Healing Through Words: Keeping a Grief Journal

Loss comes in many forms: death of a pet or person; the loss of a friend or position; the loss of youth we experience as we grow older. It’s a part of life that we sometimes shuffle past and don’t delve into. Today’s post touches on this sensitive topic. I don’t want to make anyone upset or trigger past emotional issues; but seeing that the topic of loss hit me hard during my hiatus, I felt that writing my thoughts down on this process and sharing them with all of you is important. 

Please, if you have lost someone and are having issues “getting past it all”, find someone to talk to and perhaps keep a journal of your thoughts. Grieving is a long process and the more you deal with the whirlwind of emotions you feel, the faster you can start the healing process. Writing down your thoughts is one tool that can help you feel better about what happened and help you move on and rebuild your life.

Our eldest cat, mo, died two months ago. Yes, he was physically old but he still had the spark of a kitten in his eye. We lost him in one of the most shocking ways– during a 3 day stay at the hospital where we hoped the vet health care system could nurse him back to health. I still remember the early morning phone call, and the shock, horror, and anger I felt at the situation. Neither one of us expected to have to make “the decision” so soon and yet, we couldn’t just turn the other way and ignore what we had to do. For the first hours without him, I cried. A lot. The world seemed to be a colder place, the colors less vivid. And I had no idea what I was going to do to adjust to life without him.

I lost the ability to write, those first few days. Every time I looked at the unfinished D*I*Y Planner article sitting on my computer monitor, I felt sick to my stomach. Go figure… here was my primary passion and means of getting through life, and I felt frozen, unable to write another word. It felt as if my muse took off. Of course, this stressed me out even more and brought on more tears. This was when I decided to take my hiatus. I needed that time to heal myself and, also, figure out what I was going to do about the loss of words. The funny thing is that when I decided not to force the words to come, they came.

While I was away, I wrote. Nothing spectacular, mind you… mostly rambling daily thoughts and pure emotions that revolved around what I was doing every day and how I felt. Little did I realize that these ramblings were the first steps into what would help (and is STILL helping) me heal the pain of losing our eldest furkid, a core member of our family.

Journaling your grief helps you to make sense of what happened. It gives you the safe space to experience or re-experience those feelings that you might not normally show to others during this time. It allows you to act out and ask the unanswerable questions, or hold conversations or events you wish you had the chance to (re)do. I know that writing it down and talking to my friends helped to start the healing process. But, I also know it’s not easy to do, the blank page can be rather scary. While I’m not 100% beyond the loss (as evidenced a few nights ago when I burst out crying at dinner after being shown a picture of mo), I know that writing and allowing myself to feel things has helped me work through some of the anger and guilt and pain. 

Where do you begin? Open your journal and put the pen on the page. Internally, I had this need to get all my feelings out before they consumed me. That, along with just turning to the next page in my daily journal, got me going. It was time to write down and acknowledge that he was gone. That first entry was the hardest. I remember writing a short and rather largely printed statement that simply stated when he passed and how I felt. The tears were coming down so hard I couldn’t see where the pen was. Since then, when I look up and not see mo on his sofa perch or notice he’s gone, I’ll write how I feel on the printed page. I also try to think of the fonder moments we had when he was here. There’s really nothing else to it, except to just put the pen on the page and write. You don’t even have to start at the beginning. You don’t even have to start with the snapshot of the event that lead to the loss.

Here’s a short list of things that can help you write when you experience loss:

Keep writing. Writing may uncover emotions surrounding the event that you didn’t think you were feeling. You may find yourself getting angry or crying as you write. This is natural… allow yourself to feel the emotion. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. While it may not make sense, letting go all of those bottled up emotions helps you through the grieving process.

Examine your emotions. Give yourself time and space. Make a list of everything you feel regarding what happened and then write out, at length, how and why you feel each feeling. Don’t be afraid to go in-depth. 

Be creative. Draw or collage your grief. When it’s too hard to write or you feel that words don’t convey the exact thoughts you feel, turn to art. Draw out your emotions… scribble out the anger or tears. Cry on the page. Collage images that show how you feel or the best times you had with the one you lost. I found a few images I had of mo and me and I turned them into a digital  remembrance collage of him. 

Write unsent letters. Write letters that no one else will see, except for you, the page, and the spirit of who you lost. I know many people who have dealt with their grief this way. They say it’s therapeutic and helps them feel connected to who they lost.

Remember the memories. Write down happy events. Keep a record of who you lost and what they looked like. Keep a list of the things they loved (music, books, movies, chew toys, etc.) and allow yourself to remember the love you had for them.

Taking time to work through the grieving process does really help you. It’s never easy to lose something, it’s hard to pick up the pieces and move on. Keeping a written log of your thoughts and emotions can help you gain perspective, remove blocks, and have you saying what you need to say in order to heal and live your life more fully again.

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