Latter-day Saint Life

How the Loss of a Loved One Guided Me in My Journaling


Every journaler has their own reasons for how they journal, why the journal, and the way they keep their journal the way they do. To be honest, I didn’t start keeping a traditional journal until I started working for I journaled in other, more non-traditional, ways: Facebook, writing a column for my father’s newspaper, and blogging, but I didn’t keep a true journal.

Once I started journaling, I found that I really enjoyed cataloging my life and the adventures that come with being married to my high school sweetheart and sharing three children together. But in late 2015, my motivation for journaling changed.

In December 2015, 10 days before her 45th birthday, my sister passed away. She had been battling with some health issues but we all thought she was on the road to recovery until she suffered a heart attack and passed away.  Her passing left my 13-year-old nephew without parents, as his father had passed away two-and-a-half years earlier from a blood clot.

In the days following her death, it became painfully obvious that my sister didn’t keep any type of journal. There was no written record of her life that documented her nearly 45 years of life that we could cling to in our grief.

I found myself trying to gather as many personal stories as possible from people whose lives she touched to have something for my nephew, as well as the rest of my family, to hold on to in the years to come. I used my JRNL account to pull together a journal with entries all about my sister: stories of growing up with her, stories from the many high school students she taught throughout the years, stories from her many friends, and stories from the rest of my family.

While this journal quickly filled up with stories of my sister’s life, I realized it wasn’t as complete as I would hope. There were many thoughts and stories about my sister, but none from her point of view. As a tribute journal, this is a wonderful thing to have, and I would recommend this to anyone who has lost a loved one. But it made me really reflect on how I journal and why.

Since my sister’s passing, my journaling habits have changed. I’ve been struck with this overwhelming desire to leave a legacy. To do that, I have created multiple journals in my account and I focus my journaling for my family. I have created a journal for each of my children. In these journals, I write letters to them telling them my thoughts on something specific to them. It is my way of making sure they each have something personal from me to them.

This has become so important to me. I have the ability, right now, to capture these moments while my children are young and document them to share with them later. If, heaven forbid, something were to happen to me I wouldn’t want them to be left without something they could hold in their hands and read over and over to remember me. Having memories shared by others who knew me would be great. But having my words, I just have to believe, would be so much more special to them.

I still spend time journaling about our family and all of the fun we have together. I tell them what I find funny, how I feel about what we’re doing together and constantly remind them how much I love them. I use the share feature to share entries from my journals with my family members so they can add their thoughts on the things we do together to provide my children with a complete story. And in the future, when these journals are shared with their children and their children’s children, I know there will never be a doubt about how much love there is in our family.

This quote by Simon Van Booy on leaving a legacy really touches me. “Language allows us to reach out to people, to touch them with our innermost fears, hopes, disappointments, victories. To reach out to people we’ll never meet. It’s the greatest legacy you could ever leave your children or your loved ones: The history of how you felt.”

With JRNL, I feel like I’m finally able to leave a complete history, all in one location, of how I feel for those I love.

Image from Getty Images

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