Writing as Healing

A Simple Grief Journal.

The Story.

While my dad was dying, I journaled all the time. I had a special notebook where I’d write down any thoughts, feelings, prayers, or anything that came to mind in the moments when I sat down to write.

It was a sacred practice. Morning, noon, night–whenever the need struck, the journal was there, and it helped to see me through one of the most challenging times in my life.

But when he died, all of that changed. Suddenly, I felt too overwhelmed to write…

I didn’t know where to start.

There were so many thoughts and feelings, not to mention the haze of shock and shame of my emotions that swirled through my being. I felt that I was supposed to somehow find a way to get on with my life–like the world expected me to just move on as if nothing had happened. But how could I? My life had been changed forever.

I tried going to grief support groups, and to a couple different therapists. But none of it seemed to help. In fact, it had the opposite effect. The callous or even simply aloof statements and reactions of others seemed to do nothing but throw salt in my wide open, gaping, and freshly torn wounds.

So in a way, it felt as if I was left to find my way through this on my own…

And I did.

And this what I’m here to share with you.

A simple grief journal that can be a place to help you get started.

Because I don’t want you to have to figure it all out on your own. I want you to have an experienced like I always dreamed about…

I want you to feel loved and supported, and held in knowing that your experience is okay.

I want you to know that I understand that while the world moves on, your life has been irrevocably changed.

Years later I developed a writing program with that exact intention in mind, and I’ll share how you can learn all about it at the end of your journal.

But right now, I’d like to start with the basics, and give you a simple place to start.

Let’s cut down on the overwhelm and keep it simple.

For me…

It all started with a journal.

A blank, empty journal I found at a local bookstore.

As a bonus, the leather bound cover had a smell that took me back to memories of being a little girl, watching my dad shine his shoes.

I didn’t have an exact plan for the journal but I knew I wanted to use it for something to honor my dad.

After awhile I started to notice some patterns in my thoughts.

There were three main categories.

So I took my journal and divided it up in to thirds.

{These are the thirds you’ll find in this journal I’ve put together for you.}

1.

The first section was for treasure:

Memories, special moments, things my dad had said, things we’d done together…

All of the treasured things that I never wanted to forget.

Because that’s the thing about grief…more than anything we can be stricken with a fear that we’re forgetting those we love. That we’ll forget a certain way they looked at us, or the way their face would break into a soft smile.

The feel of stroking their hair, or the twinkle in their eyes.

That’s what this section is all about.

So in those moment where you remember something about your loved one, you can take out your journal and write it down right away.

That way, you know you won’t forget.

The act of writing it down will help it to expand and seal it further into your memory, and then you can refer back to it anytime you need a boost or want to reconnect with the memory.

Whatever small details you are able to record will help trigger other aspects of the memory so that it is easier to return to anytime you wish.

Record all your treasure and let it never be forgotten.

Let the stories and memories make handprints on your heart.

Like twinkling lights at twilight…

Allow their glow to light the way for you now, and to help you feel and know how much you’re loved.

2.

The second section was for things I had learned from him.

There were so many things I learned from my dad, and I wanted a place to write them down.

Again, so I wouldn’t forget.

And also as a way to honor him and all of the ways he had changed and shaped and blessed my life.

All of the ways my life was different because I knew him.

All those things that he’d taught me…like memories of sitting on the edge of the bed, learning how to write an outline for a presentation.

How are you different because your loved one lived? Because you knew them?

These are the things to record in this section. Both, to help you remember, as well as to honor and recognize and celebrate their life, and their presence here upon the earth.

This might be things your loved one taught you…concrete skills like riding a bike or writing an outline for your speech at school.

Or it might be deeper things that you learned about yourself, or ways that you are changed because of how they saw you.

Maybe they helped you learn how to believe in yourself. Or maybe you now laugh at certain jokes or find certain things funny, just because they loved them too.

Whatever it is, write them down. And allow your heart to soak up all the richness of how your life is different, how much value, in concrete and beautifully written examples, your loved one brought to your life.

The richness of your life that is made up by the tapestry of the treads of your lives intertwining….

And how you are different, because they lived.

An honoring of your loved one’s presence and all that they are, and the example of their life but also how your life is uniquely touched because your lives were entwined.

Celebrate and appreciate these things and know that the truth and love of them lives on forever.

3.

And finally, the third section was for the things that I wished I could tell him…

All the things I wanted to say or wished we could do together. Things I hadn’t gotten a chance to say or most often, things I came to realize later that I wished I could tell him.

So in any moment you have a thought of, “I wish we could…” or “I wish I could tell him/her…” write it down. No matter how small. It all is significant.

This gives you a chance to express the things you feel in your heart, the love that you still want to share.

It creates a lifeline and helps you to feel the love you wish you could share.

And in doing so–by writing it down–it can feel as if you’ve actually gotten a chance, in some small way, to say what you needed to say.

So there you have it.

A simple DIY grief journal.

And this simple journal that I created myself…

It absolutely changed my life.

And in those first hard months of grief, I believe it saved my life…

It gave me a place to turn and a way to begin sorting through the thoughts. It cut down on the overwhelm, and gave me solace, the peace of mind, that some of those most precious and treasured things were written down.

It even brought a sense of sunshine and smiles–laughter even, for the memories we’d shared.

And I hope that is what it does for you too.

You can download a FREE copy of your very own, right here: The Heart-Mending Wordsmith Mini Journal

When you get to the end, will you let me know what helped you the most?

I’d also like to invite you to join my new Facebook Group — By the Light of the Moon: Grief Support Group.

Inside I’ll be sharing tips for self-care, more journaling and coaching support, live videos, resources for determining your own grief style so you can learn how to support yourself best, and more!

If you’d like to be notified when the group is open, please send me an email here. And put the word Facebook in the subject line.

I so look forward to having you join us!

Much love and many blessings, always,

Caitlin

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