Journaling for Grief and Healing: Finding Solace in Words

Sian Ferguson
Sian Ferguson

Sian Ferguson is a health content writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. With almost a decade of experience reporting on health and wellness, her goal is to create empathetic, science-based content that empowers readers to take care of their well-being. You can read more of her work on Healthline and Psych Central.

November 19, 2023

In the hollow, disorienting moments that follow a profound loss, finding a path to healing can feel daunting. In times like these, grief journaling can act as a source of comfort, helping you heal and overcome heartache through introspection and self-expression.

Journaling for grief doesn't erase pain. After all, grief is not a single emotion but rather a complex — and often overpowering — response to a disruptive and traumatic event[1]

What it can do, though, is provide you with a safe space for introspection, self-expression, and, ultimately, acceptance.

Key Takeaways icon

Key Takeaways

  • Journaling your innermost thoughts and feelings surrounding grief can offer a sense of mental clarity and a pathway toward acceptance.
  • Multiple studies have examined the positive impact that grief journaling has on managing your feelings around loss.
  • Journaling won’t change how you feel about your grief overnight. But over time, it can give you the extra bit of support you need to process your loss and take back your life.
  • An AI journaling app like Rosebud can provide you with helpful prompts to make grief journaling that much easier.

How Journaling Can Help You Grieve

Anger, longing, and despair — these are just some of the emotions that often accompany grief. 

Grief is challenging, it is complicated, and it has the ability to impact your mental, physical, and spiritual self in harmful ways[2][3].

Fortunately, journaling can provide you with much-needed support during times of grief by allowing you space to work through and express your thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

Multiple studies have examined the positive impact that grief journaling has on managing grief and its side effects. For example, a 2019 study examined 30 participants divided into two groups — expressive writing and non-expressive writing. Results showed that participants from the expressive writing group experienced significantly reduced levels of grief, while the non-expressive group did not[4].

Three years later, a separate study examined the rewriting of grief following bereavement and non-death loss. The intervention was successful, with the bereaved group reporting reductions in anxiety, depression, and prolonged grief and increases in adaptive meaning, help-seeking, and spiritual support[5].

Grief is not always something you can completely get rid of. Sometimes, it seems easier to sweep it under the rug and move on with life instead of working through the pain. 

But given the chance, journaling can give you the space to unpack your grief in a healthier way and help you address harmful or inaccurate thoughts that could be stopping you from healing[6].

What Are The Benefits of Journaling for Grief?

The evidence does seem to suggest that journaling helps with grief and loss. 

The ability to journal your innermost thoughts and feelings surrounding grief appears to offer a sense of mental clarity and a pathway toward acceptance. This can offer you meaning through loss alongside a healthier state of mind[5][7].

There are, however, other reasons that could explain why journaling for grief and loss is so effective.

For example, grief journaling can help you:

  • recognize behavioral patterns in response to grief, which can lead to more effective coping strategies
  • facilitate self-reflection and the gaining of personal insights 
  • reduce the frequency and intensity of intrusive thoughts related to grief
  • contribute to better sleep, which is often disrupted during periods of intense grief
  • serve as a tool to prepare for therapy sessions and track progress
  • strengthen emotional resilience, aiding in future stressors and losses
  • acknowledge that you may need further assistance to work through your grief
  • feel a sense of comfort that your memories are safely stored 
  • rediscover your purpose in life 

It’s important to remember that journaling is a process — it won’t change how you feel about your grief overnight. But over time, it can give you the extra bit of support you need to overcome your loss and take back your life. 

How To Start Journaling for Grief

Coping with grief is one thing. Writing about it is another. But as with any process, it’s important to take it one step at a time.

Start with something easy — decide what type of journaling suits you best and the medium 

you’d be most comfortable with. For example, you can choose to use a digital journal or pen and paper.

Next, try to establish a routine. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but it can help you build momentum and maximize the benefits of the process.

Finally, it’s time to put pen to paper. Your journal won’t judge you, so don't pull your punches! 

Write about your grief, how it makes you feel, what's holding you back from moving on, and any other confusing and conflicting emotions you may be experiencing. 

Tips for Making Grief Journaling a Habit

Grief is not always a one-time thing. It’s a hurdle that’s thrust upon you whenever you encounter loss. However, turning journaling into a habit will help you stay consistent during your grieving process and maximize its benefits.

Consider the following tips: 

  • Set a regular time and place. Choose a specific time and place for journaling each day. This could be in the morning when your mind is fresh or in the evening as a way to reflect on the day. Pick a quiet, comfortable spot where you feel at ease and can focus without interruptions.
  • Start with bite-sized sessions. Begin with brief journaling sessions, 5 to 10 minutes, and gradually increase the time as you feel more comfortable. Don't pressure yourself to write a lot — even a few sentences can be meaningful.
  • Make it yours. Your journal will always be there when you need it. And you have the power to turn it into whatever you want. A place to hold your most painful emotions, happiest memories, or a letter for closure. It can also be all these things at once.
  • Do not let bad days discourage you. Grief is unpredictable; you can never truly know when it will hit you next. If you feel your energy draining, just let yourself be. You can always pick it up again.
  • Review and reflect. Periodically, take time to read back through your entries. This can help you track your emotional journey, recognize patterns in your feelings, and understand how you are processing your grief over time.

The decision to tackle your grief through journaling shows that you’re stronger than you may realize. But it’ll be worth it in the end. 

If you're feeling overwhelmed by your grief and could use an outlet, then you might want to consider grief journaling. To make this process a little easier for you, consider trying Rosebud for free.

This AI-powered journaling app can gently guide you with its customizable journaling prompts, providing a safe space to soul-search while providing you with weekly feedback on your reflections.

Frequently Asked Questions About Journaling for Grief

How do I start a grief journal? 

Here are some helpful tips:

  • start with something small, like choosing a writing medium (pen and paper or an AI app like Rosebud).
  • try to establish a routine
  • pour your heart out by addressing pain, conflicting emotions, and any other obstacles to progress.
  • pair journaling with another habit
  • don't be discouraged by bad days
  • reflect on your entries when possible

Does journaling help with grief?

Yes, journaling can be a helpful tool in dealing with grief. It provides a safe, private space to express feelings and thoughts that may be difficult to share with others. Writing about your loss and the emotions it brings can help you process these feelings more effectively. 

Journaling can also offer a sense of release, allowing you to externalize and examine your emotions, which is a crucial part of the healing process. Moreover, it can serve as a record of your journey through grief, helping you to see progress over time and understand the nuances of your emotional landscape.

When should I write in a grief journal?

  • Express your raw emotions, such as sadness, anger, confusion, or moments of joy or peace. Write about your thoughts on life, the loss, and how it has affected you.
  • Share memories of the person or situation you are grieving. This can include happy times, significant moments, or even everyday interactions that hold special meaning.
  • Sometimes, writing a letter to the person you have lost can be a cathartic way to express feelings or say things left unsaid.
  • Reflect on things you are thankful for, even during grief. This can include supportive people, personal strengths, or positive memories of your loved one.
  • Write about your daily life and how your grief intersects with regular activities. This can help you understand how your loss is impacting your everyday experiences.
  • Describe your thoughts about the future, how you hope to heal, and your dreams or goals. This can be a way to look forward and find hope amidst the grief.

Remember, there is no "correct" content for a grief journal. It's a personal space for your thoughts and feelings, so write whatever feels most helpful and healing for you.


  1. PDQ Supportive and Palliative Care Editorial Board. (2022, October 18). Grief, Bereavement, and Coping With Loss (PDQ®): Health Professional Version. In PDQ Cancer Information Summaries. Bethesda (MD): National Cancer Institute (US). Retrieved from
  2. Utz, R. L., Caserta, M., & Lund, D. (2012). Grief, Depressive Symptoms, and Physical Health Among Recently Bereaved Spouses. The Gerontologist, 52(4), 460–471.
  3. O’Connor, M. F. (2019). Grief: A Brief History of Research on How Body, Mind, and Brain Adapt. Psychosomatic Medicine, 81(8), 731.
  4. Savitri, I., Takwin, B., Ariyanto, A., Aribowo, R., & Aribowo, R. (2019). Expressive writing changes grief into meaning – a sequential explanatory design approach. COUNS-EDU: The International Journal of Counseling and Education, 4, 102.
  5. Den Elzen, K., Breen, L. J., & Neimeyer, R. A. (2023). Rewriting grief following bereavement and non-death loss: a pilot writing-for-wellbeing study. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 51(3), 425-443.
  6. Edgar-Bailey, M., & Kress, V. E. (2010). Resolving child and adolescent traumatic grief: Creative techniques and interventions. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 5(2), 158-176.
  7. Furnes, B., & Dysvik, E. (2010). A systematic writing program as a tool in the grief process: part 1. Patient Preference and Adherence, 4, 425-431.
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