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Journal Your Journey Through Grief


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The following comes to us from Tony Falzano, and is reprinted here with his permission:


by Tony Falzano

The ceremony is over. The burial is complete. The concerns and dinners offered by others are less frequent now. The same old struggle greets each new day: How do you cope with loss while facing the reality your life must move forward and return to “normal”? It’s at this time that most people will stay close to family and friends who will provide comfort and support. Some individuals will take proactive measures to relax the mind and body in an effort to manage their grief.

But only a few will think about a simple, practical, inexpensive, every day function that may be of service to them during this life changing event. It only requires a pen, a notebook and the openness to write what you’re feeling. It’s called Journal your Journey through Grief and it can help you to heal and feel better.

“Writing seemed to be the only way I was able to give voice to my grief,” says Mark, who suddenly and tragically lost his sister in 1992. “Journaling allowed me to express the rage I had for being deprived of growing old with the one person I loved more than anything in life.” He continues, “Now as I read over those entries from many years ago, I can see how important it was for me to face the darkness head on. By facing the unthinkable, I was able to return to the light.”

Personally, my journaling began seven years ago when my father’s health was failing. He was 82 years old, a paraplegic and couldn’t live alone any longer. My mother had passed a few years before and being an only child, I was faced with the responsibility of making sure his last years were as comfortable and safe as possible. This meant moving him into a nursing home. I lived 250 miles away, which made caring for him a challenge. While he was in the nursing home, I recorded my reactions to conversations I had with my father’s nurses, as well as social workers and his accountant. On the paper in front me, I took out my frustrations and fears as I tried to process my new role of ‘care taker and decision maker.’ After he took his last breath in October, 2005, journaling helped me to accept the finality of his passing. Writing through these experiences allowed me to channel my emotions to the paper, which assisted me to empty tension and feel physically “lighter.” And like Mark, writing what I was experiencing helped me to overcome grief.

But besides feeling better, why is journal writing such a good idea for those submerged in the emotional wounds of grief? I think there are at least four major benefits.

• Journaling will keep us active, give us purpose and allow us to perform a task that is constructive. Writing will offer “meaningful conversations” with ourselves. These conversations may help us to be more in control of our lives as we are engaged in a worthwhile activity that stimulates our minds.

• We can relieve stress when we write. This is a huge advantage. Journaling will act as a vessel to release the bottled up emotions that bubble under the surface. Releasing our pain and sadness on paper may make us cry or scream. These are normal reactions and should be welcomed as they are stress reducers.

• Writing is cathartic. It helps heal because it allows for honest self-expression. We can release our emotions at the moment we encounter them. Journaling is personal and will bring out issues that we may not want or be able to share with others. There is value in recording what we experience. One day we will return to our journal, read these heartfelt words of expression and truly appreciate how far we’ve traveled.

• Finally, we can learn so much about ourselves when we write. Just the process of journaling forces our eyes, hand and mind to work in unison to deliver something “tangible.” The result is visual and we can read what we are feeling as many times as we want. Each time may shed more light on our original idea. This may detail a clearer understanding of why we grieve and what’s behind it.


Since the idea of journaling may be new to some, I have anticipated a few questions you may have and provided pointers to help you see if this activity could assist you.

What is the proper way to journal, as I’ve never done it?

Other than dating each entry, there are no rules for you. You do not need to be concerned if sentences are written in the “Queen’s English.” This is a time to be spontaneous and write whatever comes to mind. You’re interested in streaming consciousness, not necessarily formulating a great piece of literature. Remember, it’s not how the words read on the page but how you feel after writing them.

How often do I have to write?

There are no rules in this either. You could write daily or weekly. You can write for 3 days in a row and take 3 days off. You can write for an hour one time and a minute the next. Writing consistently every day will make one a better writer. However, when you journal your grief, you are writing for medicinal reasons.

What do I have to write about?

Anything you want. Here are a few common ideas to consider: What is bothering your mind at the moment? What are your memories of your loved one, such as what did you love most and least about the person? Another topic to explore: Do you feel lonely, resentful or confused? If so, why do you feel that way? Do you wish to be better understood or forgiven for something and what is it and why? In addition, what do you think causes you to mourn, or not mourn? Furthermore, journaling doesn’t have to be focused on just grief. You could also write about things unrelated to your loss. Scribble down a joke you heard that made you laugh. Or write about that new person you met who left an impression on you? Another good exercise is to journal what you are grateful for in your life. This could be your family and friends, a job you enjoy, your own good health, a pet or your faith. There’s something very spiritual in offering thanks while grief has you in its grasp.

I’m afraid journaling may be too painful for me.

For most, grief will not deter us from finding the pen to make our entries. But for some, yes, it can be painful, as it was in Mark’s case. However, he made it work by directing his inner most suffering and pain into writing a long letter to his friends. He shares the following recollection; “It took me a whole day to write this letter...maybe two days. I poured my heart out. I explained to my friends how much my sister’s tragic death devastated me and my family and how utterly surreal it was to be going through such a horrible experience. I then wrote about how important their friendship and support had been in getting me through each day and how important their friendship would be in helping me go forward. It was excruciating to write that letter...just raw pain & grief...and endless crying. But oddly enough, after I wrote it and mailed each of my friends a copy, I had the most amazing sense of peace. It was the first real sign that I was going to get through this. That is why I continued to journal.” His last lines are so important to focus on. Even though we are going through a difficult, even overwhelming experience, writing can show hope. And the evidence will always be right there on the paper in front of us.

Do I have to write in silence?

No. In fact, audio stimulation will enhance the ambiance and the environment will invite you to write. Many times our mood will mirror the music we hear and we write to its intensity. Music can also be an inspiration that gives us an emotional lift. Flowing, expressive, instrumental music that is melodic such as classical or relaxation music is most conducive for journaling. You may find that even your concentration is elevated when the “write” music is playing.

What if I don’t want to write, can I do something else?

Of course! Journaling is writing. But that’s not the only way to ventilate your expressions. You could paint, draw or write poetry. Some people write their words to existing songs to overcome grief. Besides journaling the last years of my father’s life, I composed music. The result was my CD, In Abba’s Arms. It contains 12 melodic, instrumental compositions that ironically have found a home with those who grieve. Little did I know that journaling my own loss in song, would one day aid others in their search for healing and hope.

How long will I have to journal?

Your journaling will probably coincide with your grief. Consequently, there is no set time. When you determine that you don’t need to do it anymore or start feeling like your self again, you may put down the pen and close the book…

…or maybe you won’t! Maybe you’ll see the value in writing and this will encourage you to continue. Maybe you’ll discover that journaling your emotions and memories, anxiety and anger, reflections and feelings is an effective activity that makes you feel better and assist you to find solace and self-discovery while traveling the healing road towards recovery. Write on!

[Tony Falzano is an award winning songwriter whose CD, In Abba's Arms contains 12 original instrumentals designed to be an "inspirational companion" that brings comfort to the bereaved in need of healing and hope. Also used by many to enhance quiet contemplation, the CD is available at https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/falzano. Tony's other article, Music: Helping to Heal Those Who Grieve, also appears in this forum.]

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