Research suggests that journaling can have a positive impact on mental health and may be of aid to those who endure life challenges. Use these journal prompts for grief and healing to get to a better place.

Why journal for grief? 

Grief comes in many forms, and it is a life challenge that most of us experience at least once. Our instincts may fail us while we’re grieving, so practices like journaling can help structure the grieving process and help us find meaning in vast clouds of emotion.

Grief can feel like a big, amorphous blob of feelings and thoughts that you simply can’t sort out within your own head. By journaling, not only will you get it out, but you may gain some clarity once it’s all on paper (or in word processor, on Notes app, etc.). 

Multiple studies confirm that journaling can have a positive impact on mental health and can help people who are going through a number of life challenges. Additionally, experts suggest that the practice of writing about how you feel may support immune functioning, mood, and well-being. 

So, with the benefits in mind, commit to taking a few minutes to share the burden–even if it’s just with the pages of your journal. It could be exactly what you need to take some of the weight of grief off of your shoulders. 

What if you don’t know where to start? We’ve got your back. Here are some journal prompts for grief and healing to use.

For when a loved one passes away…

For most people, the loss of a loved one is one of the most devastating things that can happen. While this experience can impact you mentally and physically, and it’s vital to apply self-compassion when you’re in the thick of it, it is possible to mend. Here are some journal prompts that may help you heal and remember the good times when a loved one passes away:

  • Write a letter to the person. Tell them what you wish you were able to tell them right now in the letter. For example, you might write about your current life, or you might thank them for the time you shared and what they taught you. 
  • Write about what you want others to remember about this person. What do you want other people to remember about this person? It could be their kindness, their wisdom, or something else. 
  • Write a mock biography for the person. Detail their life, traits, and anything else you see as relevant. 

For when you’ve lost someone who is still alive…

The thing about grief is that it doesn’t just refer to the loss of a loved one alone. Grief can also come with a friend break up, a romantic break up, moving away to a new location, or something else, like job loss. Accordingly, it doesn’t just refer to the physical passing of someone you love – you can also grieve the loss of someone who is still alive. For example, a past romantic partner, or a family member that you had to go no-contact with. Try these journal prompts for grief when the other person is still alive:

  • Write out what you could say if you had a conversation with them. Think of it as the empty chair technique, but on paper. Unleash your emotions; they won’t see it, so don’t hold back!
  • Write about what you love about yourself and/or your life. Sometimes, losing someone who’s still alive in a breakup or in other similar circumstances, such as cutting ties with a friend, can make someone feel like there’s a hole in their heart and may even influence things like the confidence you have in yourself. When you point out your strengths and the positives in your life, it can lift you up and help you modify your outlook on this event.

For grieving how things could have been…

Has anyone ever told you that it’s okay to grieve how things could’ve been? We live in a society where individuals who grieve what could’ve been often hear statements that may not be helpful, such as “look on the bright side” or “well, you can’t change it,” from others. While it isn’t something that must take over your life forever, it is okay to sit with your feelings. Maybe, you have childhood trauma, or perhaps, a recent hope you had for a relationship, a job, or something else, was dashed. Here are some journal prompts to try for when you grieve what could’ve been:

  • Write about the stage of grief you are in. How does it feel? What are the characteristics? 
  • Write about a specific emotion you feel. Again, how does it feel – both in your mind and your body? What are the characteristics? What are you going through right now?
  • Are there any gifts or silver linings in this loss? What are they?

For when your health creates grief…

Health concerns are another example of how grief may not always relate to the loss of a loved one. Whether you have a physical health concern or a mental health concern to manage, you may grieve the loss of the way that your life was before the onset of the ailment – or, if it has been life-long, the life that you were never able to have. Try these journal prompts for health-related grief:

  • What has it taught me to live with this health concern? Do I have more empathy because of it? Am I a better person? Do I understand things that other people may not?
  • With my current state of health, what do I still have to look forward to? Is it my friendships, music, new movies or upcoming movies, spending time outdoors, or something else? What am I currently appreciative of?

For moving forward after loss…

It’s important to have time to sit with your feelings, and it is equally crucial to take the necessary steps to move forward once you can. Part of that is looking at the future and what you can do right now to get to where you want to be. Introspection through journaling can help you make it happen. Try these journal prompts if you want to start to move forward after loss:

  • What do I want my life to look like as I move forward? What are my goals, hopes, and dreams right now? 
  • What is in my control, and what is not in my control? (You can write two separate lists for this one if you want rather than filling out a page free-hand)!
  • Envision your ideal life in five years. Or, if it’s easier to look far ahead, ten. What does it look like? Describe your home, social life, life perspective, work, or anything else that’s important to you. 

For cultivating gratitude about what’s left…

If you have lost someone or something, there is still gratitude to be had. This is something that you can think about from your own eyes, or if it is a person that you lost, from theirs. Here are some journal prompts that can help you cultivate gratitude during this challenging time:

  • Write about the positive aspects of your current life – this could be your community, your work, hobbies, or something else. Get creative; there is something! If you don’t feel fully grateful yet, you can write about the things that you would like to feel grateful for. 
  • Write about a happy or meaningful memory that you have. For example, if it was a person, perhaps, prior to their passing, you had a tradition or went on a special vacation together, or you had a conversation that changed your life. If it’s your health that causes grief, maybe you have a memory from a time when things did feel better than they do right now. Write about your gratitude for it. 
  • Write about something the person taught you, either directly or through their personality, character, actions, and life perspective. Alternatively, you can write about lessons from this experience. 

An alternative: create your own journal prompts for grief

The best journal prompt for you may vary based on what you need and where you are in the process of grief in mind. You can adjust these prompts to your unique experience. You can also try free-writing; take out the pen and paper and let everything that’s on your mind unleash.

It’s vital to note that journaling for grief is likely just one part of your healing process. 

Grief is serious, and it takes time to get to a different place. You deserve support as you work to move forward, and Supportiv can help. It’s affordable in cost, it’s easy to get started, and it’s available 24/7. No matter what’s going on in your life, you can continue to heal, and you don’t have to go through it alone.