Journalling for happiness and sorrow – for life

Photo of a brown leather journal with a sprig of herbs tucked into its leather tie on a hessian cloth with a pencil to the left and a sprig of herbs to the right.

Until the age of 32 I had never heard the verb ‘to grieve’ – it had passed me by. But one day, years ago, I had taken my baby to see a doctor about her pneumonia. As I got up to go, the consultaiton complete, the doctor looked at me and said ‘Are you grieving?’ I took a double take: the word did not compute. Anyway, I hadn’t come here about myself, I’d come for the baby. I looked at her quizzically and she repeated ‘Are you grieving; you look as though you are grieving?’

I was taken aback. No one had ever asked me that. In fact, I myself, had never even considered it. But indeed, I had been going through a great loss, that had thrown my world into chaos and, yes, I was hurting and grieving for something that had been precious and was now lost, gone forever.

Over the past 15 months of the pandemic, is there anyone who has not borne some sort of loss or sorrow – a friend who has died, exam results that were grossly unfair, a sickness, changes that have left us bewildered, a job gone, security thrown to the winds, separation and loneliness. Of course, there have been joys – peaceful, empty roads, happy times getting to meet up outside, meals shared, walks – life goes on, whatever is happening around us, however much death, loss, violence and confusion there may be.

“A very simple, safe, practical way to face grief and loss and to maximise joy.”

Journalling is a very simple, safe, practical way to face grief and loss and to maximise joy. It is a tool particularly valuable for teachers because if children are carrying the inner confusion of unseen, unresolved feelings, these are likely to either erupt in anger, frustration, or implode in anxiety and depression. Many children returned to school joyfully. Heads speak of how children were bubbling over with excitement when first they got back after lockdown here in UK. Journalling offers a way to safely explore and express the negative ‘grief’ and enables us to sustain nd nurture the joy.

Take a journal, make it yours, no one else will ever look inside it; it’s a space just for you to be very honest with yourself. Give yourself 15 minutes. Oh yes, of course you are busy – but so much of our busyness is spent in anxiety, rushing, trying to fix others, preparing, filling every moment with busyness to the exclusion of any time for ourself, who we are inside, our thoughts, our feelings, our being.

So, take 15 minutes.

  • Write the date and now write down ten things you can appreciate or celebrate about yesterday.
  • Savour them, don’t let the busyness swamp them out.

Now note down one thing that troubled you and jot down the feelings and thoughts you have around it. When we acknowledge our feelings, give them a name, put them out on paper, they lose much of their power over us. And, when we balance grief or negativity with appreciation, we free ourselves form being overwhelmed by the negativity.

Journalling is a practice, like brushing your teeth. Do it at least once a day, more if you are able. Choose to give yourself time to come to understand the feelings and thoughts inside yourself that drive your experiences and actions. Journalling is liberating and it requires regular, ideally daily, practice.

I am in the process of moving. Over the past 22 years I had accumulated some 250 personal journals, most of which I have chosen to chuck away, but dipping into them, I get to see glimpses of an extraordinary journey of constant change in life, through griefs and joys, the journal always there as a very constant friend, helping to make sense of it all.

Cultures will respond to grief and joy differently. Here in the UK, many still feel uncomfortable about grief, not sure how to best respond. And nowadays there are experts who can help with it, counsellors, organisations such as Partnership for Children, therapists. At V&V we are not experts but we are PR practitioners who have worked on the many-faceted forms of joy and sorrow now for over 30 years and we invite you to the DIY kit of tools that will help many a situation. One of the main tools is journalling in which the other tools can be practised on a daily basis.

It is the very nature of life that there is constant change, and where there is change there is the loss of the old and the need to adapt to the new. Depending on how we respond, we experience pain, sorrow, dis-ease or we experience growth, learning and a sense of fulfilment. We are never going to go back to the old normal. Life will continue to be filled with new challenges

V&V set out to explore, experiment and evidence the power of certain tools to equip teachers and young people for life, including what they need to navigate change, loss and grief safely. Virtually anyone can use these tools safely. Obviously, there will be cases, where expert therapeutic help will be needed. But for everyday life, the tool of journalling, which you will find in V&V, will stand you in good stead.

Resources for JOURNALLING

To try out a couple of our Journalling activities go to

To see the full list of Journalling activities we offer have a look at the contents page of our book here  

By Comments off May 28, 2021