People experience grief in different ways. Some like to talk with support groups or therapists, and others rely on their families and close friends to help them through their pain.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Grief Journal Prompts for Adults
- Grief Journal Prompts for Kids
- Grief Journal Prompts for the Loss of a Spouse or Partner
- Grief Journal Prompts for the Loss of a Mother or Father
- Grief Journal Prompts for the Loss of a Child
If you are the type of person who prefers to process your emotions privately, you may consider starting a grief journal. A grief journal can be whatever you wish.
It could be a place for you to record your emotions or a place to write down your memories of your loved one. It may be something you intend to share with others or something that you plan to keep to yourself.
To get you started, here are some grief journal prompts. Consider using these if you are not used to putting your thoughts into words.
Post-planning tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, handling their unfinished business can be a large source of your stress without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.
Grief Journal Prompts for Adults
Too many people try to return to everyday life soon after losing a loved one. They may do so out of necessity because they need to return to work, or they may do so to appear stoic to others.
Even if you find yourself going through the same motions you did when your loved one was alive, consider these self-care tips to make sure you take care of your mental and physical well-being.
One recommendation listed in this article on self-care is to start a grief journal to help you process your feelings. Here are some topics to write about or questions to answer in your journal.
1. Today I feel…
One of the most common uses of a grief journal is to keep track of your emotional well-being. Read What’s the Purpose of Grief Counseling to see if you have any warning signs that you may need to talk with a professional.
Such symptoms include having difficulty accepting the loss, feeling as if your life is meaningless, or experiencing panic attacks. If you have suicidal feelings, get help immediately.
2. Today I really miss…
What do you miss the most today? Maybe your loved one always met you at the door, and you felt bad today coming home to an empty house. Perhaps you miss cooking for your loved one and sharing meals with someone you love. Maybe you miss the sexual intimacy you had with your partner.
You may miss different things from day to day. Record these feelings in your journal.
3. If I could go back in time, I would do this differently.
Many of us feel regret about how we spent our time when our loved one was still alive. Even though you can’t return to the past, your regrets may give you an idea of how you wish to spend your future.
4. What are my goals for the rest of my life?
Your life didn’t end the day you lost your loved one. What would you like to accomplish in your life? Think about what you want to achieve in the next week, month, year, or decade.
5. Record a favorite holiday memory with your loved one.
What was your loved one’s favorite holiday? What did he or she do to make that holiday so memorable? You may use this journal to start thinking about what you will do on that day this year.
6. Name three favorite qualities of the one you lost.
If the deceased was your spouse, what drew you to him or her? Was she always able to make you laugh? Did he provide you the security you were craving in a relationship? It may be a pleasure to think about your loved one again as they were at the beginning of your relationship.
7. I don’t ever want to forget…
When someone dies, it’s common to worry that you may forget what made them special. Write down a list of things about the person that you don’t want to ever forget.
They can be mundane items, such as your husband’s love of Juicy Fruit gum or the precise color of your wife’s hair.
8. What song makes you think of your loved one, and why?
Did you and your partner have a special song? What was it? Perhaps there’s a whole list of songs that reminds you of your partner. Why don’t you make a playlist of those songs to listen to when you are feeling lonely?
9. My loved one used to say…
Did your loved one have a maxim that they lived by? What words of advice did they often give? Does that advice help you now that they are gone? Why or why not?
10. Write a love letter to your loved one.
Don’t be embarrassed by what you write in your private journal. This is your safe space to get your thoughts and feelings off of your chest.
Grief Journal Prompts for Kids
Journal writing isn’t only for adults. If your child recently lost someone, encourage your child to share his or her feelings by writing. Writing is a healthy outlet and would allow your child to share memories while processing grief.
11. What do you miss the most about your loved one?
The length of the journal depends on the age of a child. A first-grader may be able to write one sentence, and a fourth-grader may write a fully developed paragraph. Ask your child whether he or she would like to illustrate the journal entry.
12. What makes you angry about your loved one’s death?
Let your child know that it’s okay to feel angry when someone dies.
Maybe your child is mad that he’s the only one without a dad at baseball practice. Perhaps your daughter is mad because less deserving moms got to live while her mom died.
13. I feel better when I…
Answering this prompt will force your child to come up with a list of items they can do when they feel especially sad. Depending on the age of the child, you may need to give some examples.
For example, you could say that you feel better after going on a long walk and listening to some of your deceased loved ones’ favorite music.
14. What was your happiest memory with your loved one?
You might be surprised that your child’s happiest memory was an everyday occurrence instead of that trip to Disney World. This journal entry may lead to a fun (or bittersweet) memory-sharing session.
15. What do you do that would make your loved one proud?
Everyone wants a parent’s approval. Remind your child that he or she does things every day that would have made the deceased parent proud.
16. If I could talk to my loved one, I would say…
Your child may regret not being able to say goodbye to the loved one.
17. How have your friends acted around you since your loved one died?
Your child’s friends may have never experienced death. They probably don’t know what to say to a child who has lost someone. This journal question may help you determine whether your child feels isolated at school.
18. What would you put into a memory box to help you remember your loved one?
Use this question to gather the items for a memory box. Suggest that your child include photographs, mementos, ticket stubs, or an everyday object like a keychain.
19. When I think of my loved one, I feel…
Depending on the child’s age, you may want to list some typical emotions that they may be feeling. Include anxious, scared, sad, happy, lonely, guilty, and tired.
20. The thing that makes me the most scared is…
Think about the things that make you scared now that your loved one is gone. Your child may have similar fears. Use this opportunity to reassure your child as well as yourself.
21. Write a letter to your future self about what a fantastic person your loved one was.
Future self journaling is a great way to help a person make goals and plan for the future.
22. How can you make the world a better place for someone who is feeling sad?
Doing kind things for others makes most people feel good about themselves. Brainstorm how your child can help someone who is in need.
Maybe the child could spend time with an elderly relative who knew the deceased. Perhaps you can do a kind thing to help a neighbor.
Grief Journal Prompts for the Loss of a Spouse or Partner
The loss of a spouse or partner may make you feel like you lost a part of your body. As you learn to live without your partner by your side, you might want to consider writing or thinking about one of these topics.
23. The hardest time of day is...
Do you find yourself at your loneliest when you go to bed at night or when you eat meals? Perhaps you miss your loved one the most when you are driving home from a gathering, and you don’t have anyone to talk to about the evening.
Analyzing and understanding when you are suffering the most may enable you to enact a strategy to make those occurrences a bit more bearable.
24. I feel most connected with my spouse or partner when...
Does your son have your husband’s eyes, or does your granddaughter have your wife’s laugh? Perhaps you feel most connected with your spouse when you are with your children or grandchildren.
Write about the times when you feel your deceased loved one’s presence.
25. I am grateful for...
We know that you might be struggling to find something for which you are grateful, and we certainly aren’t suggesting that looking on the “bright side of life” will eliminate your grief. However, this might be a helpful writing prompt, even if you find yourself struggling to come up with an answer.
26. I feel guilty when I think about...
Let’s face it. We all have regrets. We all have moments of our lives when we wish we could have a do-over. Reveal those moments in the pages of your private journal.
27. I think of my loved one when I hear...
Do you think of your loved one when you hear a particular song or the sound of the garage door opening? Write about the sounds that trigger memories of the deceased.
28. Here’s how I’ve changed since my spouse has died.
Any time you go through a significant life event, you can expect to experience change. Write about how you have changed since your spouse has died.
29. Grief is...
Most people describe grief as a mixture of complicated emotions. What emotion are you feeling the most today? Revisit this topic periodically.
30. Write about the events that lead up to your loved one’s death.
Some people find it helpful to record the events that lead to the death of a loved one.
31. Write a letter to the person who died.
Perhaps you were not able to say goodbye to your loved one. Or maybe you feel like you need to update your partner on recent events.
32. Describe your loved one’s personality.
What do you want future generations to know about your spouse or partner? Record the nuances of your loved one’s personality and their likes and dislikes. You’ll feel better knowing that this information will be recorded for the ages.
33. If I had one more day with my loved one...
How would you spend one more day with your loved one? Describe this day in detail. Where would you go? What would you eat? What music would you listen to? What would you do?
34. Describe what it was like to inform others of your loved one’s death.
Do you remember the moment when you told others of your loved one’s death? What stood out to you about that moment? How did others react? Write about these moments as you think about how others are grieving the loss of your loved one.
Grief Journal Prompts for the Loss of a Mother or Father
Use a journal to help you process the death of your mom or dad, especially if you are struggling to sleep at night or complete daily tasks.
While most of the preceding journal ideas would be appropriate, here are some more ideas specific to the loss of a parent.
35. I regret...
It’s common for people to feel that their parents will always be around. You may have felt this way yourself and find yourself regretting that you didn’t spend enough time with them. Write about some of these regrets instead of allowing them to keep you up at night.
36. What I have discovered about myself after losing my parent is...
Introspective people learn a lot about themselves after significant life events. What have you learned about yourself after you lost your mom or dad?
37. I would like to honor my mom (or dad) by...
How could you best honor your mom or dad? Maybe you could continue a tradition that your parents or grandparents began. Perhaps you could donate time or money to a charity that was important to your folks. Brainstorm ideas in the pages of your journal.
38. My dad’s (or mom’s) favorite things
Record a list of your parent’s favorite things to share with your children and grandchildren. For example, what kind of music did they like? What was their favorite team or sport? How did they spend their Saturday nights? Your children and grandchildren will appreciate having this record of their grandparents later on in life.
39. I need to forgive my parents for...
Journals aren’t only for recording all the happy memories of your loved one. A private journal can also be used to record the complicated past.
40. I need to forgive myself for...
We all have regrets. What heavy load are you carrying as you think about the loss of your mom or dad?
41. I wish my family would...
Your spouse, children, and grandchildren may feel uncomfortable when you express your grief. They may try to avoid the topic of your loss in hopes of keeping you from crying. Write about what you need from your immediate family members as you suffer the loss of your parent. Perhaps this is a journal entry you might want to share.
42. What comforts you during your time of grief?
Even as you struggle with the reality that your loved one is gone, you may feel a bit of comfort that you were able to say goodbye. Or that you helped your loved one complete some of their bucket list tasks. Maybe you feel comfortable knowing that your loved one is in Heaven. What comforts you during your time of grief?
43. People say I’m like my parents in this way.
Do you have your dad’s nose or your mom’s laugh? Do you have the same personality traits as your parents? You may not want to admit your similarities, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
44. Record a story about your mom’s (or dad’s) childhood.
Did your parent talk about their backgrounds? Record some of those stories in your journal.
45. Write about what your parents were like when you were a child.
Were your parents strict, or did they let you come and go as you pleased? Were they active and involved? Or did they let you figure things out on your own?
46. My favorite holiday memory with my parents was...
What holiday memory with your parents stands out from all the rest? Whether the memory is good or bad, record it in your journal.
47. I made my parents proud when I...
Write about a time when you felt the loving glow of pride from your parents.
Grief Journal Prompts for the Loss of a Child
You can use your journal in a variety of ways. Some use them to help remember their loved ones, while others use them to analyze their grief. Here are some prompts that you may consider if you lost a child.
48. I can turn to ________ when I am most sad.
The sadness of losing your child will come and go for the rest of your life. You might find it helpful to record the names of a few people who you can turn to when you need someone to support you.
49. What do you find challenging to do now that you have lost a child?
Maybe you were surprised by what tasks were the most difficult for you to complete after losing a child. Write about those surprises.
50. How did you choose your child’s name?
Record the story of your child’s name. Then, think about the other names you considered, and write about how you finally made the decision.
51. What scripture, quote, or poem has been important to you since you lost your child?
Write why this piece has a special place in your heart.
52. What well-meaning words have people said to you that have caused heartache and grief?
Write down what others have said that have caused you additional grief. Write why those words were so hurtful. Finally, write about how you wish you would have responded to those statements.
53. If you were here, I would tell you...
Talk with your child. Tell your child what is in your heart.
54. When did you unexpectedly feel the pangs of grief?
Write about a time that your grief hit you unexpectedly.
55. How can I help others who are going through the loss of a child?
You probably have gained unique insights having been through this experience. Brainstorm how you can help others who are going through the same thing.
56. Write about a time you have felt anger since losing your child.
Grief comes with a lot of different emotions. Explain when you have experienced anger.
57. My child’s favorite things
Also, write about the things your child didn’t like.
58. What is the funniest memory you have of your child?
Write about those special times your loved one made you laugh.
59. How can I take care of myself physically while grieving the loss of a child?
We know that eating right and exercising may be far from your mind. Start thinking about ways you can take care of your physical well-being by making a list in your journal. Then, follow through with your plan when you are able.
60. List ways you can be kind to yourself.
It’s ok to use your grief journal to write about yourself.
61. What emotions do you have that you wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing with others?
The act of writing your thoughts and feelings can be cathartic. However, that doesn’t mean you need to keep a copy of your thoughts for others to read. Instead, complete the journal and then destroy the paper if you don’t want to share your thoughts with others.
62. Write about the funeral of your child.
Write about the process of planning and attending your child’s funeral. What memories stand out to you that you would like to record?
63. What smells remind you of your child?
We know that it’s sometimes hard to describe a smell. Give it a try.
64. Tell the story of your pregnancy.
Write how you discovered you were pregnant and how you shared the news. Write about cravings and illnesses. Permit yourself to write about happy memories as well as sad ones.
Other Ways to Handle Your Grief
You may find that your grief journal may turn into a regular diary. This doesn’t mean that you have forgotten about your loved one or “over” your grief. This means that you don’t feel the need to process all the emotions that you felt at the time of the death.
Are you looking for other grief resources? Search for grief support groups or counselors in your area. Talk with your minister or spiritual leader. Look for online blogs that talk about death or read these books about grief.