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How To Write a Grief Journal

I received an email from a blog reader who said: “You posted an article about grief back in 2007. You made reference to a grief journal. I find myself in a place where I have forgotten how to grieve. Could you send me information on writing a grief journal? I would like to write one again but f…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

I received an email from a blog reader who said: “You posted an article about grief back in 2007. You made reference to a grief journal. I find myself in a place where I have forgotten how to grieve. Could you send me information on writing a grief journal? I would like to write one again but feel lost as to where to start.”

We lose so much in this modern world. We lose our sense of safety first of all, and with it, our identity. We find ourselves wearing the mask of a false self and along the way, we lose the truth. We can’t believe that we are precious and we are loved.

So many people these days grow up in broken families where they feel alone. Life on Facebook is a thin gruel for a hungry soul. And we’re left with that gnawing sense that we’ve missed out on something fundamental.

A home should echo with the glad memories and happy times of family life. The hearts of those who slept in its beds should be filled with laughter.

It’s a sad thing as a child to navigate the wasteland of broken relationships. And it’s tragic when you are an adult who wants to make your marriage and your family different, but you find yourself losing that dream.

Yes, we lose so much. Yet we are loved by a Lord whose name is Wonderful Counselor. He knows our dark pain; he wants to redeem our broken places. And he does so, not through forgetting, but remembering –  exchanging truths for lies.

A grief journal is a great tool for this. What you lost was priceless. It can’t be replaced, but it can be treasured. So you go back and remember. Putting pen to paper, you name that thing that you loved – that relationship, that part of you that died, that safe place. And you call it for what it was. It was valuable; precious even. And you invite Jesus, the Counselor, to make that place of desecration holy again.

It’s been almost three decades since the teenagers in The Breakfast Club grieved their broken lives. None of them felt OK inside and living with that secret was the worst thing about it. The path to healing started when they named their pain.

That’s the beauty of a grief journal – it brings remembrance and honesty to those places where you lost pieces of yourself.

A grief journal restores you to yourself.

How to Write a Grief Journal

1. Get a journal and schedule a block of time.

2. Go back through these seasons of your life: childhood, adolescence, college age, adulthood. For each season, ask the following questions and journal out your answers:

What great pains did I suffer?
What did I feel?
What did I lose?
What have been the consequences?

Spend enough time that you have thoroughly dealt with the pains you felt and feel. Don’t skip over anything.
3. Next, ask God:

Where were you in each of those seasons? Try to picture yourself in that time and place and say to God, “I felt alone and abandoned there, where were you?” And wait for him to respond. Journal out what he says.

4. Ask God, “What do I have to do to move on from that place?” Journal it.

If you do this well, you might fill 20 pages or more of your journal. The time you spend remembering and grieving is a way of honoring the dead – the dead parts of you that needed more. A grief journal brings your life back into spiritual alignment.

5. After you’ve done this, look at what God has been saying to you. Has he given you any actions to take to be able to move on?  When you’re finished journaling, follow through and do what he says. He loves you – every single forgotten and shameful part of you.
He wants you to laugh again.

Comments (10)

  • This is an awesome piece of advice…and one I will be using!

    Thank you for all you’ve done..
    My daughter is presently on U Squad, Cambodia. The World Race is changing all of our lives.
    A proud WR mom of Bethany Fristad…who just posted an amazing blog herself!

  • Hi Stacey – Good to hear from you and to know this. I checked out Bethany’s blog – great to see what God is doing in her life! So glad she’s feeling better after that virus.

    I pray that God keeps changing your lives!

  • Tammy Stambaugh (Hannah’s mom)

    Hi Stacey, I read Bethany’s blog this morning before church. I couldn’t keep back the tears as I realize how much these kids are battling and yet how strong their faith is. They truly will be the generation to change the world for Christ.

  • what a coincidence, I was thinking about how to write a grief journal. for you see, in africa we are not big on displaying our grief and am discovering how hard it is to help someone who is stuck in grief. thanks for the instructions.

  • just shared this with my small group…hope this is as revolutionary for them as it was for me back at training camp.
    thanks for posting it in such a practical way!

  • I havent read your blog in years. I stumbled upon this entry and it resignates so well. I hesitated to open the link , I guess thats how difficult its becomwe for me to grieve. Your words immediately resignated with me. Mostly because how well u point out about us losing a piece of ourselves , not just losing a thing or person or feeling something. Thanks

  • Joie,

    Good to hear from you again. Whatever it is that you lost, it is worth recovering. You are worth it – all of you. I’m praying that you find the courage to grieve.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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