Use Journal Writing Therapy to Cope With Tragedy

Author - Mari L. McCarthy
Published - April 19, 2013

This week, we watched in horror as a celebratory day – Massachusetts’ Patriot’s Day and Boston’s Marathon Monday – was torn apart by violence. As with many events out of our control, you probably felt angry, helpless or frightened as you watched the news coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings.

Journal writing therapy helps you process your conflicting emotions and confusing questions when you are trying to make sense of a terrible event. Even if you feel at a loss for words, take out your personal journal and try one of these writing prompts to get your thoughts onto the page.

1.    Put pen to paper.

Simple free-writing is often the best approach when you are feeling overwhelmed and emotional. Write at least three pages of stream-of-consciousness thoughts in your personal journal, not censoring anything that comes to mind. It doesn’t matter if your journal entry is all sentence fragments or all swear words; just get it out on paper.

2.    Ask questions.

We all deal with tragedy differently, but there are often common questions that arise – Why do bad things happen to good people? How can I keep the people I care about safe? What should we be doing to make sure this doesn’t happen again? What can I do to help people in need? Ask your personal questions, and see if you begin to think of answers.

3.    Look for the helpers.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world.” — Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers)

While it may be hard for you to imagine how an individual or small group of people could want to hurt or kill others, it is heartening to see how many more people are rushing to help and heal. Record your thoughts on the helpers – the police, firefighters, doctors, aid workers, volunteers, financial contributors – who rally after a tragedy.

How do you use journal writing therapy during difficult times? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Maybe Morning Pages will help you cope with and heal from your tragic events.

Morning Pages

Leave Comment