Writing to ease grief and loss

journal writing to help grief and loss

Published: April, 2014

Some research suggests that disclosing deep emotions through writing can boost immune function as well as mood and well-being. Conversely, the stress of holding in strong feelings can ratchet up blood pressure and heart rate, and increase muscle tension.

Deeply troubling situations, such as suicide or a violent death, are best explored with the help of an experienced therapist. You might want to seek professional support to help you start to deal with your grief before trying journal writing. If you'd like to try keeping a journal to help you process feelings of grief, keep these things in mind:

  1. Although writing about grief and loss can trigger strong emotions — you may cry or feel deeply upset — many people find journal writing valuable and meaningful, and report feeling better afterward.
  2. Truly let go. Write down how you feel and why you feel that way. You're writing for yourself, not others. Don't worry about grammar or sentence structure.
  3. Try writing for 15 to 30 minutes a day for three to four days, or as long as a week if you feel writing continues to be helpful. You could also try writing for 15 to 30 minutes once a week for a month. One review of research on journal writing found that writing has stronger effects when it extends over more days.

For more on ways to process and deal with grief, buy Coping with Grief and Loss, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

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