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How I Went From Journaling To Heal After Loss To Publishing My First Book

Written by: Sandy Linda, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor Sandy Linda

My sister used to journal. On the pages, she would pour out her anger, which was largely aimed at me. After she died, I read pages and pages of her thoughts and feelings, scrawled fervently in capital letters, and could hear her voice shouting in my head. “I refuse to help or have a relationship with Sandy. I owe her nothing,” she had written.


Smiling woman sitting at table writing a journal

The first sentences I read stung. I fell to the floor crying, and yet I carried on reading to try and find out why she despised me and why she had never talked to me about any of this. I was already grieving my mum and dad. To then lose a sister was horrific, but I felt like I was losing her all over again reading her thoughts as I had also lost the chance to ever have reconciliation with her.

 

Loneliness, anger, sadness, and guilt swirled around me like a cyclone, and overcoming these emotional hurdles became my constant fight. After each therapy session, I'd drive home to an empty space, once filled with the warmth of family. Now, it echoed with silence, and I was left to navigate the physical world while my loved ones resided in the spiritual realm.

 

I was really struggling, but I walked away from those journals, knowing I needed to write like she had done. I needed somewhere to explore the hole in my heart. There was dullness to my pain. Writing brought everything into sharp relief. It took me a while to process the events that I journaled. As I continued writing out my stories, my pain started to change.

 

I started to write daily. Writing is a tool that saves me from self-destruction and allows me to rationalise irrational thoughts. Writing, in its raw and unrestricted form, became a refuge where I could freely pour out my emotions and express the whispers of my thoughts. It was as author and TED speaker, Anne Lamott writes in Bird by Bird: “The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and you can shape it later.” It was just for me, and it wasn't only about putting words on paper. It was about steering through the emotional storms and achieving a personal transformation.

 

I wrote at home, where I grew up, where there was nothing but silence, and I could vent and rage in my writing. The process of pouring my grief onto paper was astonishingly effortless; it was as though an invisible force propelled the words from the depths of my soul. Each sentence flowed seamlessly, carrying the weight of my emotions without resistance. A profound sense of relief washed over me as I unburdened my feelings onto the page. The intensity of my pain demanded expression.

 

Rereading those thoughts later served as a compass guiding me through a healing process that proved more potent than pills and therapy combined. It also allowed me to understand and analyse my emotions. I acknowledged my pain, and I engaged with my own story. Brené Brown writes: “Owning our stories means acknowledging our feelings and wrestling with the hard emotions—our fear, anger, aggression, shame, and blame. This isn’t easy, but the alternative—denying our stories and disengaging from emotion—means choosing to live our entire lives in the dark. It means no accountability, no learning, no growth.” And I did grow. I read and revisited what I had initially written and, from it, crafted a narrative that echoed the feelings that were deep in my soul. This was also the moment that I began writing for others as well as myself.

 

It was a gradual journey. I continued to journal, but alongside, I wrote to share with others what I had learnt. I wanted to leave a tangible legacy in the hope that it might help others find the newfound strength, resilience and, ultimately, empowerment that I had. But actually, making the book public required a lot of courage. This is a world in which showing grief is often shamed - it makes other people uncomfortable. I had to find my own balance before I could open my heart to others, knowing full well that not everyone would embrace my vulnerability.

 

Everyone’s experience of grief is totally different, but I want to encourage you to put pen to paper. If writing feels too painful at the moment, it’s okay to explore alternative methods of expression or seek support from other grief advocates. The goal is to find healthy ways to cope with emotions and navigate the healing process. When it feels right, here are my tips for starting to write:


Effective writing techniques and tips


  1. Set a writing routine. Consistency can help train your mind to focus during specific periods.

  2. Ensure you write in a comfortable and quiet space. Minimise distractions and create an environment conducive to concentration.

  3. Instead of tackling a large writing task all at once, break it down into smaller, more manageable sections. Focus on one part at a time to make the process less overwhelming.

  4. Try the Pomodoro Technique or similar time-management methods. Set a timer for a specific duration (e.g., 25 minutes), dedicate that time to focused writing and then take a short break. This technique is an excellent start to releasing my emotional wounds on paper. I started this technique as a way to take a break from all the emotional clutter that was released on paper. The alarm helps me to get up and go for a mindful walk after that brain dump.

  5. If what you write down doesn't make sense, it's not uncommon, and there are various reasons this might happen. If your thoughts are unclear, it might be helpful to take a step back and identify the main idea or message you want to convey. Consider jotting down key points before elaborating on them.

  6. You might be overthinking, which can lead to self-editing while writing, inhibiting the natural flow of ideas. Try to silence your inner critic during the initial writing phase and focus on expressing your thoughts without judgement.

  7. If you find yourself stuck or frustrated, taking short breaks can be beneficial. Stepping away from your writing and returning with fresh eyes can provide a new perspective and improve clarity.


The final step is to get feedback, and for me, this was the most overwhelming task. Share your writing with a grief advocate, trusted family member, mentor or writing group. Outside perspectives can offer insights into areas where your writing might be unclear or require additional explanation.

 

And remember, your story is worth sharing. If one person reads my book and feels like I am speaking to them and that I understand, then it has been more than worthwhile. But, perhaps most importantly, by writing, I listened properly to myself; and gained a self-awareness I never had before. This is what has helped me start to forgive, heal, and grow again.

 

Unlock Healing and Transformation: Are you tired of carrying the weight of your grief alone? It's time to embrace healing and cultivate a brighter future.

 

 

Podcast Host: Overcoming Grief



Sandy Linda Brainz Magazine
 

Sandy Linda, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Sandy Linda is an elegant and worldly leader in grief guidance and a life coach. After experiencing multiple losses, she began a journey using her experiences to find calm in the chaos to support those mourning multiple losses. Sandy helps her clients move from heartbreaking losses to a place where they can work towards healing and become fearless adventure leaders.

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