journaling through pain and loss

Mmmm…journals. Nothing can get me salivating like a wall of different colored journals in a stationary store. I’ve been journaling for over 20 (what!?) years, using journals for quite a few different purposes.

When Matthew died, I didn’t write anything in my journal for about a month. What could I write? Nothing was the same. At all. Journaling wasn’t even on my radar.

When I did start again (I don’t know how long I waited exactly, as my first entries after his death don’t even have a date…and if you knew how super duper anal I am about recordkeeping, it’s a good indicator of my mental state at the time), I wrote crazy stuff. Scribbles, words that don’t make sense, lines going in all different directions, lots of exclamation marks.*

One of the products I’m most excited about in my store (coming soon!) are notebooks/journals for those who have suffered a loss. Why? Because I think that those who don’t have a habit of journaling could find it especially therapeutic to bring a pen to paper. Or to rip out the pages one by one (when it comes to grief journaling, anything goes).

Keep in mind that the ideas featured here depend on the person who is journaling, as well as on the state of mind they’re in – the ideas that seem appealing to one may seem appalling to another. Different ideas may also be appealing at different times, depending on your journey.

Here are a few ideas for those who would like to journal through pain and loss:

  • Poetry. Being close to the death experience can give us insight and inspiration. Sometimes writing a poem can bring you closer to the beautiful, silent space that has been created. Give it a try. You may find it very powerful.
  • Letterwriting. Write a letter to your loved one. Apologize, be angry, ask for help, whatever you need to say. This is your chance to communicate and release what’s been on your mind, even if it’s messy. Don’t worry about upsetting your loved one. I guarantee you that they will be at peace with your words.
  • Appreciation. If you’re already at a point where you can simply be grateful for your loved one without it bringing on additional pain, hold on to that by making a list of all of the things you appreciate about that person. This could also include wonderful experiences that you had together or gifts that you’re grateful for.
  • Brain dump. Write down everything that comes to mind, even if it’s jibberish. Reasons you’re angry, reasons you’re sad, crazy insights that don’t make sense.
  • Say the words you need to hear. This can be incredibly cathartic. Write a letter to yourself from the person you are missing. In it, say the words that you are longing to hear. Maybe they will apologize for the ways they’ve hurt you. Perhaps they will tell you that they didn’t suffer, or that it’s going to be okay.
  • Write to your inner child. Similar to the above, write a letter of comfort to the child version of yourself that is feeling scared and abandoned right now. Here are a few hints as to what your inner child may need to hear: I know it’s not fair. I will never leave you. I’m so sorry this happened to you. I will take care of you. I understand. I will always love you, my dear one.
  • Let yourself be as crazy as you need to be. Scribble with crayons or pastels until they break. Tear out the pages and burn them. Write all the swear words you can think of and then repeat…for 10 pages. Do what you need to do to get the angry energy out of your body.

I can’t wait to begin showing you some different journals in my online shop…until then, I hope these prompts resonate with you and bring some comfort.

May all of the words you have to say, and all of the things you need to hear, be brought forth and accepted lovingly. May you be at peace.

*Interestingly, the journal I was scribbling in was given to me by Matt. I found that to be particularly painful and ironic, and although I would love to quote something from the journal or show a photo, there are simply too many swear words involved.


  • Catherine M. Graham

    These are wonderful ideas, Libby. I kept a grief journal after my dad died and I am still writing in it almost 9 years later after his death. It has been so cathartic for me. But I am realizing I never did any writing around my brother’s death. I’m not sure why…. I wrote a journal entry here and there in my every day journal but nothing long term. My brother wrote poetry, actually song lyrics…. so deep and profound, always so dark and sad. Perhaps, I can now write a poem celebrating him, his life…. thank you for the great journaling ideas. I think the idea to write some poetry or even a letter will provide some deep healing for me. XO

  • Lize Koller

    Oh Libby, congratulations on this beautiful new website! I can’t wait to dive in and share with my friends! I truly believe in the power of journaling and the act of putting pen to paper and letting it flow. So proud of you for doing this and being authentic!

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