By Madeline Sharples
I’m especially reminded during the hard times in my life that no one is immune. Whether it’s family problems, health struggles, chronic pain – physically or mentally, job issues, grief for relatives and friends who have died, or worries of any kind, we need a way to find relief – especially if there’s no one to talk to.
Journaling is my relief. I turned to journaling in the early 1990s during my son’s struggle with bipolar disorder and continued after his suicide death in 1999, and I’ve been journaling every day since. Just recently I was with two friends who each lost their beloved daughters, and I suggested the healing power of journaling to both of them. I shared how I have reaped the benefits of putting my pain on the page.
A person who journals doesn’t have to be a writer nor does he/she have to worry about writing for any prescribed length of time or specific time of the day. Just a few words, sentences, or paragraphs work.
The page is there anytime for our tears, rants, sorrow, complaints, thoughts and ideas. The main thing is the page is always ready without judgment about anything we have to say. During my hardest times, I learned the page never told me what to do, it never told me how to handle my grief, and most important it never told me how long to grieve. It will be just as forgiving for you.
In case you’ve never tried journaling, here are a few tips:
Write in long hand in a notebook or by typing on a blank page on your computer
Keep your fingers moving for at least five to ten minutes at a time. In fact, even if you can’t think of anything to write, write down, “I’m keeping my fingers moving.” for as long as it takes for something to come to mind
Don’t go back to edit. In fact you never have to edit, because these writings are just for your eyes only – the only times I edit is when I use a journal entry as a starting point for another piece of writing
Use your journaling time to make lists of accomplishments or things you want to do in your day
Use your journaling to build your confidence by declaring who and what you are; e.g., I am healthy, I am creative, I have gray hair and I’m proud of it, I lost five pounds, I like what I see when I look in the mirror
Use your declarations for future journal entries – a good way to get over writer’s block
And if you’re particularly creative, include pictures on your page and add quotes and clippings so that your journal becomes more like a scrapbook than a book of plain writing
Other journaling ideas include: writing down one good thing every day, keeping a dream journal, recording sayings and quotes that make you laugh, and creating a drawing or painting instead of words to express your thoughts.
Get the picture? Your journal is just that. Yours. How you journal is your choice. You can do or say anything with it. Just remember, everyone we know has good and bad stuff going on in their lives.
I learned journaling is a way to come to grips with that. Journaling through my grief gave me a wonderful gift. I discovered I could write, and I created a book from the memories I wrote down in my journal entries. I recommend everyone try it and learn the power that can be gained from journaling.
Madeline is the author of Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide (Dream of Things) and Blue-Collar Women: Trailblazing Women Take on Men-Only Jobs (New Horizon Press). She co-edits The Great American Poetry Show anthology series and wrote the poetry for The Emerging Goddessphotography book. See more at http://www.MadelineSharples.com