Journaling is one of the most effective ways for us to self-reflect – it helps us dig deep to the source of our core beliefs, thoughts, and emotions. This investigative process helps us figure out when, where, and how we’ve adopted such internal feelings. It aids us in the unfolding of self-inquiry to observe – as opposed to getting carried away by – our fleeting thoughts and abstract emotions that are troubling us in the present moment.
THE WRONG WAY TO USE JOURNALING
I’ve always been hesitant in the past to distinguish between a “right” and “wrong” way of doing thing while healing from loss. Because in grief, there isn’t a “right” and “wrong” way to process your loss. Everyone has their own way of processing the pain of losing a loved one.
But in terms of journaling, there is a not-so-ideal way to use it.
The most effective way to journal is NOT to ramble and complain about the mundane occurrences of our daily lives. When we use journaling as a secret ranting instrument (e.g. like that time our best friend borrowed your favorite dress and never gave it back, or when your co-worker took all the creds for your latest “Win”), not only are we wasting precious time and energy, but we are also wasting perfect opportunities for learning life lessons that we were meant to learn.
Using journaling in this manner also breads the self-victimization mentality that slowly eats away our choice to see reality as it is. Instead, we will unconsciously, over time, spiral down the tunnel of negativity, seeing everything in an antagonistic light. Meeting every one and everything in life with hostility, suspicion, and a closed heart.
HOW TO “JOURNAL” EFFECTIVELY FOR WIDOWS/WIDOWERS
In order to make the most use out of journaling, we need to treat this process as a personal mental and emotional investigative mapping tool. Not as a ranting diary. Learning to journal regularly and properly, especially, during grief will help accelerate our healing process. It’s one of the many tools that can gradually lead us out of the tunnel of darkness, if used properly.
Many widows and widowers, especially those who are not accustomed to expressing their emotions, might find it a bit of challenge to actually sit down and verbalize, or turn their grieving emotions into words.
Those of us who have recently lost a loved one, or who are struggling with symptoms of depression, anxiety, or deep sadness, just do not know how to squeeze those emotions onto paper. Such questions as, “How does one go about expressing their grief?” or “What are some constructive ways to deal with grief?” plague our thoughts and keep us stuck in bereavement.
That is why I’ve created this quick list of self-inquiry questions to hopefully be able to help some of us turn those elusive emotions into words and onto paper, to at least get it out of your system so you can finally start healing! (And trust me, I’ve struggled with this journaling in the beginning, but I’ve found what worked for me, and I’m now sharing that process with you. 🙂 )
I’d recommend this journaling practice whenever you feel triggered, or are reacting to a situation, an old memory, a thought, or an emotion. The best thing to do would be to journal at least 4 times a week to keep your internal system free of “debris.”
USING OUR EMOTIONS AS A GUIDING COMPASS
I say “debris,” but that’s a rather partial analogy. Calling your emotions “debris” gives it a negative connotation, when in fact, our emotions (good, or bad – this is an oversimplification) are merely our guiding compass in life.
Whenever “bad” feelings arise, we need to grab the bull by its horns in that very moment and investigate how and why we are feeling “bad.” And when “good” emotions arise, we still need to figure out how and why we are feeling good. And this is exactly what journaling is for! Only by going through a period of self-inquiry – properly processing, analyzing, and metabolizing our thoughts and emotions to the core, can we truly integrate the different fragmented aspects of ourselves.
Bottom line is, good feelings are pointing us towards the direction and choices that are aligned with our Soul (basically, the thing that gives us the most amount of joy). Bad feelings, on the other hand, are pointing us towards the buried wound so we can begin healing ourselves. So are they really “bad” after all?
LIST OF QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU GET STARTED
Below are some questions to get your engine running. If you ever feel stuck, feel free to refer back to this list of questions.
*Tips: I suggest finding a quiet place where you are undisturbed for 15-30 minutes. Put your cell phone in silent mode. Turn off all distractions. And just sit with yourself. Feel free to jot down any inkling of words that pops up.
- Since I’ve lost my wife/husband/fiance, how have I felt? (i.e. hollow, angry, guilty, sad, anxious, relieved, etc.) Be honest. You don’t have to play tough girl or guy anymore, just let it all flow onto this blank white sheet of paper.
- What are some of the memories of him/her that keep coming up?
- How are these memories making you feel every time it comes up?
- Why are you so attached to these particular memories?
- Why do you think these memories are triggering such grief in you? (e.g. You might be grieving a future without them, you’re grieving the moment of your first kiss, you’re grieving the fact that you’ll never be able to hear their voice again, or to hold them, etc.)
- Are you seeing all aspects of the memory? (If your deceased loved one was abusive for instance, it’s still very much possible for us to grieve their death and still be attached to them. And once they are gone, we are more likely to put them on a pedestal, all the while forgetting their past abusive words, actions, or flaws.)
- What would you say to your loved one if he/she were still here with you now? (If there are any regrets, last words, or dirty laundry, don’t be afraid to air them all out.)
- Are you being dishonest with yourself? If so, in what ways?
- What questions would you like to ask your loved one that you didn’t get a chance to ask?
- What am I still holding on to? And, why?
- In what ways is my attachment to them manifesting and affecting other areas of my life?
- How can I take steps towards emotional or mental freedom?
- How can I surrender more to this pain, and to this grieving/healing process?
- What, or who do I need to let go of in my life that is not longer serving me in a positive manner? (Don’t be afraid to let go of any friendships, or relationships that are holding you back, or a career that you no longer align with)
- If he or she were still alive, would they want to see me in this condition? Or would they want me to live my life fully, passionately, and joyfully, as a tribute to them?
Once you get those emotions onto paper, or into spoken words with a trusted friend or family member, you will feel much lighter and more at peace. All it takes is a bit of diligent practice. Remember to be patient and compassionate with yourself during this time. Let your pain become the ashes from which you will rise.
Is there a particular practice that was the most helpful to you on your bereavement journey? If so, feel free to share it below!