time icon 4 min read update icon Dec. 28, 2019

Journaling provides you with a way to reflect on what is happening to you. Unlike keeping a diary, journaling does not ask you to focus simply on what happened during the day. Through journaling, you are invited to look inward at how you are affected by these struggles.  Your journal will give you a place to express your pain, frustration, fear, loneliness... It will soon become your friend in the middle of the night as you keep watch.

As part of your vigil's spiritual exploration, journaling  also allows you a safe place to ask “Where is God in my experience?” You can think about where and how God has been at work in this place.  As you write, you uncover God's hand in your life. In the words of Anne Broyles, journaling  “...frees us to explore the rooms hidden in our hearts, making meaning of our lives... and (of) how God is at work in all aspects of our lives.”

The act of writing allows the time and space for you to uncover God present with you.  Writing may focus your thoughts so that the spirit can guide you to new understandings.  As these revelations occur, they are preserved in a journal for future review.  John Killinger refers to journaling as a “spiritual record,” a personal testimony of how God has been at work in your life.

As you begin your journaling, open yourself to God's voice. “Any experience can be a religious experience” according to Doug Wingeier in his Working Out Your Own Beliefs. “All that prevents it from being so is our blindness to the presence of God in it.  The regular practice of making theological meaning out of our experience will help us transform ordinary events into meetings with God. Like Moses, we will be able to hear God speaking to us from a plain, ordinary bush and be led to take off our shoes, 'For the place on which you are standing is holy ground' (Exodus 3:5).”

Listed below are ideas for journaling during your vigil.

Try not to be too formal or structured as you begin. Random thoughts jotted down and collected in a folder could be priceless gems several months from now as you seek to sort out your experience.  Memories expressed during your journaling might be shared with other members of your family who did not know your loved one as deeply as you did.  You will find that journaling is not only a gift as you write but that the words become more valuable to you as time passes.

Julian of Norwich (1342-1426) said, “The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.” We pray your journal will help you behold God in this place, giving you strength for your vigil.

  • Find a picture of your loved one.  Journal about the picture. What your loved one is doing, what you are doing, why the picture is important to your life together, the memories it holds for you, where God is present in your life together...
  • Journal about any unresolved issues you have about your loved one.  Write a conversation that never took place but that you wish you had had the opportunity to share with your loved one (expressions of love, the need for forgiveness/reconciliation, unresolved anger...)
  • How is God present in your vigil?  Where is God? Write about your experiences of God through your loved one, other people, visions, feelings...  Write about your feelings towards God (peace, companionship, anger, strength...) Remember God is big enough to handle your feelings and their intensity.
  • On your journey through your loved one's illness, what words did someone speak that you found meaningful?  What words did someone offer that you found offensive/unhelpful? Journal about these words and why you feel the way you do about them.
  • What memories about your loved one do you want preserved for your children? Write about the legacy your loved one leaves for the family. Write about your loved one's personal faith.
  • How will your loved one keep living through you? Write about these traits (good and bad) and how you want to develop these parts of yourself. How has your loved one's faith experience affected your own spiritual journey?
  • On sleepless nights, use your journal to uncover feelings, let go of anxiety, sort out confusion, understand self, release tensions and cope with stress.
  • Draw a picture or make a collage of images that express your thoughts and ideas.
  • Jot down isolated feelings.  Explore creative options for dealing with these feelings or devise rituals for releasing them.
  • Write the lyrics to a song that reflect your vigil experience.
  • Write the prayers of your heart in your journal and save them to read when prayer seems difficult.
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