Words have always held a majestic place in my life. If you ask my mom, she would say that it started when I began to speak…. apparently I wouldn’t shut up after I started. It progressed with reading at an early age and by the time I was thirteen, you could bet that you’d always find me with my nose in a book. As a result, I discovered a love for writing in university when I found my passion in social work. I embarked on an educational path that made me question the world, my values and essentially the human being I wanted to be.
As I reflect back, I realize that I have kept a journal since I was a teenager and thought it was something quirky about me. Consequently, this tradition has been carried into my adulthood and has been a special means of self-care ever since. Over and over again, I have found, that journaling awakened the soul in a way that talking could not.
Journaling in the midst of grief
With the sudden death of my husband, for the first time in my life I didn’t have words. I couldn’t find words to describe how I was feeling or thinking. I didn’t have the words to even make sense of what was happening and how I was supposed to keep breathing and existing in this world without him. The day I was able to find motivation to leave my bed, which had become my grief cocoon, one of the first things I did was pick up my journal. I sobbed and sobbed as I wrote a letter to him.
I kept on writing to him as often as I felt drawn to it. This was my way of having a conversation with him and now looking back, I can see that I was trying to make sense of my new life without him. I would ask him questions, I would tell him what was happening, I would tell him about my dreams of him, I would be angry and sad, I would implore God to help me understand, I would tell him how much I missed him and loved him. I poured my heart and soul into those pages and through that process, I was able to slowly discover who the new me would be.
Creating meaning through writing
I know that writing is magical. We, as humans, have been doing it since the dawn of time on cave walls documenting our existence. There is a strong intrinsic drive in humans to matter and writing is one way to connect to this. Writing can change the chemicals in our brain and allows space to create meaning of our lives. Putting pen to paper slows down our thought process as our hand cannot move as fast as our mind, which forces us to think about our thinking and slow it all down.
Journaling has been the number one way I’ve learned to live with grief. My mind was a whirlwind of memories, thoughts, images and feelings that left me so confused and out of sorts. Journaling was a space for me to vent, dump, rage and weep without judgement or expectations. My journal is where I work things out and where I don’t have to be perfect and have it all figured out already. I can be vulnerable, exposed, open, broken, uncertain, brave and courageous. My journal hears all my fears, hopes, losses and moments of joy with compassion and openness. My journal is where I can openly speak to Tony and hear is response in my heart. There is a knowing that shows up in my journal and for that I will forever be thankful.
How can you start?
The beauty of it all, is that there is no one way to journal. All you have to do is pick up a journal (a pretty one is preferred) and find a pen you like and start writing. Don’t overthink it too much, just put the pen to the paper and trust that the words will flow out of you easily. All those words inside of you are just waiting for an opportunity to come out to be seen and read. Just give the words some space.