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Hold Onto Memories in Your Journal

Can you think of one event or moment in time that’s created an indelible memory of your grandchild?

Susan Borkin, author of The Healing Power of Writing: A Therapist’s Guide to Using Journaling With Clients asked our GaGa Sisterhood members to answer that question at the beginning of our January meeting.

What followed were funny, poignant, and vivid stories of grandmas connecting with their grandchildren. The story that touched us all was a member who got teary when she told us her 8-year old granddaughter asked: “Will you get to meet my children?”

After sharing our stories, Borkin commented: “Wouldn’t it have been nice if we’d written these stories down?”

Borkin is a psychotherapist and writing coach who believes in the power of writing your stories in a journal. She boldly states that journaling can change your life. Although she had been keeping a journal intermittently since the age of of 14, at the age of 26, after the death of both of her parents within a three year period, she found herself at the lowest point of her life. She once again turned to her journal and found solace.

“When you begin journal writing on a regular basis,” says Borkin, “you’ll find yourself embarking on a journey of self-discovery and transformation.” But keep in mind that personal journal writing is different from the way we’ve been taught writing before. There are no red pens to correct misspelled words or punctuation and no rigidly structured format.

Journal writing is focused on the process, on the journey of discovery itself, not on the outcome. What you find out about yourself, what you learn in the process of writing is much more important than the finished product. She told us that there are three basic guidelines when you write in your journal.

  • There are no rules.
  • You can’t make a mistake.
  • Just start writing!

3 Approaches to Using Journals

It’s more beneficial to write just 10 minutes a day than to write for an hour once a week. Syntax, spelling, logic, and grammar don’t matter. What does matter is getting your thoughts, feelings and ideas down on the page. She explained that there are three approaches to using journals:

  • Journaling to capture events and preserve the past
  • Journaling to manage your feelings and survive the present
  • Journaling to create a bridge to the future

If you want to hold onto those precious memories of your grandchild as she goes through different stages, put them in your journal. If you’re feeling frustrated by a conversation you had with your grandchild’s parent, process those feelings by doing some free writing for 10 minutes. Try answering one of these questions in your journal:

  • I can’t stand it when …
  • 10 things I wish I could say …
  • I hate it when …
  • I wish I could …

If you want to create a bridge to the future, give your grandchild a journal of memories you’ve collected. Borkin created a journal for her granddaughter called “Letters to Thea” in which she shared stories from all the visits they’ve shared over the years.

Here are some of Borkin’s tips when you’re writing in your journal:

  • Use sensory details.
  • Include snippets of conversation.
  • Make associations with objects or images in the setting that you’re writing about.
  • Describe physical sensations.
  • Give interesting names to people in your story.
  • Don’t censor; just get it down without editing.
  • Include humor no matter how bizarre or inappropriate.
  • Definitely include your feelings.

Journaling can be a powerful tool for growth and change as well as a vessel for holding onto cherished memories. It doesn’t have to be a tedious process. Personally, I’m a zealot when it comes to journaling. I started writing in my first journal in 1977 and believe it’s been the greatest tool of my life. I process, problem solve, explore, dream, brainstorm and dump whatever is on my mind onto the page. Writing in my journal helps me understand what I’m thinking and has given me a chronicle of my life for the past 40 years.

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