Journaling Through Grief: Writing as a Therapeutic Outlet

November 15, 2023

Everyone responds differently to grief, some people withdraw and bottle all their emotions up, while others become angry and take out their frustrations in a visible way. When you are grieving the loss of someone, it is incredibly important to have an outlet to express your thoughts and feelings to begin the healing process.

There are lots of books and blogs online about how to work through grief, and support groups are also a good place to turn to. One of the simplest and cheapest things you can do is to journal, either using the traditional pen and paper method or just by typing notes into your phone or computer. Journaling is a huge stress reliever, as well as providing emotional benefits including reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Reasons to Start a Grief Journal

A grief journal can help build resilience

Research has shown that journaling regularly can help improve resilience, making you better equipped to deal with challenges that life throws at you. By putting your thoughts and feelings onto paper, you can think more logically and look at stressful situations in a calmer way. Using a grief journal can help you navigate through your grief journey in a healthy way, rather than relying on unhealthy coping mechanisms.

A grief journal can promote stress relief

Regularly writing about your thoughts can really help reduce the levels of stress you feel. It allows you to empty your thoughts onto paper and stop them from swirling around in your mind all the time. By writing about your feelings, these can be expressed in a controlled, safe space and you can simply close your journal and pause if everything gets too much.

A grief journal can help you move through grief (rather than avoid it)

When faced with emotional pain following the loss of a loved one, it is a natural instinct to hide away your emotions and pretend that everything is ok. However, this doesn’t help you deal with the grief, it just means you are prolonging the healing process. Using a grief journal can help you tap into those emotions and process them at a rate that works for you. To heal you have to go through the pain and difficult emotions first.

How to Begin Journaling

If you have never journaled before, getting started can feel quite overwhelming. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Decide what medium you are going to use. Do you prefer pen and paper, or is typing more your thing? There are specific grief journals out there that provide prompts and structure to help you process your thoughts, but alternatively, you may prefer a blank journal where you can write to your heart’s content.
  • It is really important to find a safe, comfortable place to start writing. Journaling can make you feel incredibly vulnerable so think about where you feel happiest to start writing.
  • Journaling doesn’t come naturally to some people, so don’t fret if you struggle with knowing what to write, or can only manage a couple of sentences. Just creating the habit is a good start, 5 minutes at a certain time of the day is perfect. You may find that you can’t write every day, and that is absolutely fine, take the time to see what works best for you.
  • Journaling doesn’t have to be tidy. You don’t need to use your best handwriting, and spelling really does not matter! This isn’t something that anyone else will see (unless you want them to), so scribble away and let those thoughts slowly drift out of your mind. Focusing on punctuation and grammar is actually an avoidance technique and will slow down your healing process.

Creative Journaling

Journaling doesn’t just have to be about writing pages and pages of emotions and feelings, it is your space to express sorrow and pain. Working through your negative thoughts is a huge part of the healing process, and creative methods can help to reframe these into more positive thoughts. Think about asking yourself questions, or even write a poem about losing the person you loved. If you can make your negative thoughts more positive this will help on your journey. It can also help to create an understanding and connection to the loved one you have lost.