How Journaling Can Help While Grieving

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Alecia Milano
Posted by Alecia Milano on April 27, 2021

One of the most powerful emotions a person can experience in life is grief. It is often so intensely felt because usually we have little control over it, or what caused it.

Grief occurs as the result of a loss. Although the five stages of grief written by psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler Ross were meant to help people come to terms with loss, they are general concepts (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) that can apply to a variety of losses—from job loss to divorce to death. While grieving is a deeply personal experience that is felt very differently from person to person, there are healthy ways to cope with loss, regardless of what symptoms of grief you’re experiencing.

Research shows that keeping a journal during a time of mourning can help people process what they are feeling and ultimately cope with their loss. Continue reading for a few grief journaling tips and prompts to get you started.

Grief Journaling as a Coping Mechanism

Grief isn’t something that only affects us emotionally. It can also take a physical toll that can manifest into insomnia, panic attacks, nausea, headaches, increased blood pressure, lethargy and depression. Keeping your feelings bottled up can contribute to the physical symptoms you’re feeling.

Grief journaling can help by offering opportunities to:

  • Explore your feelings and fears.
  • Record your journey through the process.
  • Construct a written remembrance of your loved one.
You may not fully understand or be aware of what you’ve been feeling until you try to write it down. Emotions buried deep in your subconscious may bubble to the surface. Writing about them can help you sort through those feelings and, at some point in the future, move forward.

Tips for Starting Your Journal

There are no rules when keeping a grief journal—consider it a safe and judgment-free place to express what’s on your mind. Some days you may not feel like writing, and other days the words will pour out. Your journal can take any form—from a spiral bound notebook for handwritten thoughts, to a digital version on your computer or an app on your phone.

If the thought of starting from scratch is overwhelming, grief journals like I Remember You: A Grief Journal, are also available for purchase and can help get you started. Decide if you want to journal daily or weekly, and have a designated space (table, desk, comfy chair) to help you stay focused and minimize distractions.

3 Grief Journaling Prompts

Organize your journal however you see fit. You may want to include sections for free journaling to write about how you are feeling on a given day, pages for quotes or inspirational sayings, a space for doodling or artwork, and a section devoted to writing prompts. Sometimes the hardest part is not knowing what to say.

Writing prompts can be a helpful way to structure your thoughts. Here are three examples:

1. Provide yourself answers to open ended questions.

  • “One thing I miss the most…”
  • “A comforting memory of you is …”
  • “If we had one more day together, here’s how we would spend it…”

2. What is something that makes you feel better when you’re having a hard day?

  • Examples of your answers could include spending time with a friend, getting some exercise, praying or meditating, etc.

3. How has your life changed since the person passed?

  • Have you made new friends or strengthened old relationships?
  • Do you have a new daily routine?

Interested in More Grief Support Resources?

Learning to live a new normal is a process. Keeping a journal can help you reflect on where you’ve been and how far you’ve come in your journey, especially when you go back and re-read it after some time has passed. A journal can be a complement to other forms of grief support like counseling and support groups.

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Topics: Grief

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