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.
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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.
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.