Understanding Your Grief Journal

Understanding Your Grief Journal

by Alan D. Wolfelt, PH. D. Wolfelt

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Overview

This companion workbook to "Understanding Your Grief: Ten Essential Touchstones for Finding Hope and Healing Your Heart is designed to help mourners explore the many facets of their unique grief through journaling. Ten essential touchstones for mourners are covered, including being open to the presence of loss, dispelling misconceptions about grief, embracing the uniqueness of grief, seeking reconciliation, and reaching out for help. Journalers are asked specific questions about their feelings of grief as they relate to the ten essential touchstones and are provided with writing space for their reflections.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781879651395
Publisher: Companion Press
Publication date: 04/01/2004
Series: Understanding Your Grief Series
Pages: 112
Sales rank: 98,559
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.04(h) x 0.39(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Understanding Your Grief Journal

Exploring the Ten Essential Touchstones


By Alan D. Wolfelt

Center for Loss and Life Transition

Copyright © 2004 Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-879651-39-5



CHAPTER 1

Tonchstone One


Open to the Presence of Your Loss


In this chapter in the companion text ...


We discussed the necessity of opening to the presence of your loss. To heal in grief, you must honor — not avoid — the pain. One way to embrace the pain while at the same time maintaining hope for the future is by setting your intention to heal. Even as you embrace your pain and set your intention to heal, remember that healing in grief does not happen quickly or efficiently. Also remember that the common perception of "doing well" in grief is erroneous. To "do well" with your grief, you must not be strong and silent, but rather mourn openly and honestly.


As you were reading Understanding Your Grief, you discovered that honoring your grief means, in part, "remembering the value of, cherishing, and holding dear."


Describe any ways in which you have honored your grief. If you feel you have not been honoring your grief, write about ways you could begin to do so.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Setting Your Intention to Heal


The pain of your grief will keep trying to get your attention until you have the courage to gently, and in small doses, embrace it. How is the pain of your grief trying to get your attention?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


When you set your intention to heal, you make a true commitment to positively influence the course of your journey. You choose between being what I would call a "passive witness" to your grief or an "active participant" in your grief.


Describe below your understanding of the difference between being a "passive witness" to your grief or an "active participant" in your grief:

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


You learned that when you set your intention to heal, you make a true commitment to positively influence the course of your journey. Use the space below to explore your intention or intentions to heal in grief.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Making Grief Your Friend


"I can continue to love while I continue to mourn." Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


No Reward for Speed


Reconciling your grief does not happen quickly or efficiently. How do you feel about your capacity to go slow and be patient with yourself in your journey through grief?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


"Doing Well" With Your Grief


Sometimes people who are openly mourning feel ashamed of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Do you feel any sense of shame or embarrassment about how your grief feels or how you are mourning? If so, write about it below.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Grief Is Not A Disease


While grief is a powerful experience, so, too, is your ability to help in your own healing. Write about any steps you've taken (even baby steps!) to help yourself begin to heal.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Free Write

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________

CHAPTER 2

Tonchstone Two


Dispel the Misconceptions About Grief


In this chapter in the companion text ...


We discovered that many of the perceptions we may have had — and society often teaches us — about grief and mourning aren't true at all. For example, grief does NOT progress in predictable, orderly stages. And tears aren't a sign of weakness; actually, they're a form of mourning and they are natural and necessary. Many misconceptions color our expectations about grief. The trick is to sort out the fact from the fiction and grieve and mourn in healthy, authentic ways.


Misconception 1: Grief and mouning are the same thing.


Did you used to think that grief and mourning were the same thing? If so, how has this misconception affected you?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Now that we've explored the difference between grief and mourning, how will you mourn this death — that is, openly and honestly express your grief outside of yourself?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Do you see yourself having difficulty with expressing your grief outside of yourself (mourning) in any ways? If so, what ways?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Misconception 2: Grief and mouning progress in predictable, orderly stages.


Have you heard about the "stages of grief'? If so, what is or was your feeling about this popular grief model?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Now that you've learned that "stages" in grief aren't orderly and predictable, how do you believe you will move forward in your own unique journey through grief?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Grief is often a one step forward, two steps back process. How could you help yourself during those inevitable times when you think you're moving backwards instead of forward?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Misconception 3 : You should move away from grief, no toward it.


Have you felt pressured to "overcome" your grief instead of experiencing it? If so, how and why have you been pressured?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


What does it mean to you to move toward your pain?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


How could you respond to friends, family, coworkers, etc. who encourage you (either outright or implicitly) to move away from your grief?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Misconception 4: Tears of grief are only a sign of weakness.


Have you cried since the death? If so, in what circumstances and how often? If not, why not?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Do others around you make you feel a sense of shame or weakness about crying? If so, who and why?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Do you yourself feel a sense of shame or weakness about crying? If so, what can you do to help yourself understand that tears are a normal, even necessary, form of mourning?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Misconception 5: Being "upset" and openly mourning means you are being "weak" in your faith.


Are you a person of faith? Do you believe in God or a power greater than yourself? Whether your answer is yes or no, write about your personal beliefs.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Do you think you are being weak in your faith if you are struggling with this death? Or has anyone else made you feel this way? Write about your understanding of the relationship between healthy mourning and having faith.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Misconception 6: When someone you love dies, you only grieve and moum for the physical loss of the person.


Since the death, you may have realized that there are many things you have lost besides the company of the person who died. List the secondary losses you are experiencing as a result of the death.

_________________ _____________________ ____________________ _________________ _____________________ ____________________ _________________ _____________________ ____________________

From the above list, choose one or two of your most hurtful or significant secondary losses and write about them here.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Misconception 7: You should try not to think about the person who died on holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays.


Since the death, have you encountered a holiday, anniversary date, or birthday that was connected to the person who died? Describe what you did on this day and how you felt.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


On this day, did you try to avoid thinking about the person who died or did you try to honor your grief and the memory of the person who died? Write about your choice and how it turned out for you.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


What is the next upcoming holiday, anniversary, or birthday connected to the person who died? How could you commemorate the life of the person who died on this day?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Misconception 8: After someone you love dies, the goal be to "get over" you grief as soon as possible.


Are you hoping to "get over" your grief? If so, why? If not, why not?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Has anyone else told you or made you feel that you need to "get over" your grief? If so, who and in what circumstances? How did this make you feel?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


How do you feel about the reality that you do not get over your grief but rather learn to reconcile yourself to it?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Misconception 9: Nobody can help you with your grief.


Are you normally an independent person who does everything for him/herself or are you an interdependent person who relies on others for help with some things? Explain.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


In order to heal, you will need to reach out to others to help you with your grief. Do you believe this to be true? Why or why not?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


List at least three people who would be naturally good companions for you on your journey through the wilderness of your grief.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Misconception 10: When grief and mourning are finally reconciled, they never come up again.


This misconception is a close cousin to Misconception 8, which says that your goal should be to "get over" your grief as soon as possible. Grief doesn't end, but it does erupt less frequently. Have you had any recent "eruptions" you could write about?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Do you have any "grief role models" in your life — people who mourned openly and honestly after a death and went on to reconcile their grief and continue to live a life of meaning and joy? If so, who? How does this person (or these people) continue to acknowledge and honor his or her grief in the years and decades after the death?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Use the space below to write out any additional misconceptions you have experienced or observed and the ways in which they have thus far influenced your grief journey.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Free Write

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________

CHAPTER 3

Touchstone Three


Embrace the Uniqueness of Your Grief


In this chapter in the companion text ...


We developed an understanding that each person's grief is unique and that grief and mourning can never be strictly compared. We also explored all the many reasons that your grief is your grief — why it is unique to you and unlike anyone else's.


Why #1: Your relationship with the person who died


If someone asked you to describe your relationship with the person who died, what would immediately come to your head and your heart?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


How attached were you to this person?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Describe how you acted and felt in one another's company.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Can you remember a time when you felt very close to this person? Please describe it here.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Were there times when it was difficult to get along with this person? If so, give some examples of those times. If not, write about why you think you got along so well.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


What did the person who died look like?

Approximate height ______ Approximate weight______ Hair color_______________ Eye color_______________


Other distinguishing characteristics:

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Write about two special memories you will always have of your relationship with the person who died.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Why #2: the circumstances of the death


Describe the circumstances of the death.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


How did you learn about the death?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Was the death something you expected to happen or was it sudden and unexpected? How does the answer to this question affect your grief?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


How old was the person who died? __________ Is the person's age affecting your grief? If so, how?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


What questions, if any, do you still have about how or why the person died?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Is there someone you could talk to who could help work these questions out?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


What other thoughts and feelings come to mind when you think about how this person died?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Why #3: The ritual or funeral experience

Did you plan and/or attend a funeral for the person who died? If so, describe what this experience was like for you.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


If you were not able to be a part of the funeral, how do you feel about that?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Do you think it would be helpful for you to create an additional ritual to help you and others heal? What ideas do you have for creating a ceremony?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


In what ways can you continue to use ceremony to remember other special times, such as the birthday of the person who died or the anniversary of the death?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Why #4: The people in your life


Do you have people in your life (friends and family) whom you can turn to for help and support? Who? List them.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


What qualities do these people have that make them able to "walk with" you in your grief?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Are there people in your life you could turn to for support but for some reason you don't feel you can? If so, who and why?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Are you willing to accept support from friends and family? If not, why not?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Sometimes well-meaning friends and family will hurt you unknowingly with their words. They may tell you:

• "I know how you feel." (They don't.)

• "Get on with your life." (You're not ready to.)

• "Keep your chin up." (You have every right to be sad.)

• "Time heals all wounds." (Time helps, but it alone doesn't heal.)

• "He/she wouldn't want you to be sad." (Maybe not, but he/she would also understand why you are!)

Have you had anyone say things like this to you? If so, write out an example and describe how it made you feel.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________



What are some things that people have said or done that have been helpful to you?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Do you have friends at work, at your place of worship, and/or at an organization you are a part of who are supportive of your grief? Who are these people and how can you continue to reach out to them?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Are you attending a support group as you work through this journal and companion text? If so, can you describe how this group experience is going for you so far?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Are you seeing a counselor who is helping you work through this journal and companion text? If so, what has the counseling experience been like for you so far?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Why# 5: Your unique personality


What are some adjectives you would use to describe yourself?

____________________________ _________________________________ ____________________________ _________________________________ ____________________________ _________________________________


How do you think your unique personality is influencing your grief and mourning?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


How have you responded to other life losses or crises in your life?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Are you responding in a similar way now, or does this loss feel different? Explain.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Do you think your personality has changed as a result of this death? If so, how? If not, why not?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


How is your self-esteem right now?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Do you think this death has impacted how you feel about yourself? If so, how?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Why #6: The unique personality of the person who died


Check off the following personality traits that seem to describe the person who died.


__ accepting __ active __adventuresome

__ aggressive __ annoying __ anxious

__ argumentative __ artistic __ big-hearted

__ calm __ caring __ charming

__ clever __ cold __compassionate

__ competitive __ conceited __ confident

__ controlling __cooperative __ courageous

__ creative __ critical __ demanding

__ dependable __ detached __ direct

__ dramatic __ dynamic__ emotional

__ energetic __enthusiastic __ fair

__ forgetful __ friendly __ funny

__ good-natured __ graceful __ honest

__hyperactive __imaginative __independent

__ inflexible __ influential __ insecure

__ interesting __ inventive __ irritable

__ jealous __ logical __ loud

__ moody __ nervous __ nurturing

__ opinionated __ outgoing __overprotective

__overwhelming __ perfectionistic __ persuasive

__ playful __ protective __ punctual

__ quick to anger __ rebellious __ resourceful

__ rude __ romantic __ scatterbrained

__ self-centered __ sensitive __ shy

__ sincere __ smart __ spiritual

__ spontaneous __ stubborn __ temperamental

__ tireless __ troubled __ trustworthy

__ two-faced __ warm __ wise

__ witty __ wonderful __ worried


Now, in your own words, describe the personality of the person who died.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Place a photo of the person who died here, one that you think expresses his or her unique personality.

* * *


What roles did this person play in your life? (For example, husband, best friend, advisor, lover, anchor, etc.)

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


How did this person's unique personality affect the roles he or she played in your life?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


What personality traits of this person did you enjoy the most?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Give an example of a time when these personality traits really shone through in this person.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


What personality traits of this person's did you least enjoy?


________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________

Give an example of a time when these negative traits were apparent to you.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


If you were asked to list the three personality traits you admired the most in this person, what would those be? (You might want to review the checklist on p. 51.)

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Why #7: Your gender


Do you think that being a man or a woman affects your grief? If so, how? If not, why not?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Has your gender influenced how people support you in your grief? If so, how?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


In grief, do you see any advantages or disadvantages to being the gender you are?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Why #8: Your cultural background


What is your cultural background?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


How does this background influence your grief and mourning?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


If you were asked to articulate them, what would you say some of your family's "rules" were about coping with loss and grief? In what ways did you see these rules carried out?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


How do you feel about these rules and their helpfulness to you (or unhelpfulness to you) in grief?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Why #9: Your religious or spiritual background


Did you grow up with certain religious or spiritual teachings? Please describe them.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Have your religious or spiritual beliefs changed over time? If so, describe how they have changed.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


How has this death affected your belief system? Be specific.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Do you have people around you who understand and support you in your belief system? If so, who are these people and how can they help you now?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Do you think that your faith, religion or spiritual background is playing a part in your healing process? Please explain.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Why #10: Other crises or stresses in your life night now


What other losses have come about in your life either as a result of the death or coincidentally during the same time frame?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


How do you see these other losses influencing your grief?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


What other stresses or crises are a part of your life right now?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


How are they affecting your grief?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Whom can you turn to right now to help you cope with these secondary losses or stresses?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Why #11: Your experience with loss and death in the past


Have you had other significant death losses in your life? If so, please describe them.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Compared to these previous grief journeys, how does this grief journey feel for you and why?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Have you experienced any significant non-death losses in your life, such as divorce, job loss, etc? If so, write them down and consider how they might now be affecting your grief.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Why #12: Your physical health


You'll be writing more about this on p. 110 of this journal. For now, take a moment to write about how you are feeling physically right now.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Other Whys


Are there other factors, large or small, that are influencing your grief right now? If so, write about them here.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Free Write

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________

CHAPTER 4

Touchstone Four

Explore Your Feelings of Loss


In this chapter in the companion text ...


We agreed that as strange as your emotions may seem, they are a true expression of where you are right now in your journey through grief. We emphasized that whatever your grief thoughts and feelings are, they are normal and necessary. Feelings aren't right or wrong, they just are. Naming the feelings and acknowledging them are the first steps to dealing with them. It's actually the process of becoming friendly with your feelings that will help you heal.


Shock, Numbness, Denial, and Disbelief


Before exploring some of your possible responses to the death of your special person, please take a moment to write out a few words that describe how you are feeling right now. In the space below, complete the following statement:

Right now, I'm feeling ...

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Understanding Your Grief Journal by Alan D. Wolfelt. Copyright © 2004 Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission of Center for Loss and Life Transition.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Also by Alan Wolfelt,
Title Page,
Copyright Page,
Introduction,
Dedication,
Getting Started - An Invitation to Open Your Heart,
Tonchstone One - Open to the Presence of Your Loss,
Tonchstone Two - Dispel the Misconceptions About Grief,
Touchstone Three - Embrace the Uniqueness of Your Grief,
Touchstone Four - Explore Your Feelings of Loss,
Touchstone Five - Recognize You Are Not Crazy,
Touchstone Six - Understand the Six Needs of Mourning,
Touchstone Seven - Nurture Yourself,
Touchstone Eight - Reach Out for Help,
Touchstone Nine - Seek Reconciliation, Not Resolution,
Touchstone Ten - Appreciate Your Transformation,
Continning Your Journey,
Understanding Your Grief - Ten Essential Touchstones for Finding Hope and Healing Your Heart,
The Understanding Your Grief Support Group Guide - Starting and Leading a Bereavement Support Group,

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Understanding Your Grief Journal 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am in a class for understanding grief znd since we are using the book I decided to get the journal also.It gives you many things to ponder over and I believe it is very helpful.I plan on going back over it in a few months and see where I am at that time.One thing that I learned was rhat we all grieve at different levels and I am not crazy.I am using the information I received to work every day and it has and will help me to get over the passing of my loved one.
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