The practice of journaling has so many benefits and in particular can provide much comfort, perspective and release when dealing with grief and loss.
Just the other day I had an inspiring conversation for my Dream Life podcast with the wonderful Indira Naidoo, a highly respected and popular journalist, broadcaster and author who shared some first hand experience with dealing with loss and grief.
You can listen to it here.
During her 30-year award winning career in journalism, Indira has hosted and reported for some of the country's most distinguished news and current affair programs, but nothing had prepared her for what came two years ago.
In the grip of a global pandemic, Indira’s beloved youngest sister took her life. Indira’s world was shattered.
Turning to her urban landscape for solace, she found herself drawn to a fig tree overlooking Sydney Harbor. An unlikely connection began to build between the two - one with a fractured heart, the other a centurion, offering quiet companionship while asking nothing in return.
The Space Between the Stars is the heart-rending book she wrote about her experience and is well described by actor David Wenham as, “A tender, touching and at times bloody funny meditation on life. And death. And how to live.”
Sitting in on our conversation in this episode, you’ll be inspired by Indira’s insatiable curiosity for people and the world - and how through writing she was eventually able to refocus on the positives of the 48 wonderful years she had with her sister rather than the loss.
Her story is a wonderful example of what Ernest Hemingway may have meant when he said so well,
“Write hard and clear about what hurts.”
Putting things on paper – for yourself or others - allowing yourself to be open even if it feels like the hardest or most painful thing you've ever done, can be so helpful.
It's a way of helping us be aware of and explore complicated emotions - as we slow down and self-reflect.
There's lots of research that confirms that journaling after loss and grief has therapeutic value, and many people who journal report that it helps them reduce stress, clear the mind and even improve sleep. And good sleep is particularly important when dealing with loss and grief.
Journaling when you've experienced any type of loss or grief helps you gain new perspective as you disclose on paper and release the various feelings swirling around inside - things that might otherwise be painful or difficult to share with other people.
Journaling allows you to express yourself freely without being judged - and provides you with a record of your experience that will help you make sense of your feelings and your progress through them as you look back.
And Indira shares some great ideas in the podcast episode about how to access the healing power of nature - tapping into whatever bits of nature are within reach - to help heal during life's darker chapters. Whether nursing a broken heart or an anxious mind.
So if you or someone you know is dealing with loss and grief, consider writing in a journal to help make sense of emotions and bring perspective.
Make time for yourself to just sit, reflect and write. Find a quiet place. If inside light a candle. Play soft music. Do whatever you need to create an environment that feels right for you - and just write whatever comes into your thoughts. Whenever you’re ready to do that. There’s no rush.
Try taking your journal out into nature with you - and be inspired by the magical healing quality of our natural world. Indira's experience with this is something worth listening to.
I'm a big fan of 'stream of consciousness writing' in my journal. Literally just writing in the way that I think. Dumping thoughts on paper which helps me clear my head and heart and surface what truly matters... and when things are difficult I find it so helpful.
I write whatever comes to mind. I don’t edit. I don’t overthink. I don’t try to make sense straight away. I don't worry about spelling or grammar... or being neat. I don't pause to think it all thru. I just keep my hand moving and write - as if no-one will ever read what I've written. Happy. Confused. Angry. Sad. Excited. What-ever comes comes out… the more intense the emotion the better.
I don't worry about being logical or 'right'. I'm not worried if I go off topic.
It's so liberating and therapeutic.
You can read more about my approach to that here.
Another idea, and one of the best take aways I got from Indira's experience of writing to deal with grief - and it's a great question to ask yourself as you journal - was the idea of asking ‘What meaning is there in this for me?’ rather than trying to figure out 'Why?'.
Exploring your thoughts over time in your journal around that question puts you in the drivers seat to help you make sense of grief and move through it while allowing yourself to feel it all and to process it.
Keep your journal nearby - next to your bed or in your bag - and try to write daily, even if only for 10 minutes. There's magic in the repetitive nature of regular journaling which helps you revisit your feelings as they evolve.
In case helpful, here are some prompts you can ponder to kick off the process as you journal:
- What meaning is there in all this for me?
- Right now I'm feeling...
- My happiest memory before this loss was...
- I never got the chance to tell you...
- I wish we could again experience...
- My happiest memory together was...
- When I think about our times together...
- The ways I'm better for knowing you include...
- If I could find silver linings in this, what would they be?
- If I was someone else, how would I comfort me right now?
And of course seek professional help if you're feeling deep grief. Indira’s experience was that getting help was truly valuable.
I hope you find these ideas helpful and if you need a new journal just browse our beautiful journals here. You can personalise the cover with your name of whatever words you like to elevate it’s value to you
And please share my podcast conversation with Indira and this blog post with anyone you know who is going thru grief and needs support.
Dream Life Founder
- Find Indira’s book, The Space Between the Stars here
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