How to write through grief, loss, anxiety all while writing about the happiness in our lives

close up photo of notebook with pen
Photo by Alina Vilchenko on

I started this blog shortly after my husband passed.  The intent was to tell my story of how I and my children live with grief.  Lately, it has been a struggle that has resulted in my absence from the I’m That Mom blog.  I would start to write but seeing how much my kids and I were struggling I thought, “who wants to see this?” Or “How in the world can I help anyone!  Look at me – I’m drowning!” it felt like duct tape wouldn’t even help hold me together. 

How could I help anyone else going through what I am going through?  I had returned to the early days of losing my husband.  I didn’t want to get out of bed, didn’t want to eat, my kids and I just lumped on the couch in the living room.  I can’t clean (literally I am pretty close to being a candidate on Hoarders).  My living room is a disaster, my bedroom looks like it has been turned upside down and inside out, and don’t get me started on my bathroom, laundry room, or kitchen.   My kids’ bedrooms look the same.  I hate that I feel like this still because I know it flows down to them.  I simply can’t move once I get home.  It’s not that I don’t want to because I do – I want to clean everything up.  But when I start it’s like a switch is flipped off and I can’t move.  I can’t think.  There are just piles upon piles of crap I have and I don’t know why. 

Someone told me, “Just do a little at a time” so I tried that.  It worked for a short time but I stopped.  I do not know what stops me.  Is it physiological?  Is it just laziness?  When I get home after picking my kids up from childcare my only thought is, “how long until I can go to bed?”  and then when I go to bed I can’t sleep.  I just lay there. 

I read the book Grief Observed by C.S Lewis.  Mr. Lewis wrote this book as a way to cope with the loss of his wife.    It is, in my opinion, a true account of what someone goes through after the loss of the love of their life.  I kept talking about how I have lost interest in keeping the house tidy and I don’t know why.  Until I read this paragraph in C.S. Lewis’s book,

“no one ever told me about the laziness of grief.  Except at my job – where the machine seems to run on much as usual – I loathe the slightest effort. Not only writing but even reading a letter is too much.  Even shaving.  What does it matter now whether my cheek is rough or smooth?  They say an unhappy man wants distractions – something to take him out of himself.  Only as a dog-tired man wants an extra blanket on a cold night; he’d rather lie there shivering than get up and find one.  It’s easy to see why the lonely become untidy; finally, dirty and disgusting.”

WOW!  That is exactly how I was feeling.  I immediately took a photo of that paragraph and texted my dad.  In the text I wrote, “I’m normal!”  Feeling normal is a big deal to someone going through grief.  I mean – HUGE!  When you discover that all the down days, crying, and lack of interest is what is expected when grieving – it is a game-changer. 

Having some education in psychology you would think I would recognize the apathy of grief.  It’s a laziness that comes over someone mourning.  The mourner just doesn’t care or has lost interest, no motivation, or much care.  There is literally no energy that can be generated to motivate a person to move.  It is the worst feeling to have and the feeling just hangs on. 

Nothing prepares you for the days that seem too much to bear.  I have scanned through Pinterest looking for ideas as to “what to do when grieving” or “how to handle grief waves” and I think I have read them all.  Nothing prepares you for the emptiness that is always there.  Nothing prepares you for the jealousy that comes over you when you see couples or families laughing, smiling, and simply living their life.

Nothing prepares you for any of this.  All you can think when these thoughts go across your mind is “this was not how life was supposed to be.”

My outlet lately is journaling.  I have found that I look forward to the time I have alone with my journal and pen.  Being a single parent of two little ones under the age of 10 I don’t get a lot of alone time.  If I do get the time it is usually late at night, with a dim light on, my Eric bears close by and complete silence.  Except of course for all the random thoughts going on in my head. 

When I am asked, “how do you deal with your grief?”  Well, my first thought is to ask, “you, think I’m dealing?” (Insert speech “I want to thank the academy for this award for best leading actress in the role of grieving widow acting like life is A-OK).  

My real answer – I crochet.  Keeping my hands busy with counting stitches and reading patterns is a good distraction.  I do beadwork for the same reason as crocheting.  I read my bible and whatever other books catch my attention.  Then there is writing.  Not only writing this blog but journaling.

Writing in a journal can help you mentally and spiritually.  If you struggle with anxiety, depression, or like me grieving; journaling can be beneficial in so many ways.  Journaling is a great coping tool and a healthy way to express yourself, manage anxiety, reduce stress, and help ease depression.

There are a lot of blogs and other sites that list the benefits of journaling.  But, for journaling to work, you have to write.  

Journaling helps to:

  • Improve your mood
  • Prioritize concerns, challenges, and fears
  • Identifying and recognizing triggers so that you can get better control of them
  • Increase self-confidence

When life becomes overwhelming and your stress, anxiety or panic begins to increase writing in a journal becomes a tool to help you identify what could be the cause of your anxiety.  In turn, when you have identified the issue you can now work on how to resolve the issue and calm yourself. 

When journaling look at it as “your time” or “me time”.  This is a time to relax, listen to yourself, release what fears, worries, or feelings you have.  Remember journaling is for you and only you. 

I cannot remember if I ever really journaled. I may have written a few entries in a notebook here and there as a young girl but, I never consistently wrote in a journal or diary. At least I was consistent about being inconsistent.  Truth be known, I wanted to be writer. I wanted to be like the many movie characters I watched through the years as they would pour their heart and soul into their diaries. Characters like Gidget or the girls from Facts of Life I just did not know how to truly write. Little did I know that you simply write

As the years passed from my young girl days to my adulthood days I did journal more.

I recall running my fingers over the spins of the many diaries and journals I would see in book stores thinking one day I would be able to fill a book.  Even as I got older I still didn’t write enough to fill a diary.  I have come across some of my diaries and find that I would write a few entries and then it would be months until the next entry. 

My entries consisted of broken hearts, traveling dreams, and future plans. The only issue I had was that I would start writing in one journal then I would forget where I placed it. I was replacing journals left and right. This started my obsessions’ with journals. What I have learned about writing in a journal now and to make sure you are consistent in your writing – make sure you have a journal you enjoy writing in.  I love the vintage-looking journals that have leather covers with the leather straps that wrap around the entire journal. The journal I am currently writing in has pages with golden leaf edges – I love the feel of the pages and how smoothly my pen glides over the page as I write. I also enjoy the journals with handmade paper that have the small pulps of color throughout. What followed after my journal obsessions’ was my addiction to pens. I believe a woman can never have too many shoes, bags, nor too many pens. I have collected cheap pens from Staples, Wal-Mart and Target, colored gel pens, glitter pens, neon pens, refillable pens, pens with Swarovski crystals in it; you name it I might have it.


Usually, the first response I get from others when I say I journal is, “oh, I would have no idea what to write or where to begin”.  Well, start there then.  On the very first page write, “I don’t know what to write……” and just let the pen flow, or let your fingers go crazy across the keyboard.  Don’t think, you don’t have to follow any rules.  If you forget to put a period here or a comma there – that’s okay!  If you misspell a word – oh well!  Don’t get all worked up in following any rules because there aren’t any rules you have to follow. As I mentioned before journaling is for you and you alone. 

There are so many resources out there that it is nearly impossible to make an excuse to keep you from journaling. 

You say, “I don’t know what to write about”.  Well, there are many sites that can be found with journaling prompts.  Not only are the prompts general topics to write about you can find specific prompts for self-discovery, anxiety, worries, finding your passion, letting go (I’m sure we all could benefit from this one – I know I could), depression, prayer, gratitude, and the list goes on. 

To make it even easier there are prompt journals available! Prompt journals can be found for just about anything you want to write about. Grief, personal growth, memories – there at no limits!

So on to the next excuse.

You say, “I don’t like to write”.  Well, you do not have to commit an entire day to write.  You can start by writing for 5 minutes. Write about your day, the funny thing your kids said (my kids are always saying crazy off the wall stuff) write about the dream you had.  Most artists get their best ideas from their dreams – look at Stephen King!

I would state the next excuse but let’s face it.  For every excuse, there is a resource out there to overcome it. 

Writing is not the only way to journal.  There are many variations of journaling.  Like, art journaling, bible journaling, writing poetry, even doodling. 

My daughter had sketched or drawn since the moment she could hold a pen.  I had to make sure that when we went somewhere I always had a pen and paper with me.  As she grew I had to have a pen and sketch pad.  Now, I have a pen and journal for writing and she carries her tablet for drawing.   

When my husband passed that evening my daughter threw herself into drawing.  This was her outlet.  She would fill the pages of sketch pads faster than I could buy them.  I could tell how she was feeling by what she drew.  If the people in her drawings has faces she was in a good mood.  If they didn’t then it was a down day for her.  Watching her draw encouraged me to learn to doodle (drawing is not my thing but I can make a mean flower). 


The most profound fact that I discovered about journaling was the many benefits there are. Journaling can help reduce anxiety, help with processing major life events, remember the great times and get out the not so great times. Journaling is good medicine and there are so many ways and forms of journaling.

I am a storyteller and the way I would write my real stories (with creative license) was to write my experiences down such as my travels to China and the Middle East and most importantly the day I became a wife and a mother. I also did this with those that shared their stories with me – I have been blessed to collect so many stories from D-Day, eloping stories in the 1940’s, the Depression, boarding schools, first dates, and many more.

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