Journaling Your Way Through Grief

August 17, 2022

“You just told me this.” I said with obvious frustration.

“I know!” my mother nervously shouted back.

My mother passed away just over a year ago. Yet, I still hold gobs of guilt and self-hate for how I sometimes reacted to her words and her moods. I just didn’t understand that this beautiful, intelligent, creative woman was not doing well. I simply didn’t get it. But she did and she was scared. She was afraid of what was happening to her thoughts and lashed out to anybody and everybody. I think we all would do the same if we became afraid in our own head. Fear is a powerful emotion and the thought of one’s own ideas going astray uncontrollably would terrify any of us.

As I pen these words, I realize how a journal would have been beneficial to my mother had I been reflecting on my emotions and feelings by writing them down as they were happening. Perhaps I would have been a better caregiver had I taken the time to express myself in the written word.

My brother, sister, and I mainly took care of our mother on her last 19 days on earth. We visited, we read books/stories to her, we sang… but we never individually kept a tangible log of what was happening. We should have. The act of keeping a diary of true thoughts and feelings during my mother’s hospice journey could have provided me a way to relieve stress in the moment and would have served as a precious record to reflect upon later.

The benefits of journaling are well documented with many sources such as WebMD where it is stated that “journaling about your feelings is linked to decreased mental distress”. Journaling can create an awareness about a difficult situation and help you to understand what is happening. I have personally found that keeping a diary helps me to open up about any and all true feelings, which is beneficial to the inevitable healing process. It can also help lead you to seek out emotional support from others in similar situations.


As I pen these words, I realize how a journal would have been beneficial to my mother.

Photo by Jess Bailey Designs from Pexels

At first it might seem strange to start logging events every day. Try to start by writing for just fifteen minutes two or three times per week. The words will come and the feelings will be true and sometimes “raw”. But a sense of release goes with it. A journal isn’t going to solve all problems, but it is a solid road for self-expression which can lead to recovery.

Remember, journaling is more about self-expression than about writing perfectly. There are no steadfast rules when it comes to grief journaling, but here are some helpful tips to guide you:

  1. Don’t stop to read the line you just wrote. Keep going. Don’t stall; rather, stay in control.
  2. Don’t edit as you write. Remember, this should be a free-style flow of writing, so don’t worry about crossing out and re-writing.
  3. Forget about spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Heck, you shouldn’t even be concerned with staying within the margins and lines of the page!
  4. Let yourself lose control. See where it takes you.
  5. Don’t think and don’t get logical.
  6. Don’t shy away from intense emotions. Go for it — write it down, then explore that energy-packed statement. That’s where the real emotion is.
  7. Feel free to get off-topic. Some days you won’t feel like getting so intense. Some days you may just want to do some light reflecting. It’s all good. Just keep writing.

In my personal situation, I wish I had kept a diary through my mother’s hospice journey for all the reasons I have mentioned and just to better be able to remember all that happened in those days. Watching my mother die was truly awful, but some memories were nothing short of beautiful. All the memories with my mother were precious in one way or another. Even now, a year later, writing in a journal is very therapeutic… so grab a notebook, a napkin, a grocery bag… anything to write on and start on the road to healing.

To further support you during your journey through grief, contact Unity Grief and Education Center at 800-990-9249 or visit our website here. Thanks to generous community donations, Unity’s grief counseling services are offered to the public at no charge.

This blog post was shared by Jeannie C., whose mother was under the care of Unity Hospice for the last days of her life.

If you found this information helpful, please share it with your network and community.