Getting It Write

Susan Smith editor and writer provides insight into the power of words as she encourages those who are grieving to journal. When you put things into words, you make what your are feeling and thinking real. When it is in black and white you are allowing yoruself to acknowledge the pain and that is one of the first steps toward healing.

by Susan Smith

One of the healthiest things your friend can do as he or she grieves is to record in a journal what he is feeling, what she wants to do, his frustrations, her deep sadness and surprising moments of joy.

But your grieving friend is no doubt overwhelmed with even the simplest of life’s tasks, and may crumble at the thought of keeping a journal. Here’s where you can help. You want to make this activity of healing as approachable and as do-able as possible.

It will help if you understand why journaling is so healthy for your friend: because the intensity of his feelings will be eased as he lets them flow. As he writes them down. Grief is a tumultuous and powerful season that plunges your friend into the depths of sadness. Writing these feelings in a journal won’t make your friend less sad or less of anything else he is feeling. But it will help make those feelings less intense and, therefore, easier to live with in this season.

It also helps to understand what your friend, knowingly or unknowingly, is accomplishing in her grief. The tasks of grief, as written about by Bill Worden in 1982, are:

  • To face the reality of the loss;
  • To experience the pain, emotions and feelings of grief;
  • To create the new normal for yourself; and,
  • To integrate the memories of your loved one with the new normal and not let the past control your present or future.

If that sounds daunting to you, think of how it sounds to your grieving friend. Yet, you can help your friend with these tasks by helping him to journal. Here’s what you can do:

  • Get your friend a notebook or journal, one that you think she will enjoy. You know your friend. Trust yourself to know if he wants a loose paper, a simple spiral bound notebook, or a fancy journal. If you’re not sure, ask. 
  • Consider buying your friend a special pen or pencil as a way to acknowledge the importance of journaling. 
  • Encourage your friend to write down whatever she wants. There is no right or wrong way to journal. The whole goal is for your friend to express what she is experiencing and feeling. She may want to:
  • Write down her feelings like she is writing in a diary. 
  • Write down her memories of her loved one.
  • Write poetry.

The following questions will help your friend begin the process of writing, and will probably spur him on to other topics. Consider sharing these with your friend.

  • What are special or funny things that your loved one always said…favorite sayings or special stories that he told?
  • What hobbies did she have or what special things did she like to do? 
  • What special things did you do together that will always be an extraordinary memory? 
  • What are the things you miss most about him?
  • Are there things you wish you had said to her? Write them down and say them out loud. It is never too late. 
  • What did you learn from your loved one and how will you pass that on? 
  • What are the things that make you laugh or smile when you think about your loved one? 
  • What will you remember the most about your love one: physical characteristics, personality, habits—good and bad.
  • What made your loved one who she was? 
  • What made your relationship with your loved on so special? 
  • How will you share with others the special gifts your loved one gave you?


Document Actions