What is a grief journal and how does it help?

Keeping a journal can be a powerful way to work through the strongest emotions.

Psychologists have researched the healing powers of expressive writing, describing it as a way to have an honest and open conversation with yourself and, as the best expert on your own feelings, writing a regular journal allows you the time to express and understand what you are feeling.

Grief is one of the most powerful emotions we experience as humans and it can be very difficult to discuss a loss with others. Writing is a tried and trusted method for helping people come to terms with the intense, sometimes overwhelming, sorrow they feel at the death of a loved one.

There is no hard and fast formula for writing a grief journal.

Entries can be straightforward reports of the day’s events, information about what has happened and how it has made you feel. Alternatively, they can be a random collection of words that express your anger, sadness or confusion or a rambling jumble of every thought in your head at a given time.

The advice is to do what works for you. Some people need to set up a routine to write every day; others only write when they feel the strength of emotion building. Some people can write for hours, others in five-minute bursts.

The most important thing is to remember that you are writing only for yourself. No one will judge what you write - poor spelling and bad grammar are absolutely forgiven. The point is to get your feelings out rather than keep them buried inside.

A grief journal also serves as a record of your changing feelings over time, something that you can look back on to understand the way your feelings about your loss have changed.

Reading back what you have written can also help you make decisions. You can look back and weigh up the way you have felt in relation to past everts, the pros and cons of various situations.

At its most basic, a grief journal is a notebook. All you need is some blank pages and a pen or pencil to get started. If the prospect of a blank page fills you with dread and you feel you would benefit from some structure, there are grief journals available to buy.

One of the most popular is ‘I Remember You: A Grief Journal’ which combines illustrated journal pages with quotes and comforting advice that will support anyone working through the grieving process.

The book prompts the writer to explore their thoughts and emotions and record memories of their lost loved one. It encourages the journal keeper to write letters to the deceased saying what was left unsaid and to safely store photos or mementos. Eventually, this grief journal transforms into a very personal keepsake.

Whether we want to record our memories of someone who has passed, or you are simply trying to clear your head, the act of writing makes us slow down and consider our feelings, our moods and our actions.

Grief is a very personal experience and a grief journal is a way to express feelings honestly. Like a diary, it’s yours and you are free to share your deepest emotions without the worry of upsetting friends or family. It’s a place to put your pain and, in time, to look back on how you have begun to feel better.