Keeping a personal journal can help you process and sort out your thoughts, feelings, memories, images, sensations, etc. As you continue to write, you may begin to gain clarity of where you have been, where you are now, and where you want to be in the future. This writing activity helps you track your own journey through grief. Your journal is private. You are the only one who needs to read it, unless you want to share it with others.

Directions to Start Grief Journaling

Get a nice notebook. Give yourself as many pages as you think you’ll need for the following sections (these are suggestions and you might come up with some of your own).

  1. The meaning of loss
  2. A significant childhood loss
  3. A significant loss in adolescence
  4. A significant loss in adulthood
  5. Hurting
  6. Helping
  7. Healing
  8. Needs
  9. Puzzles
  10. Now
  11. Beyond now
  12. The remainder of the journal will be for periodic entries.

Suggestions for Grief Journaling In Depth

Under the 11 headings do the following:

  1. The meaning of loss: write down your thoughts about loss as a universal and personal experience (i.e., all of us go through loss at some point in life, but we each do so in unique ways). Also, if the experience of loss means something to you, what is that?
  2. Significant loss in childhood: write down how you felt when you had a loss as a child and how you feel now about that loss. What made it hard? What made it bearable? What made it easy? What are the most striking parts of your loss? In what ways do you feel the loss affected or changed you? Looking back, can you see any value in going through your loss? If so, what is it? If not, then say so too.
  3. Significant loss in adolescence: same as above except for age.
  4. Significant loss in adulthood: same as above except for age.
  5. Hurting: write down your present wounds and compare them to earlier times.
  6. Helping: write down what has helped you cope with or heal your wounds.
  7. Healing: write down your resources and thing that helped you heal after past losses. How are you healing your current grief?
  8. Needs: What are your current needs? What would help you be self-respecting and caring of yourself now?
  9. Puzzles: What curiosities and unanswered questions do you have about your loss(es)?
  10. Now: How do you currently relate to your loss(es)? What do you notice about your present moment experience of being here and living with a history of loss(es)?
  11. Beyond now: write down your fantasies and dreams about the future. What plans do you have for recovering newness and meaning in your life again?

Periodic Entries to Your Journal

Set up a private time and place for you to record your entries during the next few months. Your journal-writing schedule can be daily or weekly with a minimum writing time of 20 minutes.
Many people who begin a journal in a time of grief find that they develop an inner capacity to listen more closely and compassionately to themselves and others, thereby enhancing their healing process.

by David Fireman, LCSW