Friday, July 24, 2015

A Year of Journaling Through Grief: 52 Prompts for Bereaved Parents

I have never been a huge fan of writing.  I have a degree in English, and I took many, many (many) writing-intensive classes, but I chose my major because I love reading, not writing.  I love reading and analyzing literature.  That's the side of English I enjoy teaching most also.  Writing and teaching writing is boring to me.  I started this blog as a way to communicate with our friends and family after we received Sam's diagnosis.  It has turned into something much more than that for me.  Writing has become a way for me to process through my grief.

A few weeks after Sam passed away, I started journaling in a private online diary on Penzu. In the beginning, I mostly wrote about what had happened during the day or how I was feeling that day.  After a few weeks, I felt like I needed some prompting to write.  I scoured Google and Pinterest for journal prompts for bereaved parents and journal prompts for grief, but I couldn't find what I was looking for all in one place.  I sought the help of other moms in online support groups that I am a part of and compiled the following prompts.  I know everyone is different and everyone's loss is different--I tried to write the prompts so they would be relevant to everyone.  I'm hoping that other bereaved parents will find this list helpful.

52 Journal Prompts for Bereaved Parents:
1. What would you like other people to know or do after someone loses a child?

2. Describe a time you told someone (who didn't already know) about your loss.

3. What has been confusing during your grief?

4. What has been surprising during your grief?

5. What have you been thankful for during your grief?

6. How did you choose your child's name?

7. What do you now find difficult to do that you didn't before you lost your child?

8. If I could tell my child something, I would tell him/her...

9. Some well-meaning but hurtful things people have said or done are...

10. Losing a child is a series of little losses.  Some of these little losses are...

11. Try writing your child's story in 100 words or fewer.

12. What quote or scripture has been meaningful or comforting?  Why?

13. Write a bucket list.

14. Plan something to do to honor your child on one of their milestones or birthday.

15. Write a letter to your child.

16. Write an acrostic poem using your child's name.

17. Make a list of goals for yourself that you hope to accomplish by a year from now or what you would like to be different in a year.

18. Create a word cloud, print it and paste it in your paper journal or embed it in your online journal.  I had my students create word clouds using Wordle and Tagxedo.  They're really cool and fun to play around with.

19. What have you learned about yourself through the loss of your child?

20.  How do you feel different than you did before you lost your child?

21. Have your priorities changed since you lost your child?

22.  Pick a common well-meaning platitude (God doesn't give us more than we can handle, Your child is in a better place, God gives special children to special parents, God needed another angel, Time heals all wounds, , etc.) someone has said to you.  Do you believe that is true?  Why/why not?

23.  What do you do when you feel like you're the only one grieving?

24. Has your faith changed?

25. What are the ways of grieving you feel society expects of you because you are a man or woman?  Do you break these "rules" of grieving?

26. Which ways of grieving seem to bring you and your partner closer?  Further apart?

27. What is one of your favorite memories from your child's life, even if he/she only lived in the womb?

28. What would you like your friends and family to do to honor and remember your child?

29. Is there anything that happens or anything you do that makes you feel most connected to your child?

30. What song has been meaningful or comforting?  Why?

31. Write a list of words that describe your child.

32. If you could keep only one memory of your child what would it be?

33. When you're having a particularly hard day, week, etc., what do you wish others would understand?

34. What are some questions people have asked that you appreciated them asking?

35. How have your relationships changed since you lost your child?

36. Do you have any new fears or worries since you lost your child?

37. How has your response to grief been different than those closest to you?

38. What emotion has been most overwhelming through your grief?

39. What unanswered questions, if any, do you have about your child's passing?

40. What things are you still able to find joy in?

41. "Grief ambushes" are times when you experience a flood of emotion at an unexpected time.  Describe some of the grief ambushes you have experienced.

42. Do you think your grief will ever end?  Why/why not?

43. Although the bible shares specific details about heaven, our human understanding about heaven is pretty limited.  What do you wish you knew about heaven?

44. Identify your own ideas about how you as a man or woman are supposed to "handle" your grief.  Are you following these ideas?

45. No one can imagine what it's like to lose a child until they have actually experienced it.  Has anything about your grief journey been different than you imagined it would be?

46. Are you doing anything unhealthy in response to grief or are you tempted to?

47. If death is a natural process of life, why do you think so many people act uncomfortable talking about it and the various aspects of grief?

48. Identify the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs you have right now.

49. Has anyone said anything that made you feel they were trying to rush you through your grief?

50. How can you use your grief journey to help others?

51. Is anger about the loss of your child good or bad?

52. How has grief impacted you physically?

Other things to write about:
  • Write about your day.  What happened?  How did you feel today?  What was good?  What was hard?
  • You can write in stream of consciousness.  Don't worry about punctuation, capitalization, or grammar rules (that hurt a little to write).  Whatever you're thinking, however fast you can write or type, just write it down: I have a million things to do, but I don't feel motivated to do any of them.  It's too hot here.  It needs to rain soon.  I want to go to the pool.  I need a haircut.  What are we going to have for dinner?  I think we have some leftovers...This works well for the days when you are irritated/annoyed/aggravated/frustrated, and you don't want to yell at anyone, but you also don't really want to talk through anything with anyone either.
  • Write out your child's story.  I wrote out Sam's story {here}.
  • Some people out there might be gifted with the ability to write songs or poetry.  I am not one of them.
  • Consider writing three words that describe your feelings at the beginning and end of each entry.  This can help you decompress some feelings and can act like a time capsule--you can read back over your entries later and see how your emotions change over time.
Mediums to use:
  • Good ol' pen and paper.  You can buy a pretty journal or find a plain one and decorate it.
  • Start a blog!  Wordpress and Blogger are very user-friendly, basic blogging platforms, and they have apps so you can blog anywhere.  There are tons of online tutorials on youtube and within each program.
  • A private online diary.  I use Penzu; Evernote and Journalate are some other options for free, private journaling.  You can also start a blog and adjust the privacy settings so it's not publicly published.
Alternatives to journaling:
  • You could start an art journal and paint, draw, or create some other form of art to process through your grief.
  • Gather pictures you have of your child and narrate what was happening when the picture was taken.

***If you feel up to it, choose one of the prompts and respond in the comments.***
If you have any journaling prompts to add, include those in the comments as well.

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