The Wisdom in Journaling

I have always been a firm believer in the benefits of journaling. I journaled almost daily when my daughter Jeannine was first diagnosed in May of 2002 with a rare and incurable form of cancer. This continued for almost two years after her death on 3/1/03, at the age of 18.

My early journals were raw, filled with pain, anger and disbelief over the hand of cards that was dealt to me and Jeannine’s mother and two brothers. I review those early journals periodically, and sometimes compare where I was then to where I am now.

I have discovered today that my past contains lessons that are useful to me today. Plus as parents who have experienced the death of a child, it is not unusual to revisit our emotional pain from time to time. In the past, I allowed my pain to disempower me, to immobilize me for long periods of time. Today I try to embrace it and learn from it.

Today I don’t have a set schedule for private journaling. When I journal now, it is because I am inspired to do so or because of an experience whose lesson I want to document while it is fresh in my mind.

With that being said, I want to share some insights from my journal entry dated 1/8/12. I titled my entry “Random Stuff.” Obviously, I had no plan as to what I was going to write; the following is some of what I was inspired to write in that moment. My italicized comments represent the meanings that they have for me in this moment:

1. Jack Johnson (Singer/Songwriter)- “And if they tell you that love fades over time, tell them that there is no such thing as time.” I remember putting this quote on my Facebook page some time ago and also recall now using this in a previous article as well.

So why did this thought recycle itself? Well, one of the lessons that I have recently discovered is that truths we have learned previously and assimilate into our experience may resurface as the basis for even more lessons that can help us in our life long experiences as parents who have experienced the death of a child. I haven’t yet figured out those lessons, but when the time is right, I will. Plus, I love this quote because it so reinforces my belief that our relationships with our loved ones are ongoing and permanent after they cross over.

2. There is spirit in everything and in everything there is spirit. Many parents that I know have been graced with signs from their children (as have I). Let the signs that you experience not only validate that our children are with us in a different from of energy, but allow you to see yourself as a truly spiritual being. If we can commit to this way of life, it allows us to see life and death differently. We can change our perspective on life and death, if we choose to do so.

3. Life isn’t always fair, there are challenges. I have tried to look at my journey after Jeannine’s death today as a series of challenges that will allow me to continue the process of redefining who I am. When I am able to do this, I no longer assess what happens to me in life as being fair or unfair. I believe that when we get stuck in the fair vs. unfair debate of life for any period of time, we become disempowered to thrive as a result of our struggle.

4. Socrates- ” The unexamined life is not worth living.” This is another quote that recycled itself during my journaling session. In this moment, I believe that Socrates is a reminder to all of us that our learning on life’s journey, no matter what that journey is, continues until we cross over to a new existence. I have been empowered by the truths that have been revealed to me on my journey, and excited by what this life has yet to teach me.

Dave Roberts 2012

David Roberts

More Articles Written by David

David J. Roberts, LMSW, became a parent who experienced the death of a child, when his daughter Jeannine died of cancer on 3/1/03 at the age of 18. He is a retired addiction professional and an adjunct professor in the psychology department at Utica College in Utica, New York. Dave is a featured speaker, workshop facilitator and coach for Aspire Place, LLC ( He is also the chapter leader for The Compassionate Friends of the Mohawk Valley. Mr. Roberts has been a presenter at the Southern Humanities Council Conference in both 2017 and 2018. Dave has been a past workshop facilitator for The Compassionate Friends. He has also been a past workshop facilitator and keynote speaker for The Bereaved Parents of the USA. Mr. Roberts has contributed articles to the Huffington Post blog, The Grief Toolbox, Recovering the Self Journal and Medium. One of Dave's articles, My Daughter is Never Far Away, can also be found in Open to Hope: Inspirational Stories of Healing and Loss. Excerpts from Dave's article for The Open to Hope Foundation, called The Broken Places were featured in the 2012 Paraclete Press DVD video, Grieving the Sudden Death of a Loved One. He has appeared on numerous radio and internet broadcasts and Open to Hope Television. Dave was also part of a panel in 2016 for the BBC Podcast, World Have Your Say, with other grief experts, discussing the death of Carrie Fisher. Dave’s website: is devoted to providing support and resources for individuals experiencing loss.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • sharon dixon says:

    My daughter passed away nearly 6yrs ago aged 19yrs, her death HAS left me debilitated even now i just exist and not live, go through the motions of everyday life just so people don’t question or judge me for still feeling this way. I hope and don’t know if i am just fooling myself that i will get past this and will live again, although i don’t know how i am going to live again without Rebecca in my life. Becca had a condition known as Rett Syndrome, she was totally dependant on me for all her cares, was fed through a tube and had numerous problems but when she was well she was a happy child with a very sick sense of humour, her death has left such a hole in my life, our family’s, my husband and two other children have moved on with their lives and on occations when there’s arguements i get accussed of wallowing in self pity. Am i grieving or am i wallowing in self pity and how do i know the difference ? I don’t know if anyone has the answers but wouldn’t it be great if someone did ?

  • Hi Sharon:
    What I have discovered is that there is no time frame for moving from the excruciating pain associated to a place where we have learned to live in a world without the physical presence of our children. It will take as long as it will take;our grief journeys are life long. From my perspective, I believe self-pity may be a factor in situations where a bereaved person continually rejects support from others who have experienced the same loss. I would suggest also hooking up with a Compassionate Friends chapter;if that is not feasible, online support is available on their website. There are a lot of good articles on this site as well as great resources through the Centering Corporation.

    Please accept my condolences for the death of your daughter Rebecca.

  • Eyal's mom says:

    Hi Sharon,
    My son died suddenly of a cancer he was found to have only a month before it killed him. This was almost 8 months ago. I have not “moved on” in any way and am deep in grief even though I do have other living sons and daughters. My own mom lost her daughter, my only sister, 38 years ago. She said that after 20-30 years it got easier. I cannot imagine that. You are not wallowing in self pity, you are grieving the ultimate sorrow and unnatural pain of your child dying before you. How can you not. I have a support group of other bereaved parents from the Israel cancer society and neighbors who have lost their children, everyone deals with it differently (my husband as well) but there is no other pain or grief as devastating, and it is forever. I do not know how I will survive this, but it does help to be with others who have suffered the same loss. Be yourself, and know that though grief is now our life, it does not have to be all of our life. It will always be there, however, and you may learn to cope with it better than I do. Just know that you are not alone and that I am very sorry for your loss, for mine, and for everyone’s, who has had to lose a child.