By Catherine Greenleaf
Journaling is a very powerful method of healing. The visceral act of writing words down on paper can assist you in releasing pent-up sadness, anger and grief. After my loss, I had so many conflicting emotions. I wasn't sure what to do with them all. My suicide bereavement therapist suggested I go down to the local pharmacy and buy myself a spiral-bound notebook. She said, "Write down how you feel." I started quite simply by writing one or two lines a day, stating what I was doing that day and how I was feeling. My journal turned out to be my best buddy. I poured all my anger, resentment, bitterness, hatred, confusion and despair into the pages of my journal. I ended up with thirteen journals!!!!! But I had released so many negative emotions, and in the process, I felt lighter and freer and more willing to start moving on in my life again.
In my journal, I wrote many "anger letters" to my loved one. These letters asked him: why did you leave me? why did you choose such a method to die? did you ever stop and think how I would be affected by your leaving not to mention the method? I got all the anger and rage out of my system by writing these letters to him. With every letter I wrote him, I felt more and more peace of mind. My rage transitioned to anger and then the anger transitioned to a resigned acceptance. The best part is the high-voltage emotional charge was gone. I had successfully exorcised the demons of my grief. I believe writing -- journaling, poetry, music -- all of it is cathartic and can help us release stored-up toxic emotions.
What I discovered as I wrote was that the worst part of my grief was the feeling of abandonment. We had done everything together. We were inseparable. We approached all our challenges together and dealt with them as a team. Once he left, I felt terribly abandoned and betrayed. But as I continued to write about my life I realized I had always had abandonment issues. With that realization I could no longer blame him for something that was part of my past. That understanding brought great freedom and relief.
It's important to remember that this is YOUR journal. You don't have to share it with anyone (although I have read a few "breakthrough" passages to my therapist over the years.) Keep your journal in a private, secret place that no one can find. Your writing is sacred and no one has the right to violate your privacy and read your words unless you give permission.
Today, my journal is part of my morning ritual. Each morning, I sit down with my hot cup of green tea and my journal. With my little dog lying at my feet, I write down how I am feeling AND I TELL THE TRUTH. When someone on the street stops and asks, "How are you?" it's always very tempting to just say: "Oh, I'm fine," and walk away. But with a journal I can be completely honest. After such a devastating loss, I found I was hungry for honesty -- from myself and from others in my life. My journal keeps me honest -- and free of pent-up emotions.
Interestingly enough, those 13 journals ended up turning into my book, Healing The Hurt Spirit!