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Navigating the Emotional Roller Coaster of Grief: The Healing Power of Journaling

. Written by Marleen Filimon

Grief is an intricate part of the human experience, also a vital part of the human experience, and one that touches the lives of individuals from all walks of life. According to a study conducted by the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association, it is estimated that approximately 269,000 deaths occur in Canada each year. Understanding grief, the emotional journey it entails, and the healing potential of journaling can be an important part in fostering resilience and promoting the healing process.

The Emotional Roller Coaster of Grief:

Grief is a complex and multifaceted journey, and always involves a roller coaster of emotions. Everyone experiences this roller coaster differently, but the emotions always include anger, sadness, anxiousness, confusion, and sometimes maybe even guilt feelings. It is also not uncommon to experience moments of acceptance and peace.

There are many reasons why someone might be experiencing grief, extending beyond the commonly recognized loss of a loved one.

  1. Death of a Loved One: The most well-known form of grief stems from the loss of a family member, friend, or pet. This type of grief is often referred to as bereavement and involves mourning the physical absence and emotional connection with the deceased.
  2. End of a Relationship: When a romantic relationship ends due to breakup, divorce, or separation, individuals may experience profound grief. The loss of a partner can trigger feelings of sadness, loneliness, and a sense of loss for the future that was envisioned together.
  3. Loss of a Job or Career Change: Losing a job, facing unemployment, or undergoing a significant career transition can evoke feelings of grief. The loss of identity, routine, financial stability, and professional connections can lead to a grieving process.
  4. Miscarriage or Stillbirth: Pregnancy loss can result in intense grief, affecting both individuals and couples. The dreams, hopes, and expectations associated with becoming parents can be shattered, leading to feelings of sadness, emptiness, and longing.
  5. Loss of Health or Chronic Illness: When individuals experience a decline in physical or mental health or receive a diagnosis of a chronic or life-altering illness, they may go through a grieving process. The loss of abilities, independence, and the disruption of future plans can trigger grief reactions.
  6. Loss of a Dream or Opportunity: Failing to achieve a long-held dream, such as not being accepted into a desired school or not realizing a career aspiration, can lead to feelings of grief. The loss of what could have been can evoke profound sadness and a sense of disappointment.
  7. Geographic Relocation: Moving away from a familiar environment, leaving behind friends, community, and the sense of belonging can trigger feelings of grief. Adjusting to a new location and the loss of familiarity can be challenging.
  8. Loss of a Beloved Pet: The death or loss of a cherished pet can evoke intense feelings of grief. Pets often become integral members of families, and their absence can leave a significant void, leading to feelings of sadness and emptiness.
Yellow Tree
“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal, and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to.”.
Yellow Divider
Dr. Elizabeth K├╝bler-Ross, a renowned psychiatrist, and a pioneer in near-death studies.

The Transformative Power of Journaling

Journaling serves as a powerful tool for individuals navigating the turbulent waters of grief. It provides an outlet for expressing emotions, processing thoughts, and honoring the memories of lost loved ones. Engaging in regular journaling allows individuals to confront their feelings, gain insights into their grief journey, and ultimately find solace and healing.

Numerous studies and research have highlighted the benefits of journaling in promoting emotional well-being and facilitating the grieving process. Research conducted by Dr. James W. Pennebaker and his colleagues found that expressive writing, such as journaling about emotional experiences, led to improved psychological and physical health outcomes. Participants who engaged in expressive writing reported reduced distress, improved mood, and better overall well-being. In a review published in Palliative & Supportive Care, journaling was identified as an effective intervention in palliative care settings, supporting individuals in expressing grief, addressing existential concerns, and finding meaning amidst loss.

Participants who engaged in expressive writing reported reduced distress, improved mood, and better overall well-being.

Journaling has been shown to allow for processing of thoughts. Writing down ones thoughts provides a structured and private outlet to express and examine thoughts, emotions, and experiences. Putting thoughts into writing has proven to be an effective method for problem-solving, and allows someone to gain insights which they might not have seen just by thinking. Journaling facilitates the process of reflecting on and processing thoughts, leading to enhanced self-awareness, emotional regulation, and personal growth.

How Journaling Supports the Grieving Process

Here are some examples of how journaling can help in the grieving process. There is no quick fix when it comes to grief. Nothing can stop grief, it is something that everyone of us will have to go through at some point in time. There are unhealthy ways to cope with grief, such as substance use or keeping so busy that you don’t give yourself the time to grieve. There are also healthy ways of coping with grief, journaling is one such coping strategy.

Expressing Emotions

For some people, talking about emotions may be too difficult, or they may not have people in their social circles they feel comfortable talking to. Journaling provides a safe space to give voice to the full range of emotions experienced during grief. By putting thoughts and feelings onto paper, individuals can release pent-up emotions, fostering emotional well-being and preventing the suppression of grief. It allows for people to express their thoughts and emotions instead of pushing them aside.

Gaining Clarity and Perspective

Writing about grief allows individuals to explore their thoughts and gain a deeper understanding of their emotions. Through the act of writing and re-reading ones thoughts, one can uncover patterns, identify triggers, and find a sense of meaning amidst the pain. Rereading a journal entry can also help someone find more compassion for themselves and highlight positive thoughts and affirmations.

Preserving Memories

Journaling serves as a personal tribute to lost loved ones. By documenting memories, anecdotes, and lessons learned, individuals can cherish and honor the legacies of those they have lost. Journaling does not only have to include words, photos can be equally as therapeutic to revisit.

Yellow Tree
“Writing about emotionally charged events can improve mental and physical health.”
Yellow Divider
Dr. James W. Pennebaker, a renowned social psychologist

Grief is a universal experience that transcends borders. Understanding the emotional roller coaster of grief and embracing the healing power of journaling can be transformative in navigating the complexities of this journey. As we journey through grief, let us remember the words of Maya Angelou: “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” Journaling can be a guiding light, helping us find strength, resilience, and personal growth in the face of loss.

Remember, in the depths of grief, the act of putting pen to paper can illuminate a path towards healing.

Marleen Filimon - Business Owner - PMP Matters
Are you feeling overwhelmed by grief and finding it difficult to navigate the emotional roller coaster?  Remember, you don’t have to face grief alone – help is just a phone call or email away.
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Marleen Filimon is the founder and CEO of Private Matters Psychotherapy
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