that is inviting for writing. Soft, soothing, instrumental music such as classical or relaxation music, often works well in these situations. Many times our mood will mirror the music we hear, and we will write to the emotional intensity of the music. It’s okay that this is not your favorite music. You are playing the music because it is conducive to journaling. Even concentration for writing is enhanced with this “write” music.

I’m afraid journaling may be too painful for me. Should I do it anyway?

Let me answer this with Mark’s story. We met Mark in last month’s article. He had lost his sister in a sudden and tragic incident that took her life in 1992. He began to journal to give “voice to his grief.” Though it was difficult, Mark made it work by directing his inner-most suffering into writing a letter to his friends. He shares this recollection, “It took me a whole day, maybe two, to write this letter. I poured my heart out. I explained to my friends how much my sister’s tragic death devastated me and my family, and how utterly surreal it was to be going through such a horrible experience. I then wrote about how important their friendship and support had been in getting me through each day and how important their friendship would be in helping me go forward. It was excruciating to write that letter…just raw pain and grief…and endless crying.  But oddly enough, after I wrote and mailed each of my friends a copy, I had the most amazing sense of peace. It was the first real sign that I was going to get through this. That is why I continued to journal.” His last lines are so important to focus on. Even though we are going through an overwhelming experience, writing can show hope. And the evidence will be right there on the paper in front of us.

If I don’t want to write, can I do something else?

Of course! Journaling is expressing how you feel by writing words. But that’s not the only way to ventilate your hurt, reduce stress and help you heal. You could paint, draw or write poetry. Some people write their words to existing songs to overcome grief. Others write music. Besides journaling the last years of my father’s life, I composed music. The result was my CD titled, “In Abba’s Arms”. It contains 12 melodic, instrumental compositions that are listened to by others who grieve a loss. Little did I know that journaling my own loss in song, would be an “inspirational companion” to others in their search for healing and hope.

How long will I have to journal?

Your journaling will probably coincide with your grieving. Consequently, there is no set time. When you determine that you don’t need to do it anymore or feel more like your self again, you may put down the pen and close the book…or maybe you won’t! Maybe you’ll discover what others have: that journaling your emotions and memories, opinions and thoughts, anxiety and anger, as well as reflections and feelings, is a simple activity that makes you feel better, assists you to find solace in loss and offer self-discovery as you travel the road towards a new life.

Write on!

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Tony Falzano

Tony Falzano

Tony Falzano is an author, college professor and songwriter who resides in Rochester, New York. He writes and speaks on the enormous health benefits that music has to offer. His articles on the power in music to heal can be found in all the major grief publications. In addition, his presentations such as, “Composing Grief” has been highly regarded in grief and hospice organizations throughout western New York. Furthermore, Tony is an award winning songwriter whose career expands 40 years. He composes music to assist people to feel calm, centered and relaxed. His music CD, “Just a Touch Away”, along with his first album, "In Abba’s Arms", have been listened to by many grieving a loss. Both CDs contain beautifully orchestrated, melodic, instrumental music designed to be a companion to those searching for healing and hope. You are invited to view, read and listen to both albums. Please visit http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/falzano.

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