Here’s how journaling can help with surviving divorce, who journaling is NOT helpful for (based on recent research), and questions to help you journal more effectively.
“I found journaling cathartic after a terrible breakup,” writes Rachel Sussman in The Breakup Bible: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Healing from a Breakup or Divorce. “I suggest you buy a notebook or journal and write in it daily. You can write absolutely anything you feel like. Let your thoughts spill onto the blank page.”
A classic leather notebook is a soft, pretty journal or notebook to write in. Below, I share reasons why journaling helps with the feelings of heaviness and sadness that feel overwhelming after a breakup. Writing is a way of processing your grief, thoughts, and emotions – and it not only helps with surviving divorce, journaling can also help you learn how to take care of yourself after a divorce.
Journaling for Recovering and Surviving Divorce
These suggestions for journaling for the specific purpose of surviving divorce are inspired by my research on my next ebook: Blossoming After a Break Up – 28 Days to Refresh Your Spirit and Reclaim Your Confidence. If you’re interested in learning more about this ebook, let me know in the comments section below.
Here’s how journaling can help with surviving divorce, who journaling is NOT helpful for (based on recent research), and 10 questions to help you journal more effectively.
Why is journaling helpful?
I write in my journal almost every morning, from 4:30 to 5:30 am. I combine it with my devotion and prayer time; I actually write directly to God. It’s incredible what a difference it makes, especially in my focus and attention.
I’ve found that writing in my journal helps me stay focused on what I want to pray about or work through. I go around in circles if I simply think about my problem or issue, such as what I’m doing with my Blossom blogs. And if I’m praying, there is no way I can focus on my prayer unless I write about it! When I think about problems – or even prayers – my mind wanders. I think about all the stuff I want to get done today; sometimes I even think of all the mistakes I made yesterday. Or 10 years ago.
Writing helps me stay mindful. It ensures that I complete my thoughts and work through the problems or prayers I want to attend to. I prefer journaling in a notebook, but many people have online diaries – or they just use Word or the equivalent.
Journaling shows how far you’ve come
I love this reason for journaling to survive divorce: “After each writing session rate your mood on a scale from one to ten (one being extremely depressed and ten being your personal best),” writes Sussman in The Breakup Bible. “When we note our moods and progression through journaling, we can track our evolution more objectively As the months pass you can literally see where you have been and where you are going.”
One of her clients (Sussman is a licensed psychotherapist) said journaling helped with surviving divorce because it was a conversation with herself. Through journaling, she realized that the breakdown of her marriage wasn’t her fault.
Journaling is free form writing about whatever you think and feel. It’s especially helpful if you’re dealing with depression after the break up. Eventually, you will stop writing about the breakup. You will stop focusing on surviving divorce. Instead, you will start focusing on YOU. What do you want to do, see, feel, and hear? Who do you want to be? Where do you want to go?
When journaling doesn’t help with surviving divorce
Not all women will benefit from writing in a journal as a method of healing the pain of divorce.
In Does Journal Writing Help You Heal From Divorce? Not Necessarily, I share research that found that expressive writing of any kind can actually hinder emotional recovery for some people. For them, non-expressive or control writing might actually be a more effective form of surviving divorce.
Journaling one’s feelings was especially ineffective for people who are “high ruminators.” I’m one of those women – I tend to brood over situations, behaviors, regrets, words. High ruminators dwell on the circumstances of their separation or divorce, and journal to search for answers.
If you tend to think and obsess a lot, then journaling as a method of surviving divorce won’t be helpful. It may actually backfire, and cause you to keep ruminating about what happened and why it happened. Ruminators need to get out of their heads and start thinking about how they’re going to put their lives back together.
One woman’s experience of journaling after divorce
Here’s what one of my readers said about journaling: “As I began the process of dealing with my divorce, I tried expressive journaling for a while. Whenever an incident came up between me and my ex, I would write about it. But then I would end up vibrating with anger. I found that I was thinking about the interaction way more than it deserved. And it wasn’t helping me to understand it better. So I took a different approach.”
Instead of journaling about her feelings, she wrote about the thing that made her angry in a neutral way. She pretended I was writing about the situation for a judge or lawyer – someone who would only be concerned about the facts. “That, more than anything, helped me to work out my feelings, detach, and excise blame from the experience. As a result, I’m less emotionally involved with my ex.”
So, what you journal about can help with surviving divorce…or keep you stuck in the toxic emotions.
Questions for Journaling
These questions will help you focus on rebuilding your life and reclaiming your courage. You can journal about your feelings about the divorce and your ex, but take time to write about these issues as well…
In your journal, answer one or two questions a day. Allow your mind to take you wherever it wants to go. Just write, write, write…
- What am I afraid of?
- What are the greatest adjustments and challenges I’ve faced so far in my life?
- What are the biggest relationship problems I’m facing right now?
- What are the biggest problems I’m facing because of the divorce?
- What has surprised me the most about surviving divorce?
- What is my biggest obstacle to healing? What can I do to get past this obstacle?
- How will I know I am getting better?
- How have my priorities changed because of this divorce?
- What new strengths have I discovered in myself as I have faced my loss?
- What new realities has this divorce forced me to see?
- What strengths have I discovered as a result of the divorce?
You may find that you have more strengths, resources, and strategies for surviving divorce than you realize. That’s what journaling is supposed to do: help you grow and flourish by creating insight and clarity.
Questions aren’t the only way to dig up those insights and inspirations. These “thoughts to finish” are from Sussman’s Breakup Bible.
Thoughts to finish in your journal:
- I’m looking forward to…
- I want to hold on to…
- I want to let go of…
- My new purpose in life is…
- I have a dream to…
Beyond surviving divorce, journaling can be an awesome way to blossom in your life! It’s time to rebuild and reclaim, refresh and renew.
A question for you
What has your experience been with journaling – and do you think it can help you survive a divorce?
Feel free to share below. While I can’t offer advice, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your experience of journaling as a method of surviving divorce. Writing often brings clarity and insight, and can help you process your feelings.
For more tips on surviving divorce, read How to Cope With Divorce.