Updated: Jul 17, 2021
Every family member is impacted by the death of a baby. That goes for parents and siblings. Since I began Instagramming about grief after miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death (@mysiblingstillbook), I've come across some a few accounts belonging to teenagers who are processing the loss of a sibling. Their siblings who died either in the womb or shortly after birth have clearly made a mark of their lives forever. For some of these teens, the loss happened years ago and they only just learned of it. For others, the loss was recent.
Knowing that there are teens who are struggling with grief in this way, I've dedicated this next grief journaling blog to them. The following DIY grief journal tutorial could be helpful to both adults and teens. If you know a grieving teen who could benefit from a guided journal, click here to view the grief journals for teens I've showcased at the end of the blog.
DIY Grief Journal
What you'll need:
a composition book
2 sheets of decorative scrapbook paper
art project tape
a flat paintbrush (mine is about 1" wide)
*exacto-knife (Optional- If you are a teen working on this project, please make sure you have a parent's permission to use this tool.)
*Cutting board (Optional- You only need this if you choose to use an exacto-knife. I used a rotary cutting mat. A kitchen cutting board would probably work fine as well.)
*Below I demonstrate two different ways to fit the scrapbook paper to the composition book: one using scissors and the other using an exacto-knife. Read through the entire tutorial to see both ways. An exacto-knife is not necessary to complete this project.
Step 1: Apply ModPodge to cover
Using your paintbrush, apply a layer of ModPodge to one of the covers. Make sure that you are applying it to the edges of the cover too.
Step 2: Adhere scrapbook page to cover
Gently lay the scrapbook page on the cover. Allow for there to be a border of about one inch of excess scrapbook paper extending past each side of the cover. As you apply the scrapbook page, use your hand to smooth the page from the spine to the edges of the cover. This will help to flatten the page and prevent little bubbles or wrinkles from forming on it.
Step 3: Fit scrapbook page to cover
Option 1: Exacto-knife
Once the ModPodge has dried, it is time to fit the scrapbook page to the cover. Open the book so that now you see the inside of the cover. If you are using an exacto-knife, carefully cut the excess scrapbook paper along the composition book's cover. Try to get a close cut. I leaned the blade along the cover, allowing the cover to guide my hand.
Option 2: Scissors
If you do not have or do not want to use an exacto-knife, you can use scissors instead. Use your scissors to trim the excess scrapbook page to have about a .5" border.
Snip a diagonal line at the composition book's corners
Apply ModPodge to the three flaps that you created from the excess scrapbook paper. Fold the scrapbook page over the cover, pressing it down to make sure it adheres to the cover. Once glued, I also added a layer of ModPodge on top of the folded scrapbook page border.
Step 4: Repeat on the opposite cover
Whichever method you used to apply the first scrapbook page, repeat it on the other cover. I used both methods, one on each cover. I think it's kind of neat to see here that the two different methods yield results that look practically the same.
Step 5: Apply the art project tape
I gauged about how long the spine was and cut the tape accordingly. I found it helpful to apply the tape lengthwise on one side of the cover first. Once I smoothed it out on the first side, I adhered it to the other side.
Step 6: Seal with ModPodge
Scrapbook paper, like any paper, can get stained or ripped. You can help protect the new scrapbook paper cover by painting a layer of ModPodge on top of it. Open the book and lay it flat so that both outside covers are facing up. Paint a layer of ModPodge over the top, once again making sure to cover the edges too. Allow to dry.
Part of the process of creating this journal that I found meaningful was personalizing it. When purchasing the tape and scrapbook paper, I found it helpful to see what art project tape was available first. I liked the light blue color and thought that it would match well with a variety of scrapbook paper prints. Once I chose the blue tape, I visited the scrapbook paper section, where I found this floral print. Between scrapbook paper and tape choices, there are tons of possibilities. Don't like floral? No problem. Choose the colors and patterns that speak to you.
Now that your journal is done, it's time to write! As I mentioned in my last post on grief journaling, everyone will have their own approach to what they feel inclined to write about. Last time I gave some writing prompts for adults. Here are a few prompts specifically for teens:
How did you find out about your sibling who died?
If you knew about the pregnancy beforehand, how did you feel about the prospect of having a new sibling? How did you feel once you knew your sibling had died?
What questions came up for you once you knew that your sibling had died?
Have you been able to share about the loss of your sibling with others? If so, who? How have they handled the news? If not, are there any particular reasons why you haven't shared this information?
Teen Grief Journals for Purchase
Not everyone finds crafting enjoyable. With that in mind, I want to share a couple of teen grief journals available for purchase that provide prompts and guidance.
Deconstruction/Reconstruction: A grief journal for teens
The Dougy Center, an organization that provides resources for grieving children, created this guided grief journal especially for teens. It can be used to express feelings after the loss of a sibling to miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death, but it is not limited to that particular kind of loss.
Prompts inside allow a teen to use writing, drawing, and creative expression to give voice to their experience of grief.
Wish You Were Here: A Grief Journal for Teens
by Maggie, Mia, Molly, and M.E. O'Brien
This journal was thoughtfully crafted by the siblings of Catie O'Brien, who died of cancer as a child. While their loss may be different from that of miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death, their reflections and prompts can be used to reflect on any type of sibling grief.
The reflections may be helpful for a teen to know that they are not alone in mourning the death of a sibling. The journal prompts are thought provoking. While it is accessible to teens of any religious background, there is a brief mention of the Christian faith on the final page.
The journal, which is available for free online, is sponsored by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Do you know of a guided grief journal for teens that has either helped you or a teen in your life? Feel free to share in the comments below!