A Memorial to My Husband

Saturday, March 21, 2009

7 Steps In Writing a Grief Journal

There are 7 stages of grief that we all go through after the loss of a loved one. Writing or writing in a journal (sometimes called journaling) is one therapeutic way of helping yourself through this traumatic experience and grief.

I have found that once you let the thoughts flow and get them down on paper it is out of your head for the time being and some of the pressure and torment is released. Some people choose to write and keep the writings to read at a later date to see how far they have progressed in their healing process. Some people decide to burn their writings as a form of closure for themselves. Another form of writing is writing a "letter" to your loved one. If it makes you feel more comfortable to write as if you are talking to them, then by all means do that.

Free form writing; just writing as you think, with random thoughts and without any structure whatsoever can help with the anger part of grief. If you are a more structured writer, then using an outlined form will help if maybe some day you decided to publish a book or something to leave to "your" loved ones after you are gone.

1. ANGER: Write what you feel about the anger of losing the loved one, whether it is anger at the loved one, anger at yourself for something you felt you should have done differently or just anger in general because of your loss.

a. Who are you angry at?

b. Why are you angry at them?

c. If you are angry at yourself, why?

2. SHOCK AND DENIAL: Shock and denial is another stage of the grieving process we go through.

a. What happened?

b. Why did it happen?

c. When did it happen?

d. Could you have prevented it?

3. PAIN, REGRET AND GUILT: We all have pain, regret and guilt after a loved one dies. It is how we come to terms with these emotions that will help in the healing process.

a. The pain you feel, is it from loneliness, sadness, the loss of a future that is never to be?

b. Regret. After the death of a loved one, there is always regret. Do you regret something you said, something you did, something you did do or did not do?

c. Guilt. Do you feel guilty about something you should have told your loved one? Do you feel guilty about not trying to change something that happened that day? (maybe one more kiss would have kept him or her from being in that accident; maybe if you had taken him or her to another doctor or hospital).


a. Loneliness: How do you feel about being alone? Have you ever lived alone before? How will you manage alone?

b. Depression: Is what you are experiencing normal grief or temporary depression or maybe clinical depression? If you have thoughts of suicide or joining your loved one; seek medical attention immediately.

c. Emptiness: Describe what you are feeling, how you feel inside and why?

d. Despair: Do you feel there is no hope of ever coming through this? Do you feel that there will be a future for you but you just have to grieve in your own time?


a. Describe how you feel having to make all of the decisions alone now with your loved one gone and you are unable to talk to them about it?

b. Are you financially able to make it on your own or do you have to make major decisions concerning your living arrangements?

c. Do you have hobbies or interests you can resume or begin one that you have always wanted to try?

6. ACCEPTANCE AND HOPE: Whether you decide it is better to accept or acknowledge what has happened is up to you. You have to go through this journey the best way you know how to.

a. Do you accept what has happened?

b. Do you acknowledge what has happened?

c. Do you accept or acknowledge that you did all you could do that was within your control?

7. MOVING FORWARD VERSUS MOVING ON. I do not like the term moving on. In my way of thinking it seems as though I am leaving my husband and my memories behind. I choose to look at it as moving forward with my life but taking my husband and my many memories with me.

a. Write about what you feel as time progresses.

b. Write about what you plan to do or would like to do as you make a new life for yourself.

I am a firm believer in writing to clear your head of all of the jumbled thoughts you have running around in there causing more confusion, stress and ultimately health problems.

Again it is your preference of how and what you write on or in. You can purchase journals with or without lines, journals with or without quotes for prompts to help you get started in writing. You can also just use a regular spiral bound notebook or a composition book for your journal or even a scrap of paper tucked safely away somewhere. It doesn't matter what you use, just write and get all of those feelings out and down on paper.

I have created a text document called My Grief Journal that you can download and print to get started. You can print as many of these as you need for each day and put them in a 3-ring binder to start off your writing and then transfer to a more permanent journal. If I have written on other pieces of paper or scraps of paper, I fold them and insert them into my journal book, secured with a paper clip or if the piece of paper is small enough, just glue or tape it to the journal page.

I am now 7 months into my own "journey of grief" and I will admit I do much better at giving advice than taking it myself but I am working on it. If something I have written here helps someone else or even me, then I will have accomplished what I have set out to do.

Amazon.com has lots of different journals and books to pick from. Just enter "blank journal" in the search box.

I am here for support. You can email me at: Grief - Life During and After

If you have any problem with the text document My Grief Journal, let me know.