Coping With Grief: The Benefits of Putting Pen to Paper to Process the Loss of a Loved One
Grieving is hard, plain and simple. Grieving is something that no one has completely figured out and is different for everyone.
Whether you're grieving the death of a loved one or helping someone else grieve a loss, coping is difficult. But, there are a few tips that make coping with grief a bit easier.
Depending on your preferences, you could go for a walk with a friend or join a group counseling series. Maybe join a book club or chat with others who share your grief.
Another option, though, is to use grief journaling to heal. Keep reading to find out more.
What Is Grief Journaling?
Grief journaling is allowing yourself to process what you're feeling. After a loss, it's sometimes hard to make sense of things. You may be asking lots of questions or have unresolved thoughts.
Simply, grief journaling is writing down your thoughts and questions about what you're feeling as your grieve. It can be in the margins of a book, in a grief journal with prompts, or in a blank notebook.
With grief journaling, you're coping with grief by finally freeing those thoughts. Instead of harboring them in your mind, you're giving yourself an opportunity to heal.
Who Should Journal?
Writing down your thoughts is a good exercise for everyone.
Grief journaling is a great method if you're not ready to share your grief with others yet. Getting your thoughts down on paper helps prepare you to open up with others about your grief.
Journaling can also be useful if you are openly talking with others about your grief. Use writing as a supplement to prepare for a counseling session or to process a conversation with a friend.
How to Journal
One of the biggest benefits of grief journaling is that you can customize it to your wants and needs. There are also different types of journals to consider for this journey.
These are plain, open journals. You can use lined notebook paper, a hardback journal, or whatever blank paper you prefer.
These journals have space for you to explore your thoughts without prompts. You are the self-starter in these spaces, and these journals are a bit more free-form.
If you'd like a bit more structure in your writing, a guided journal may be the best choice. These journals have prompts and questions to guide your thinking throughout your writing session.
Guided journals work well for beginning journalists and challenge pro writers. They allow you to respond to the prompt however deep you'd like to go for the day.
Digital journals are a good choice if you are concerned about the safety and confidentiality of your thoughts. You can use a document on your computer or find a password-protected journal online.
These journals also work well if you're a fast typer and you feel like your brain moves faster than you can write. This approach allows you to type out whatever you need at the time, then go back and edit or rearrange your thoughts to make them more coherent.
Grief Journaling Tips
Whichever method of journaling you choose, it can be hard to get started. Here, a few tips to help you with coping with the loss of a loved one.
Write What You Want
Instead of focusing on what you think you should be writing, let yourself free. Go into each journaling session with no expectations about what you want to write about or how you should feel. This type of writing follows your stream-of-conscious, so you are truly letting out the feelings deep down.
Rather than trying to filter out some things consciously, keep your hand moving the entire time. This trick encourages your brain to tap into your true emotions and thoughts.
Though it can be hard to free write, try not to edit yourself while writing. This is one of the most prohibitive tasks in journaling. Because you are processing loss, your journal does not have to make sense to anyone besides yourself.
Your journal is your space to be free. If you want to draw a picture instead of writing, draw a picture.
Use analogies and metaphors to get your point across. Sometimes using these devices helps us make more sense of what we are feeling. If you're feeling stuck, try out some of these ideas:
- Making lists to organize your thoughts
- Having a Q & A section to attempt to tackle tough subjects
- Draw an animal that you can relate to at the time
- Write what part of nature you feel most like that day and why
Use this space to express your truest self and work through coping with your grief.
One of the most difficult things about grief journaling is staying present throughout the writing session. It's easy to get lost in your thoughts while journaling.
Engage your mind and body at the same time. When you write about certain topics, think about how your body reacts. Then, write that down.
Maybe your breathing quickens when you discuss the death of a loved one. Or, your palms get sweaty thinking about a breakup. Use your journal to explore those correlations safely.
Staying present is especially important when diving into deeper thoughts and topics. When you notice you are moving into scary territory, check-in with your body. At the end of your writing session, acknowledge your hard work for the day.
Journaling for Coping
Are you ready to begin coping with grief over the loss of a loved one?
Journaling can be the start of a rewarding, beautiful journey. You'll not only process and honor your loved one but learn more about yourself along the way.
But, journaling doesn't have to be the end of your self-discovery. Check out our zines page for guided journals and helpful tools to find a stronger, healthier you.
Image Credits: Samantha Hurley, Brodie Vissers, Sarah Pflug