Home » Resources for the Newly Bereaved » Finding Words for Unspeaking Pain: A Look into Grief Journaling

Finding Words for Unspeaking Pain: A Look into Grief Journaling

Sometimes, the loss you’re going through feels completely overwhelming. There’s so much emotion and you might feel like feel like you’re drowning, or being pulled away by a strong current, unsure that anything in the world might be capable of grounding you. How does anyone swim through this dark, rough sea of grief?

If you’re lucky, you have supportive people around you wishing they knew what they could do to help, but you don’t necessarily know what to ask for from them. Nothing they can do will take away your hurt, or bring the person you loved back.

Writing can be such a powerful outlet that’s often forgotten in this modern age. Whether you write electronically onto a computer, phone, or tablet, or you write by hand with a pen or pencil and paper, you can use the act of writing as a tool to help you untangle the emotions, thoughts, and memories and give each one a safe place to land.

Writing by hand may be even better for mental and emotional processing, because it takes longer for all of the words to get onto the page, and the moment of slowing down that it requires can help us. It can calm us, it can give us enough time to look more closely at an idea and observe the idea from other angles. We spend more time with a thought, and that helps us see it more clearly for what it is. We’re somewhat more deliberate with our words when we know there’s no easy “backspace” button.

As someone who doesn’t believe in an afterlife, I don’t believe someone can hear me talking to them after they are gone. But sometimes what we wish we could say to them still needs to be said! And sometimes that’s a lot easier to do in written form. (I know I personally would feel a bit silly actually talking out loud to a person who is gone.)

When I experienced a very traumatic death of a friend of mine five years ago, I found myself writing poetry addressed to him as part of my grieving process. I was able to say “You” over and over. Because it’s poetry, it didn’t feel silly at all, and it made perfect sense in that medium. I’ve also heard of writing a letter to the person, which you can then burn if that would be cathartic for you.

Some people are forced to go back to work far too soon after the death of someone very close to them. (I hate that Bereavement Leave usually only lasts a few days to a week, because it’s meant for practical considerations rather than actually giving people any time to do the emotional work of grieving.) Other people are immediately thrust back into being responsible for tasks related to parenthood or other aspects of life. When you can so rarely find a moment alone where you are free to truly feel all your emotions, your attempts to compartmentalize will likely only go so far. It’s so much more difficult when you don’t know exactly when and where your grief will be allowed its very much needed outlet.

There are many types of outlets that work to help people – going to see a grief counselor, attending a grief support group, joining an online grief forum or Facebook group, or even going to your loved one’s grave as a regular recurring appointment when you talk to them. But for some people, the best option that they appreciate the most is journaling on their grief.

It doesn’t have to be on a set schedule, although journaling can be something you set aside a small amount of time for every day when your grief is at its most intense, or something you carve some time out for every week.

You could use any notebook you want. Write on an app on your phone or wherever feels easiest for you. But sometimes prompts are helpful, and can help guide you and ground you even further.

I’ve included six suggestions below of grief journals that contain their own prompts which you can purchase on Amazon. They range in price from $8.95 to $14.99 as of the time of writing. If you purchase through my affiliate links to the product, I earn a small commission on your purchase, for which I would be very grateful. (I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to use cookie tracking to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.)

I have not used any of these journals myself, but I looked closely through the reviews and these seem to be some of the best grief journal options around, and I noticed no explicitly religious content in the provided preview images or descriptions. I hope my recommendations below might prove helpful to you.

For instance there are grief journals with prompts specific to having lost your spouse or life partner, or for getting through the grief of a miscarriage:

There are also grief journals more typical for grieving the death of your mother or father. Note for the one for fathers I linked to here, there are some negative reviews that highlight a couple of errors in the book. Still, this is the best one I could find.

There are even lovely guided prompts for kids, including a picture focused prompt grief book for kids ages 7 through 12.

Here are two guided journals you could purchase for a grieving child in your family.