Updated: Jun 28, 2021
One of my initial thoughts upon my first loss, a chemical pregnancy, was, "How do I make sense of this?" Discovering that I was pregnant and then not in a matter of days had a shock of its own. At the time, I bought a small black notebook and poured out my story in ink one afternoon. I gave the book to my husband, who wrote down his perspective of the story. Then we put it away.
The story of Eden, the name we gave that itty bitty baby, is documented there, and we treasure that little book as proof of his existence. When I had another miscarriage four years later, that time at 12 weeks of pregnancy, I was overwhelmed by the emotional turmoil. I threw myself into creative writing and art to express myself, but for some reason, I never picked up a journal.
Perhaps I've been able to express a lot of what I would have written in a journal on my Instagram (@mysiblingstillbook). However, there are many bereaved parents who find it helpful to put pen to paper and write out their experiences, thoughts, and feelings.
Because I found art therapeutic, I combined these concepts to create this tutorial series on grief journaling. Here, I will show how to decorate a plain composition notebook using paint to create a one-of-a-kind journal. If art has been helpful to you in your grief journey, feel free to follow along with the tutorial below. If art is something that brings far more stress than aid, click here to view the guided grief journals that I have showcased below.
DIY Geometric Grief Journal
What you will need:
A composition notebook (I got mine for $1 at Dollar Tree)
Acrylic paint (I like to purchase yellow, blue, red, black, and white. I enjoy having the option to mix the paints to create the colors I want. White and black help to lighten or darken the hue. You can also directly purchase whichever colors you have in mind.)
A palette (A coated paper plate works well too.)
Cup with water for cleaning brushes
Newspaper for protecting your surface
Step 1: Use sandpaper to remove glossy surface of cover
After spreading the newspaper on your surface and placing the composition book opened with the cover face-up, its time for sanding. The composition book cover is very glossy, which makes it hard for the paint to adhere to. This step helps the paint to glide on well and dry relatively quickly. I sanded both the front and back covers as well as the spine. I sanded until I could see that the sheen was no longer present. Once that is accomplished, use a dry paper towel to remove the powder that was created from sanding, as shown below.
Step 2: Paint the new label
If you do not want to have a label on your homemade journal, you can skip this step. To create the new label, select the color you'd like for it. I chose to go with a standard white label. I painted over the area of the original label. I didn't worry too much about going outside the lines or making a precise border at this point. I used several coats of paint, allowing the paint to dry between coats, until the original label could no longer be seen underneath.
Step 3: Painting the background
Next, choose which paint color you would like as your background color. This is the color that will appear as the lines between the geometric shapes you will be making. For my background color, I chose a medium purple. Before I began painting, I used painters tape to create the more precise border for my label. Then, I applied the purple paint onto the entire journal, being careful not to paint past the painters tape and into my label. I gave the background two coats of paint, allowing the paint to dry in between coats.
Step 4: Design the geometric shapes
Once the background paint is dry, it's time to map out your geometric shapes using painters tape. I found that triangular shapes were simple to do and looked nice in the completed project. Feel free, though, to play around with the design to create the look you like best. I did not worry about being precise on the spine since I was going to be painting over it at the very end.
Step 5: Paint the geometric shapes
I chose the colors that I wanted for my shapes and painted each shape in. I added black to my background purple color to darken the hue, creating two dark purple colors. I also created a dark teal and light teal. Finally, I used a metallic gold color. I allowed those to dry before removing the painters tape.
Step 6: Paint the spine
Once the shapes were dry, I removed the painters tape. Next, I placed painters tape along the spine's tape that had originally come on the composition book. I mixed up my darkest purple color with more black and used that color to paint in between the painters tape. Once dry, I removed the painters tape to reveal the new spine.
Step 7: Fill in your label and write!
Add a title to your journal on the label. It can be anything! Some ideas include "My Grief Journal," "Mama/Daddy to (your baby's name)," and "I Love You, (your baby's name)." You may like to use a permanent marker to write the title. I found that a regular ballpoint pen wrote nicely on the label as well.
When it comes to the actual journaling, that will probably look very different from person to person. One person may like to take fifteen minutes to write the thoughts and feelings that were on their heart that particular day. Another person may benefit from writing their story in chronological order, placing an emphasis on the specific details of their experience. If you are in need of some prompts to begin with freestyle journaling, here are a few:
When/how did you find out about the pregnancy? Did you tell others or wait? What feelings accompanied this experience?
During your pregnancy, were there ways that you bonded with your baby? Or did you find it difficult to bond with your baby? How have those memories affected you since your baby died?
How has your perspective of the world changed after your baby's death? What good and bad things have come with going to work, shopping, family gatherings, etc.?
Adult Grief Journals for Purchase
There are people who find art stressful, so a DIY Grief Journal may not be the best option. That's why I wanted to showcase some grief journals for sale. These journals, all from different perspectives, come with convenient prompts already inside. All you'd need is a pen or pencil, and you're good to go!
Choosing Joy: A Guided Journal of Mothers of Pregnancy and Infant Loss
by Rosemary Pope
A couple of years ago, Rosemary reached out to me about my book My Sibling Still. Since then, I've had the opportunity to chat with her and get to know her a little better. She is the author of Joy in Suffering, a memoir about her experiences of the stillbirth of her son, the incompatibility with life diagnosis of her daughter, and two early miscarriages.
Rosemary was inspired to create a journal based on her memoir as a way to continue to walk with women suffering through the death of a beloved baby. She is so kind and thoughtful, and I think that this journal speaks of that!
This journal is intended for Christian audiences. Each day, a quote from her book is given, then a reflection, writing prompt, a prayer, and finally a Bible verse to reflect on.
The Baby Loss Guide: Practical and compassionate support with a day-by-day resource to navigate the path of grief
by Zoë Clark-Coates
Since entering into the baby loss community online, I've noticed that Zoë Clark-Coates is one of the most often quoted authors on this topic. Zoë experienced five miscarriages, leading her to use her experience as a counsellor to help those affected by pregnancy and infant loss. She started The Mariposa Trust as a non-profit to support bereaved parents. Additionally, she has published a few books along the way.
The Baby Loss Guide is divided into two parts. The first half addresses many questions and topics that those who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death may have on their minds. (ie: "When should I return to work?" and "When will I stop missing my baby?") It also includes personal stories. The second half is journaling and support.
One of my Instagram followers suggested I include this journal in this showcase, and several others shared that they found this book helpful. One mentioned that she felt that the book helped to give a voice to her children and helped their family grieve together. Another said, "It felt good to hear stories that I could connect with when I was so lost after my stillbirth."
Good Life Printables Grief Journals for Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Death
by Rachel J. Floyd
I happened upon this set of journals in preparing for this blog. This author created three guided
journals: one for miscarriage, one for stillbirth, and one for infant death. In looking through the sample pages, I found that the questions were thought-provoking. One question asks what your experience using social media has been since the death of your baby. Another asks what you sensed about your baby while in utero.
There are 48 journal prompts in the miscarriage journal, 62 in the stillbirth journal, and 68 in the infant death journal. There is no other writing in the book, only the prompts and lines for journaling. The author crafted this journal to be nonspecific in terms of religious or spiritual beliefs.
Below is the link to Rachel's Amazon Author page. There you will find each of the three journals in her collection of books on grief.
You were here: A journal to to remember babies lost to miscarriage
By April Hilton
I had the pleasure of learning about this guided grief journal from connecting with the author on Instagram! After experiencing the loss of two babies to miscarriage, April wanted to journal about her grief but couldn't find any grief journals. Realizing there was a need, she created her own!
"You were here" is a thoughtfully crafted journal. It has journal prompts with lines to write responses. Some example prompts are "How did you find out about the pregnancy? Did you notice any physical signs of pregnancy or mood changes?" and "How are you feeling?" Other prompts do not have lines so that you have the option to draw or write your response. Some pages have poetic reflections. There is even a space for writing down significant dates.
Are there any guided journals that you used following miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death that aren't listed here? Feel free to share them below in the comments!
I hope that these resources for journaling aid you in your grief journey.