Journaling is an exceptional tool for self-discovery. It is something that anyone can do, at any point in their life. The process only requires that a person grab a notebook and a pen and write down their thoughts. No specific grammatical or spelling skills are necessary. The only person who has to see a journal is the person who writes in it.

There is perhaps no better time to start a journal than when a loved one is coping with a life-limiting illness and in hospice care. This is an excellent time to explore your thoughts, ramble on about feelings and even take advantage of an outlet that lets you “speak the unthinkable.” All of these things are possible without feeling like there are consequences involved.

How to Get Started

Journaling is easy to do anytime and anywhere. However, to get the most out of it, it helps to follow a few tips. 

Steps to Take

Try to find a quiet spot where you can give yourself time to think and process. It is difficult to really know that your written words are your own if there is too much noise or distraction in the room.

Focus on writing for at least 20-minutes per session. Do not worry too much about what you are writing. Simply give yourself at least that long to get enough down on paper.

Strive to journal for at least four consecutive days if possible. Then, make it a habit to pick up your pen regularly. A one-off page in your journal will not give you much context to go on when you are reading your thoughts and feelings later on. However, several consecutive days of words can.

Do not worry about spelling, grammar or making your words pretty. Remember, this journal is only for your own eyes. Trying to focus too much on getting all the words right or making each page look attractive and cohesive can take away from the thought process.

Be sure to go back and read your journal from time to time. Look for repeated phrases or thoughts. These are sometimes triggers. Recognizing them can help you to brainstorm solutions when necessary or better cope with your fears and anxiety.

A Few Words of Guidance

While journaling is a very effective tool, there are some words of guidance that can help you to get the most out of the process.

If your loved one was recently diagnosed with a terminal illness, give yourself a little time to process before starting your journal. When feelings are too fresh, seeing the raw emotions on paper can trigger depression, anxiety or other mental health challenges.

Writing in a Journal to Cope

When coping with your loved one’s situation is especially challenging, view journaling as one mechanism in your overall coping strategy. Consult with counselors, spiritual advisers or therapists in conjunction with journaling. Salus Homecare Orange County offers many of these services to families through our hospice program. Having more than one tool in your bag makes coping and processing easier. It also helps you to maintain a more positive relationship with your loved one.

Try not to get too mixed up in the negative with journaling. Avoid using it only as a mechanism for venting. Instead, look for purpose and meaning behind your thoughts. Use journaling to transform the negative into a positive whenever possible.

Explore solutions through journaling. As part of your writing, include ideas about strategies that can help you to cope with the things going on in your life right now. Brainstorm these ideas with your counselors, spiritual advisers or other loved ones. Remember, it is not necessary to share your journal to do this. Simply use it as a tool to prepare you for starting important conversations.

If your loved one is coping with a life-limiting illness, it is important to realize they are not the only one facing challenges. Contemplating the future and learning how to cope with the current situation is often difficult for family members too. If you find yourself in this situation, give journaling a try. This is an easy way to express your feelings, review your thoughts and learn to process as a loved one nears the end of life.