Grief Journaling Prompts

Journaling has been and continues to be a very important part of my grief journey.

Putting thoughts on paper gets them out of my head.

Writing them down helps me understand them.

i-write-because-i-dont-know

Reading them back is an excellent reflective exercise. It’s a way to track progress, recognize repeating patterns and see where I need to do more grief work.

Sometimes I use Scripture, quotes or other prompts to get me started.  Often I may look up words in the dictionary and jot down the definition or synonyms or examples.  I may draw my way around a concept or cut out pictures from magazines or the newspaper to add to my creation.  There have been days I’ve spent hours and several sheets of paper moving my feelings from my heart to the page.

So if you want to try your hand at journaling, here is a list I find useful.  

Don’t set any parameters or have any expectations.  

Just write, color, draw or whatever flows naturally.

And if the tears fall, let them.

grief journaling exercise

Blessing For The Brokenhearted

Sometimes I run across a poem that is absolutely perfect.  

This is one of those.  

Blessing for the Brokenhearted by Jan Richardson

There is no remedy for love but to love more.
—Henry David Thoreau

Let us agree
for now
that we will not say
the breaking
makes us stronger
or that it is better
to have this pain
than to have done
without this love.

Let us promise
we will not
tell ourselves
time will heal
the wound,
when every day
our waking
opens it anew.

Perhaps for now
it can be enough
to simply marvel
at the mystery
of how a heart
so broken
can go on beating,
as if it were made
for precisely this—

as if it knows
the only cure for love
is more of it,

as if it sees
the heart’s sole remedy
for breaking
is to love still,

as if it trusts
that its own
persistent pulse
is the rhythm
of a blessing
we cannot
begin to fathom
but will save us
nonetheless.

—Jan Richardson

[Emphasis added]

Why We Turn Away From Hurting Hearts

The news goes out over Facebook, over phone lines, over prayer chains and everyone shows up.

Crowds in the kitchen, in the living room, spilling onto the lawn.

It’s what you do.

And it’s actually the easiest part.  Lots of people, lots of talking, lots of activity keep the atmosphere focused on the deceased and the family.  The conversation rarely dips to deeper waters or digs into harder ground:  “Where was God?”;  “Why him?”;  “Why do ‘bad’ things happen to ‘good’ people?”

But eventually the busyness and noise gives way to stillness and silence.

That’s when the harder part starts.

Read the rest here:  Why Do We Turn Away?

When People Just Don’t Listen

I had a very uncomfortable exchange with someone at church Wednesday night.  

We have a light potluck dinner each Wednesday before Bible Study and I’m on kitchen duty.  So I was uncovering dishes, adding spoons and getting things ready when conversation erupted around me about a “horrible wreck just up the road.”

I kept silent and tried to focus on the plastic wrap and aluminum foil but couldn’t help hearing the animated relaying of detail after detail until it reached a crescendo ending in someone declaring that, “Well, those people just drive too fast.  They don’t even care about themselves.”  

You might guess where this is going.  

Yep.  Couldn’t take it anymore so I said, “Most young people feel invincible.  They think it won’t happen to them.  If they knew they might really die and all that meant, they wouldn’t do it.”  

Which kind of slowed them down but didn’t stop them.  

So I asked, “Is the guy OK?”  Wanting a simple answer not an account of grisly details.  

Instead, the main speaker turned to me and began to share all he could remember in the brief time he had to take notes as he was crawling slowly by the accident scene.  (I won’t recount them here to spare hearts but let’s just say for those of us whose child left for Heaven by road accident, it was entirely. too. much.)

I looked at him and said, “That’s enough.”  He kept talking. 

I looked at him again and said, “That’s enough.  My son was killed in an accident.”  He kept talking.  

I finally raised my voice, called his name and said, “That’s enough!  Stop talking!”  He turned away like I had lost my mind.

I followed him a couple steps and said, “My son died in an accident.  I don’t want to hear those kinds of details.  Didn’t you see that I was crying?”  

His response:  “Well you asked.  No, I didn’t see you crying.”

Walked away.

Everyone heard it but no one was listening.  Everyone saw it but no one was willing to come alongside and put an arm around me.  Everyone knows about my son but knowing hasn’t sunk in deeply enough to grow seeds of compassion.

I was shaking and wanted to leave right then but didn’t.  

I’m not so tender now at five years that simply hearing about an accident upsets me.  My mind goes immediately to the family and I breathe prayers for abundant grace and mercy.  I never want others to  feel they can’t share genuine prayer requests or concerns.

But I do not want details.  I do not want a blow-by-blow nor anyone’s haughty opinion that it won’t happen to them or theirs because they “take precautions”.

I am utterly undone that after years of gently trying to help the people I worship with understand the tender places in a bereaved parent’s heart, several of them stomped all over mine.

I know words slip out.  I don’t want anyone to walk on eggshells around me. 

But I do want to be heard.  

When I tell you that I need you to stop sharing something with me, please just stop.  

Are you going to burst if you don’t let the words out?  

Probably not.  

But you might well break a bit of my heart if you don’t.  

dragging heart

Repost: [Mis]Perception

I was (and am) relying on my senses to tell me where I am in this process of embracing the life I didn’t choose.  Yet they are easily overwhelmed by my daily experience-crying one day, laughing the next, undone by memories again, blessed by a friend’s text or phone call-filled to the brim with input.

I have a hard time sorting it out and looking objectively at what the data suggests.

When I can take a step back, I see that my heart has healed in some measure.  I have enfolded the truth that Dominic is not here into who I am and what my life will look like until I join him in heaven.

Read the rest here:  [Mis] Perception

Bitterness Is A Terrible Legacy

Oh, how easy it would be to become bitter!  

If I’m honest, part of me just wants to tell the world to “Get lost!”. 

But the wiser part of me knows that’s neither a helpful nor healthy response to even this most awful burden of child loss.  

Lament is how we bring our sorrow to God. Without lament, we won’t know how to process pain. Silence, bitterness, and even anger can dominate our spiritual lives instead.

~Mark Vroegop – Dark Clouds Deep Mercy

Because my bitter spirit wouldn’t stop with me.  It would spread like kudzu on an Alabama roadside.  

kudzu field huff post

The writer of Hebrews warns against this very thing:  

Be careful that none of you fails to respond to the grace which God gives, for if he does there can very easily spring up in him a bitter spirit which is not only bad in itself but can also poison the lives of many others.

Hebrews 12:15 PHILLIPS

There is sufficient grace for even this. 

But I can refuse it.  

It’s a choice every single day. 

Do I embrace the grace God freely offers or do I turn my back and embrace bitterness?  Do I lean in to every promise of God in Christ or do I listen to the enemy of my soul who whispers, “Did God REALLY say….?” 

Woman hands praying with a bible in a dark over wooden table

 

Bitterness never ends with one person.  It spreads.  It grows. 

It ruins lives and relationships and generations.  

We all know families where it has taken root.  We all know old folks whose faces have frozen in frowns and who rarely speak except to pass along their spiteful comments.

I may not get many things right.  I’m pretty sure I get quite a few things wrong.  

But I don’t want to mess this one up.  

Bitterness is a terrible legacy.  

I refuse to pass it on.  

lifetime of unexplored resentments brene brown

How Can It Be Five Years??!!

We all experience it from time to time-that moment when your head comprehends that life has kept going but your heart refuses to keep pace.  

So today, I’m looking at a calendar that assures me it has been five years since that deputy knocked on my door. 

It’s a fact.  

My heart says, “It cannot be true.  It cannot be that long since I saw my living, breathing son cross the threshold of our family home.  It cannot be that long since I made the phone calls that still echo in my ears.  It can. not. possibly. be. that. long.”

And yet it is.  

If folks ask me how I’m doing, how my family is doing, I usually say we are OK.

Because, all things considered, we ARE. 

beach-and-family-better

None of us find daily life unmanageable.  None of us have fallen prey to addiction or unhealthy coping mechanisms.  None of us sit inside all day, moping and mourning the loss of a life we couldn’t hold onto even if we had seen it slipping away in time to take a firmer grip.

But we are absolutely, utterly, profoundly CHANGED.  

I often think back to old Star Trek episodes that showed crew members transporting to the surface of an unknown planet.  Their bodies were broken down into the tiniest component molecules and reassembled somewhere else.

I think that’s what this life is like. 

We’ve all been disassembled and reassembled. 

But instead of everything falling back into place, there are missing bits here and there, gaps too small for others to see but very, very real to us.  Connections lost.  Memories without proper context.

dont recognize myself without one of my sons

Feelings floating free of any anchor, bubbling up at the most inconvenient moments.  

And we all just plain MISS HIM.

We miss Hector Dominic DeSimone and who he is, what he brought to the table and car rides and family gatherings.

We miss who we were before we knew loss that burrows deep in your bones.  We miss the unmitigated joy and celebration we could toss around like confetti at the slightest provocation.

So today, unlike most days, we will give in to the sorrow.  We will remember that morning.  We won’t brush away the tears or the sad memories.  

He is worth every second and every heartache.

He is never forgotten.  

He is always, always on our minds.  

IMG_1790