I had never been a journal writer before they handed out journals to us at our Survivors of Suicide meeting. The idea of my silly thoughts and words being recorded for someone or myself to pick up years later and judge made me hesitant to journal.
Our group leader shared how journaling had been her lifeline during the grief of losing her son to suicide.
I took it home and I wrote.
You can use your journal a couple different ways. One way is “yuck” journaling. Basically, you write all the yucky feeling and thoughts that are swirling around your brain. You get them out. You put them down on paper. It is a safe place to get out the anger, resentment, bitterness, or guilt you might be feeling. Once you’ve voiced those yucky thoughts, you can attempt moving on from them. Having those yucky thoughts down on paper allows you to look at them objectively. You can decide whether or not those thoughts are true or not, whether the feelings are worth hanging onto or letting go.
Another way you can use your journal is letter writing. When you have lost your loved one to suicide, there isn’t a chance to say goodbye. In journaling letters to your lost loved one, you have a chance to tell him or her what you are thinking and feeling. You can have a conversation, at least, a one-sided one. You can be gentle, imagining that your loved one is actually reading it. You can be harsh, knowing that you can say anything since your loved one will never actually read it. You can do both if you’d like. Write one draft that combines “yuck” journaling and letter writing, and then you can write another letter that is more compassionate.
The funny thing about journaling is that I was afraid of looking at those thoughts, the words and feelings I put down on paper until it wasn’t a possibility.
It has been 5 years since I lost my brother to suicide. I journaled and wrote him letters in that journal that I had been given in the meeting. I “yuck” journaled. A few weeks ago I looked for that journal, and I couldn’t find it. My journal was lost, probably in our last move. I was hopeful that I could look at my journaling and see that I had come a long way in healing from that loss, but I couldn’t find my journal. I mourned the loss of my journal, which brought up those feelings of loss of my brother.
Even if I never find my journal, I’m so glad that I was given the tool of journaling as a way to navigate my grief. It was freeing to write down my thoughts and feelings, good and bad. Try it. I think it could be freeing and helpful for you too.