DIY Grief Journal: Learn from my mistakes

Here are a few things I do well…

1. Remember the words to songs

2. Make children laugh

3. Forgive

4. Take photo’s

Here are a few things I do not do well…

1. Pay attention to detail

2. Finish things

3. Organize

4. Arts and crafts

I should carry this list everywhere I go to remind me of my short commings. I should pull this list out every time I find myself standing in front of the sliding glass doors of Michaels Arts and Crafts. I should ask the craft store workers to hang my picture next to the OSHA poster in their break room with the caption ‘do not sell this woman adhesives of any kind’. I should have my own feature on Pinstrosity.com.

I should not be allowed to attempt arts and crafts of any kind.

There are other things I’m horrible at, like cooking and baking, but I’ve accepted my limitations in these areas. It’s just crafting….when it comes to crafting….for some reason I just can’t stop trying. This is important context for the following post which was mean to be a “how-to” on making your own unique and personalized grief journal. Instead you will have to settle for a lesson ‘how-not-to’.

One note, please don’t let my short comings dissuade you from attempting this yourself. There are a thousand ways to create and customize your journal and many of these are easy to do given a minor amount of planning and patience. Also, provided you don’t have 3 and 5 year olds trying to Modge Podge your personal artifacts to their heads. In truth, if you stick with this post you’ll see, once I learned from my initial mistakes I ended up with something fairly decent.

Lesson 1: Plan ahead

A quick search on Google or Pinterest will bring you a mind boggling number of results on customizing and making journals. Any reasonable person would take the time to search the internet and come up with a vague blueprint for their creation. Only an impulsive person would head straight for Target and frantically pinball from aisle to aisle throwing notebooks and paperclips and scrapbooking supplies in their cart. Here are the supplies I ultimatley came home with…my husband was not thrilled.

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(NOT PICTURED: markers, file tabs, and scissors….and yes, that’s three different types of adhesives)

Lesson 2: Understand Your Supplies

I didn’t quite know what I needed so I bought everything that looked useful. I wasn’t even sure what a few of these things were. For example, I’d never used Modge Podge before, I just felt I understood it’s glue-like properties because one time I saw my college Modge Podge a chair.

I was wrong.

Minus another 10 points: I bought the glittery kind.

Here are the results of my adventures in Modge Podgeing…

journal 067

I’m not sure this accurately conveys what a mess this was…it was way worse.

Here’s another example, I probably shouldn’t have picked the ‘Sizzling Steakhouse’ edition of Baltimore Magazine for my magazine cutouts. I don’t find steak particularly inspiring, in fact I’m a vegetarian.

Lesson 3: Unless your children are old enough to work independently, resist the urge to make this a family affair.

I decided I didn’t want to use two of my four notebooks so I gave them to my daughters. This set off a flurry of excitement about decorating their own journals and ended in nerve grinding frustration when my hands were too covered in glue to help them when their fine motor skills failed.

That being said, this is a great activity to do with your child when you’re able to focus on helping them. Plan ahead and gather photos, words, and decorations that are meaningful to them. As your working, talk about the different items. Let them know the journal is their special place to draw pictures and write things down (if their old enough). Tell them you would love to see whats in their journal from time to time.

Here is a picture of the journal my daughter made (without my help)…

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Lesson 4: When all else fails, start over

In the end I had to start over, so I guess it’s good I bought all those supplies. Down to one last notebook I took a deep breath, walked away from the chaos, and made a plan.

This time I decided to accept my artistic limitations and focus on creating a journal that will help foster creative and thoughtful writing…isn’t that the point? Yeah yeah…I guess so.

Fortunately my remaining journal had a nice moleskin cover in my favorite color. I decided to leave the customization to a minimum, but sprinkle a few prompts throughout; this way when I can’t think of anything to journal about I can turn to a prompt. I marked the prompts with file tabs for easy access. Some of the prompts are related to emotion and grief…I was so mad when…a memory of my mother…write about the last thing that scared you..write about visiting a place where you feel close to mom…and some are more general…my favorite words…write a story about this picture.

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I would hardly call it a true DIY journal, because basically it’s not; but I have to say I’m pretty happy with my end result. I hope all you non crafters out there see making a journal personal is not so hard when you simplify the plan, and I hope all you crafty crafters out there find elaborate ways to put me to shame.

Bottom line I believe journaling is a great way to process and explore feelings and emotions and I encourage you to do it whether in a customized journal, an old notebook, or on a napkin.

Subscribe to ‘What’s Your Grief’ to follow my escapades in craft failures; or better yet, to receive helpful information and ideas about grief and grieving,

March 28, 2017

6 responses on "DIY Grief Journal: Learn from my mistakes"

  1. I have a blank journal. I didn’t want toe that already has contents. I really want to use it but been struggling to know where to start. I love what you’ve done. The prompts, pictures and file tabs. Its really inspired me to do something similar. This bit – ‘I probably shouldn’t have picked the ‘Sizzling Steakhouse’ edition of Baltimore Magazine for my magazine cutouts. I don’t find steak particularly inspiring, in fact I’m a vegetarian.’ That made me laugh out loud – thank you!

  2. Thanks so much for the kid journal ideas, Eleanor. I will definitely check them out!

  3. Eleanor- this is one of the coolest journal ideas ever. The fact that there’s no right or wrong way to create it will make people courageous get started. There’s something cathartic about glue, construction paper and for the truly crazy ones like me… glitter. 🙂
    I can’t wait to share this post with a friend who lost both parents – his mom, when he was 4 and his dad when he was 16. Talk about turning pain into purpose, his life work now is helping kids find creative ways to deal with grief.

    Keep ’em coming! I love your website.

    • Thank you so much!!! Man as much as I wish I could create a super awesome journal from scratch I think in the end this one suits my needs pretty well. Like you said, there is no right or wrong way so people really can experiment and see what works for them.

      That’s amazing that your friend was able to turn his pain into something like helping kids deal with grief. If he doesn’t already know about the journals made by ‘Art With Heart’ he may want to check out their website. They have a journal called ‘Chill and Spill’ that we love for (older) kids dealing with grief. It focuses on transition more than anything else and it’s got a really cool looking aesthetic that I think would be appealing for tweens and teens.

      Anyway, thanks for your support!!!

  4. Random thoughts on journals……I was looking at your journal and realized this blog is probably one of the best journals you could ever have. We have inadvertent journals on our Facebook pages and email accounts. Every once in a while I go back through old emails or Facebook posts – things written in a different time and place. I always lose a breath when I come across an email from one of Mom’s doctors, and sigh when I see something that happened before she got sick. It’s a sea sick feeling that reminds me of how awful that time was, and how much I miss the days before the grief. My daughter has a journal called “Wreck this journal”. On every page there is an activity whereby you systematically wreck the journal. One page you stick in the freezer, one page you rip into tiny pieces, on you slather with mud. There is a great deal of frustration that comes through grief….wishing it could be better, or different, or that you had any power to change circumstances. I think “wreck this journal” is a cathartic idea…..when you feel frustrated or angry you can take it out on the journal instead of on your kids, husband, etc.

    • Yeah Jessie your right, this blog has been like a big journal. It’s definitely cathartic in many ways. I can see how looking at old e-mails would be troublesome…are you still keeping them all??

      I’ve never read ‘Wreck this Journal’ but my co-author Litsa has said she thinks it’s amazing. Maybe I need to get my hands on a copy. That’s kind of an amazing idea to destroy the whole thing..I appreciate the idea because I’ve personally torn up many a journal page out of embarrassment over what I just wrote.

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