Grief journaling is immensely helpful to process the emotions and isolation of grief.
After my daughter and father died, two facets of my grief experience weighed heavily on me. For one, I felt lost in a flood of emotions and thoughts. On top of that, I felt alone. I had a persistent desire to share my grief with others but found myself met with responses that stung, even if they were well-meaning.
These feelings of being overwhelmed and isolated are common in grief. If we don’t tend to our heart, mind and spirit in our grief, it’s possible to find ourselves veering off into unhealthy, even sinful, territory. Guilt, shame, bitterness, resentment, helplessness, hopelessness and even fear can emerge and create turmoil within us.
Noticing this potential within myself, I returned to a habit I began as a child, one that I picked up and put down numerous times over the years: I turned to the pages of my journal. Journal writing is a practical way to tend our heart, mind and spirit in grief.
If you’re looking for a healthy way to process your grief and to honor your grief, your loved one and God, grief journaling can be beneficial for you.
7 Benefits of Grief Journaling
1. Grief Journaling Provides a Safe Space
“…I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul.” (Job 10:1, NIV)
Many of us encounter painful platitudes in our grief and find our grief dismissed or shamed. But as we write, the page, like God, receives our anguish and allows it to rest safely, without judgment. We don’t need to filter ourselves before we come to the page or God. As we pour out our grief-stricken hearts, with the raw, messy emotions and thoughts, on the page, and with God, we can move through them, taking our thoughts captive to live in freedom and grieve with spirits that are well even in the midst of all that is unwell.
Lament, the language God gives us to grieve, can be practiced through journaling. Use the psalms of lament like Psalms 13, 22, 44 and 86 as inspiration for writing your own lament in your grief journal. Notice how the process of lament leads your wounded heart to turn toward worshipping God.
2. Grief Journaling Helps Us Remember Our Loved One
“My soul has been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is.” (Lamentations 3:17, HCSB)
Sometimes we might be afraid of forgetting our loved ones who have died as well as the happy memories we shared with them. Keeping a grief journal is a helpful and meaningful way to record important memories and helps us remember our loved ones. Use your journal to recall special memories, their personality, what you loved about them and what you miss most.
3. Grief Journaling Helps Us Remember God’s Faithfulness
“I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.” (Psalm 77:12, ESV)
Grief journaling can also be used to reflect on God’s past and present faithfulness, which can give us hope and courage in our grief (see Lamentations 3:21). Our God is a God of remembrance. From the Ebenezer stones used by the Israelites in the Old Testament to Jesus’s instructions to the disciples at the Last Supper, remembrance is an important part of our faith and lives, especially in grief.
4. Grief Journaling Helps Us De-Stress
“Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also.” (Psalm 31:9, ESV)
Grief, in all of its complexity, can be stressful on our heart, mind, spirit and body. Writing down what we’re experiencing, what we feel and think (honestly) in our grief can relieve much of that stress. Numerous research studies published within the last decade show journal writing to be an effective tool in reducing stress, decreasing anxiety and improving our immune systems amongst other things.
However, there is a caveat to this. Simply venting and emotionally dumping on the page can serve a purpose, but we must be careful we don’t get caught in unhealthy rumination. To experience the benefits of grief journaling, we need to approach our emotions and thoughts in an honest, compassionate and curious way.
5. Grief Journaling Helps us Rest and Renew
“When I lie down I think, ‘How long before I get up?’ The night drags on, and I toss and turn until dawn.” (Job 7:4, NIV)
Difficulty sleeping and insomnia are common in grief. Research studies reveal that journal writing can actually improve our sleep. As we find rest from writing down experiences and memories, so too can our bodies. Writing actually allows us to rest our minds and give our brains an opportunity to carve new neural pathways.
What does this mean in grief? Grief journaling is a way we can both practice and receive the transformation and renewal of our exhausted, grieving minds mentioned by Paul in Romans 12:2.
6. Grief Journaling Helps Us Draw Near to God
“But you, LORD, do not be far from me.” (Psalm 22:19a, NIV)
In the depths of mourning, God might feel far away. He might seem absent or silent. We might even feel like He’s abandoned us. But as we journal through grief with God in mind, we draw near to Him. As we draw near to God, James 4:8 tells us God draws near to us. Psalm 34:18, one of the most comforting verses in Scripture, tells us God is near to the broken-hearted. Journaling is a practical act of bringing our broken hearts near to Him.
You might find it helpful to imagine God’s nearness as you write; His presence listening to you, hearing your words or even sitting beside you. In this way, journal writing can help you abide and take refuge in God as well as take heart and hold on to hope in God.
7. Grief Journaling Helps Boost Our Mood
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you , because he trusts you.” (Isaiah 26:3, ESV)
Research studies show that writing through grief can help boost our mood and overall sense of well-being. Writing is a way to process grief for both internal and external processors. Journaling brings buried emotions to the surface to be acknowledged and managed. And writing through grief allows us to cast our burdens and anxiety on God, lightening our heart and ushering in a peace of mind in return.
“Writing is not a cure-all. But it does invite us to reconnect with our memory, to make meaning of our unique experience and sometimes to speak the truth we didn’t feel we could speak anywhere else.” Allison Fallon, The Power of Writing It Down: A Simple Habit to Unlock Your Brain and Reimagine Your Life
These 50 grief journal prompts will help you get started in grief journling.
As you journal through your grief, I hope you find comfort and hope knowing God sees, hears and cares for you.
Kristin Vanderlip is a contemplative soul, military spouse and mom to two boys and her little girl in heaven. She writes to help women draw near to God and persevere in hope especially when life is difficult. Kristin encourages women to journal as a tool for spiritual formation. Get your free Life Worth Living Journal here. KristinVanderlip.com | IG @kristinvanderlip.