I can shake off everything if I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn. ~ Anne Frank
Writing to Heal
Sometimes the most devastating times can be an opportunity for growth and inspiration. Taking time to capture that inspiration in writing can be very valuable, especially before the whirlwind of life returns. Journaling helps battle depression, stress, and anxiety – all of which seem to peak out during the loss of a loved one. In his book, Writing to Heal: A guided journal for recovering from trauma & emotional upheaval1, James W. Pennebaker PH.D. explains that journaling is a stress management tool that can help people process through traumatic events. This, in turn, helps an individual heal while giving the immune system a needed boost.
Journaling isn’t just “writing stuff on paper”, it’s expanding your relationship with yourself. Try writing in a systematic fashion and using best practices. This will maximize the benefits received from journaling.
- Begin by creating a reflective space that is free from distractions, and try writing at least 3-4 times per day.
- Write quickly without worrying about spelling or grammar.
- Finally, keep a journal private as it will make you less likely to censor yourself.
The Benefits of Journaling
- Reduces symptoms of depression before or after a stressful event (such as a funeral service)
- Enhances a sense of well-being and mental health
- Boosts positive emotions and mood
- Provides insight into thoughts and emotions
There are no wrong answers on what to write about; however, here are some ideas that you might find helpful.
Ideas to Get You Started
- What was the most meaningful aspect of the services you attended?
- How has your lost loved one inspired you?
- What is your happiest memory of your loved one?
- What is the greatest lesson that your loved one has taught you?
- What would you say to your loved one if they were still here?
- What brings you the most joy in life?
- What is something that makes you feel peaceful?
- What are your current life priorities?
- Is there anyone that you want to reach out to?
- Is there anything you have resolved to do better or differently?
Navigating through grief is difficult. Journaling is a tool that may make this journey a little easier, returning us to a balanced and more peaceful state of mind.
1Pennebaker, James W. Writing to Heal a Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma & Emotional Upheaval. New Harbinger, 2004.