Journaling for Healing Grief & Loss

"Almost at once the whole tree, in fact, the whole park was transformed into a blaze of color...'Why did we turn different colors,' Freddie asked, 'when we are on the same tree?'...'Each of us is different.  We have had different experiences...Why should we not have different colors?' Daniel said matter-of-factly.  Daniel told Freddie that this wonderful season was called Fall."

- Leo Buscaglia, PhD, The Fall of Freddie the Leaf

 

Autumn is nature's reminder that change happens in life.  It can be beautiful and awe-inspiring with the colors of leaves, the shapes of gourdes, and nourishing with all the fruits and vegetables in season.  This can also be like grief.  It is a time of change and people can find some beauty in their grief work with creativity, reflections, conversations, etc.  Just like a recipe for those fall foods and traditions, we used to talk about grief in terms of ordered 5-Step stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance).  And, just like nature's own plan for making the colors of the fall leaves that seems to have no exact pattern or formula, recent research shows that grief over a loss (either from a loved one's death or a loss that is non-death related like the loss of a job, relationship, health, etc.) is experienced more like waves in the ocean: shock and denial at the crest of the wave; depression, confusion, and painful feelings, in the middle of the wave; and "acceptance" or peace at the end of the wave.  And these waves come and go just like waves in the ocean, some big and some small and with different rhythms and paces, some soothing and some scary.  

So, during this Season of Change, I am offering a Journaling Journey through Grief (sometimes referred to as a journaling "challenge," but grief is a challenge in and of itself so let's take a healing journey).  I invite you to participate in whatever way you are comfortable.  Each day I will provide a prompt for you to journal about to work through some grief.  I will provide a death-related and non-death related prompt because sometimes the work is a bit different.  Write, draw, sketch, type, etc.  Take is slow, or work fast.  Share it with someone who cares about you, or if you don't have a support person, email it to me!  And with permission, I will share people's work through the month.  Let's see where we end up in this journey of working through grief at the end of October.

 


October 31

My life is important and I have many things to look forward to...  And as special times come around without your physical presence here are my ideas about how I can still include you...

My life is important and I have many things to look forward to...  And here is what I can do as special times come around to honor where I am now...


October 30

This is who I am now...  This is how I will put myself and my life back together...


October 29

Your life and death have changed me and aspects of my life now in these positive ways...

This loss changed me and aspects of my life now in these positive ways...


October 28

After you died, I thought surely I cannot go on.  I decided to had to because...

After the loss and change, I thought surely I cannot go on.  I decided to had to because...


October 27

Here is a closure activity that I have done and my thoughts and feelings about it...

(closure activities ides: write a letter; have a ceremony or special time to talk, laugh, and cry about who left your life; look at and share pictures, tell stories, name what you will miss and say goodbye; visit a grave site; make a donation in your loved one's honor to an organization; plant a tree or flowers to honor who died)

Here is a closure activity that I have done and my thoughts and feelings about it...

(closure activities ides: write a letter; have a ceremony or special time to talk, laugh, and cry about your loss; look at and share pictures, tell stories, name what you will miss and say goodbye; visit a meaningful site; plant a tree or flowers to honor the occasion of loss)


October 26

This is my Good-bye letter to you...

This is my Good-bye letter to my loss...


October 25

There were some unhappy things between us that we didn't work out very well while you were still alive.  Here's in my heart how I want to resolve them...

There were some unhappy things between surrounding what I lost or what changed that didn't work out very well before everything happened.  Here's in my heart how I want to resolve them...


October 24

I wonder how you are now, what it's like and if you are ok and here's what I imagine and thing about...

Out of all this loss and confusion with the change here's what got overlooked that I wish I could have attended to and how I feel about it now...


October 23

There are some things that I want to tell you....

There are some things that I want to tell other people involved in my loss or change and never got a chance to tell....


October 22

Sometime I feel like I am in a fog wandering around and asking questions like "why."  Here's what it's like for me to be in a fog and the questions that I ask about your death and what's happened....

Sometime I feel like I am in a fog wandering around and asking questions like "why."  Here's what it's like for me to be in a fog and the questions that I ask about what's happened....


October 21

After you died, here's what became unbalanced in my life...

After the big change or major loss, here's what became unbalanced in my life...

 

October 20

 Talk Talk Talk.  When I need to talk and tell the story of  how you died and how I feel I can talk to.... And, if these people aren't available I can write in my journal.

Talk Talk Talk.  When I need to talk and tell of what I lost (or what changed) how I feel I can talk to.... And, if these people aren't available I can write in my journal.


October 19

I really want to talk to YOU.  Here's how I imagine our conversation would go...

If my loss or change in life could have a helpful voice and we could have a conversation here's how I would imagine it would go... 


October 18

Sometimes I want to be left alone, and when I get a chance to be alone I...


October 17

Some people in my life wanted to help and just didn't know how to help.  Here is what I would have liked from them...


October 16

Some friends and family members were really helpful by...


October 15

Some people wanted to help but I chose not to accept the help.  Here are my thoughts on how and why....


October 14

Here's my list of the "not-so-helpful" things, hurtful things, "well-meaning" things that people have said, and the things that I wish they would stop saying...


October 13

I feel loved and understood when...

Research about grief and loss and bereavement in this modern era shows that because we have become such a pain-intolerant society, we are not socialized so much anymore about how to support someone going through a loss, let alone talk about it much at all.  Genuine support from people is one of those important elements in healing and getting through the loss and living after a loss.  So, like many aspects of grief, support comes with bitter-sweet tones.  This Journaling Journey this week will focus on first talking about your experience with receiving support so far and then moving to creating that genuine support for healing from loss and grief.

October 12

Sometimes late at night when the world is asleep, I lay awake feeling just plain ol' sad about...

Here's what's just plain ol' sad about my loss or major life change...


October 11

I know that I am not responsible for your death, but sometimes I feel guilty about...  
And then I remind myself that...

I know that I am not responsible for this loss (or losses) and how life has changed for me, but sometimes I can't help but feel guilty about....
And then I remember that...


October 10

I am so frustrated about...

When I think about or live with this loss (or losses) I feel so frustrated about...


October 9

I sometimes wear a mask to hide what I am really feeling.  I do this because....  And, today I am feeling....


October 8

I worry that people are judging the way I am acting.  They probably think that I am feeling and thinking.... And here's the truth...  


October 7

I am angry because... or I have been angry about....

This week's theme is Emotions.  After journaling each day this week you may want to consider an active grounding activity like going for a walk, running up and down the stairs, swimming, tossing around a ball, etc.  Then call a friend or escape in a great show or book.

October 6

As I move forward in the world, I take our memories with me and continue to live with memories.  Here are my thoughts, feelings, pictures, ideas about this.

As I move forward in the world, I take some memories with me and continue to live with memories.  Here are my thoughts, feelings, pictures, ideas about this.

 

October 5

Physical energy helps to relieve my stress and stuck feelings.  Here is what I do or will do in your memory to take care of myself.  

Physical energy helps to relieve my stress and stuck feelings.  Here is what I do or will do after this loss to take care of myself.  

 

October 4

I want to remember you accurately.  Here is a list A-Z of words that are positive about you and our relationship.  Here is a list of words A-Z to describe the negatives about you. (Example: List 1 - a-amazing, b-bold, c-comforting, etc.  List 2 - a-angersome, b-bossy, c-critical, etc)  This is your yin and yang.

I want to remember accurately what life was like before.  Here is a list A-Z of words that are positive about what I lost (like my job, my good health, my relationship, where I used to live, etc).  Here is a list of words A-Z to describe the negatives about what I lost. (Example: List 1 - a-able, b-better off, c-comfortable, etc.  List 2 - a-annoying, b-bored, c-craziness, etc)  This is a balanced way of thinking. 

 

October 3
You may have noticed a theme of Remembering for these first few journal prompts.  Remembering is an important part of the healing process.  It may bring up a number of different emotions, it moves the grief work along or gets it started or even unstuck.  Recording memories in a healthy and helpful way keeps things alive in that bitter-sweet way and paves the way for more grief work.  It also is a way to relieve those worries about forgetting and not remembering the good stuff.  If you are working in a journal book, you may want to add a picture or memento in this entry.
 
 

These are things that I remember you saying and doing that I don't ever want to forget... 

These are things that I remember about life before chaos happened or got turned upside-down that I don't ever want to forget...

 
October 2
 

This is my story of your passing in my own words starting with: I first heard that...

This is my story of what I lost (or what changed) in myown words starting with: I first knew that something just wasn't "right" when...

 

October 1

This is the name of the person who died and who you were to me and what role you played in my life and what role I played in your life.

This is what I lost in my life, and all the things it meant to me.


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