Healing Through Journaling
Updated: Dec 9, 2021
Nora and Hazel both went through painful divorces around the same time. They had been married for a similar length of time and had their marriages dissolve for the exact same reason—their spouse’s infidelity.
But three years later, their lives look very different. Nora is a health and wellness coach, a job she feels passionate about. She volunteers regularly by teaching yoga to students three times a week. She has a wide circle of friends and a community she can reach out to during her bad days. She’s even dipped her toe back into the world of dating again by setting up a profile on a dating site.
Hazel is working a job she hates as a medical receptionist. Like many people, she lost the vast majority of her friends during the divorce. But she didn’t begin building a new social circle, so she only has the occasional friend from college who calls to check up on her. She doesn’t leave her house except for work and to do errands like grocery shopping. She’s still bitter about the divorce and to hear her talk, someone would think it had just happened.
Why is it that Nora rebuilt her life after the trauma of a painful divorce while Hazel is stuck living a life she hates and reliving her heartache day after day?
The truth is that Nora chose healing. She recognized that her heart was broken and began taking steps to recover from her pain. One key component to her healing journey was taking the time to start a journaling routine. Regularly journaling allowed Nora to relieve stress, help her cope with the new changes in her life, and remember who she was. Like Nora, you might be interested in journaling and how it can be used as a tool on your healing journey…
What Types of Emotional Wounds Is Journaling Good For?
Journaling can be useful for any type of wound including a breakup, being the victim of a crime, losing a loved one, or experiencing a natural disaster. It can also be a useful tool for exploring past trauma that continues to impact your present. For example, Shannon had been abused as a child. She thought it wasn’t affecting her daily life until her teenage daughter pointed out that Shannon always dated abusive and emotionally distant men. Using a guided journal, she was able to deal with her feelings of shame and unworthiness. Now she’s in a healthy relationship with a man who treats her well.
How Does Journaling Heal You?
The first and most powerful benefit of journaling is that it allows you to release your feelings around a situation or a person. This then frees you to look at things objectively and consider how you want to react.
For example, Jane’s boss was emotionally abusive toward his employees. He would often scream and berate her and others in front of clients. This situation made for a toxic work environment, but Jane had a special needs child so changing jobs wasn’t an option.
Jane used her journal to help her process her anger towards her boss as well as the resulting stress it caused in her life. Once she’d dealt with her emotions, she was able to brainstorm solutions that allowed her to manage her boss without letting him ruin her whole day.
Another benefit of journaling is that it gives you the space to see things you may have overlooked previously. Maybe you’ve always berated yourself for your bad marriage but when you start journaling, you realize your spouse has consistently cheated on you for years. This new insight can be the inspiration you need to let go of your painful marriage.
Finally, journaling allows you to see if your thoughts around an event are true. Even though Patty didn’t realize it, she always blamed herself for being sexually assaulted at a party she’d attended in college.
It wasn’t until her therapist encouraged her to create a journal entry from that night that Patty saw the events clearly. For the first time in her life, Patty put the blame where it rightfully belonged—on her abuser.
Why Do Some People Choose to Heal through Journaling?
There are a variety of reasons that someone might choose journaling as a healing method. They might be unable to attend therapy as this was the case for Lily. Her health insurance didn’t cover the costs and she wasn’t able to find a local therapist who offered sliding scale payments. Others might choose journaling because they feel past experiences with therapy haven’t been helpful. This could be due to not connecting with the counselor or therapist or even an inability to attend sessions regularly.
For some people, journaling isn’t a replacement for therapy at all. Instead, it’s another tool in their arsenal. In these cases, you might choose to share your journal with your therapist or counselor. This certainly isn’t required but it might be helpful and lead to new insights.
You might also choose to use journaling as a healing method if you don’t enjoy support groups. While some people find them incredibly therapeutic and helpful, others find their pain only intensifies the more they talk about it.
Finally, journaling can be a personal choice. You might simply want the time and space to process your emotions alone. There’s nothing wrong with this approach and it can be very empowering to realize you have everything you need to heal already within you.
What Are Other Benefits of Journaling?
Besides helping you heal and reliving stress, journaling can be useful for many things. It can help you stop ruminating on an event so that it’s not always with you. Instead, you feel as if you can “set it down” within your journal. When you’re ready to deal with the event again, you can pick up your journal. In this way, the trauma feels contained and manageable.
You might also like to use a journal to work through anxiety and create a plan of action following a trauma. That’s what Evelyn did with hers. After being traumatized because her home had been burglarized, she started a journal. Within the journal, she began keeping a list of things she could do to make herself feel safer such as buying a security system and replacing old, worn-out locks.
What If I Need More Support?
Many people use a journal as part of an overall healing strategy. It’s one tool among many others. These additional tools may include attending therapy appointments, taking daily medication, joining a support group, or talking through the situation with a supportive friend.
What’s important to keep in mind is that there’s no wrong or right way to heal from a traumatic situation. What works for your friend may not work that well for you. Expect to experiment as you work to find the right mix of tools that are best for you.
Regardless of the trauma you’ve gone through, remember to be kind to yourself. Healing is hard work, and you deserve all the support. You are brave and strong. As tough as this season of your life is, you can and will get through it.