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Journaling Through the Grief

Jimmie and Ruth Gabour

Grief is a regular companion as we move into the junior and senior classes of life. I grieve the loss of my parents, friends and family, Facebook friends, and now I grieve for a lost way of life. And one relief that I continually return to is journaling.

I have dear friends who have recently lost loved ones and some who are going through anticipatory grief, which is what I call the time when loss is eminent. They are the inspiration for today's post.

Your journal is a friend you can talk to, curse with, and cry in, and it never judges. The thing I've found important about journaling through grief is that you need to make it work for you. Following rules doesn't work. You have to make the rules.

If you need help getting started, here are some tips that helped me.

  • Don't feel that you need to write every day. That makes it a chore, not a relief. Write when you want to. Write when you need to. Write when you realize that you have something to celebrate.

  • Try things that help you get started like listing a few words about how you feel at the beginning of your entry. If you feel differently at the end, you can even add a few words there to help you see how journaling is working for you.

  • Don't edit. You wrote those things for a reason. Maybe you don't see it now, but it's there.

  • And if you get stuck, there are prompts that can help. Here's my top ten list.

  1. One that really made a difference for me is writing a letter to the person I lost. I told her how things had changed, what I had learned, what I appreciated about her, what I wish I had known or asked her.

  2. Write a specific memory about a loved one. Make it detailed and use all your senses. Recreate that scene in your mind when it was the pure joy of the actual moment, not a bittersweet memory.

  3. Start an entry with, "What I loved about you..." Write about those things that make you smile when you hear their name.

  4. Write an angry post. Chew out death. Curse at the world. Those things are inside you. Put them on paper so you can let them go of them in your heart.

  5. Write a story that your loved one used to tell. You know the ones. You heard them a million times and sometimes you thought, "Here we go again," but inside you felt like that story was a part of the person. You're creating a little piece of history about them that you can share in the future.

  6. Write about the future. How will you feel a year from today? How will it feel when you can think about that person without pain, without tears?

  7. Write a poem inspired by your loved one. It doesn't have to be about them, just inspired by the part they played in your life and how you treasure it.

  8. Write advice that you would give if you had a friend who was going through what you are experiencing. What would you suggest they do? What things would you say to make them feel better?

  9. Write a letter to yourself in the voice of your loved one. What would they say to get you back to yourself? Would they kick you in the pants? Would they be nurturing and gentle? Would they tell you a joke?

  10. Write your goals for the future. When you're ready, it's good to find something to focus some of that uncomfortable energy on. Pick something you've wanted to try, learn, or improve and set a tiny goal. Just writing it down creates that acceptance that there will be a time past the grief. And that is a good place to visit.

And please know that you are not alone. You have joined a club that none of us wants to be a member of. The admission price is just too high.

But in our numbers we know that others have felt what we feel. And they have survived. Gone on to laugh again. And their loved ones are not being disrespected by the fact that they have found happiness again. After all, their laughter is probably what the person loved to hear the most. Continuing it is a gift to their memory.

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