Journaling Your Way Through Caregiving, Part 1
I have journaled since I was in high school. It has been my way to express myself, to pray, to release emotions, and to create.
My heart overflows with a good theme; I address my verses to the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Psalm 45:1
As I praise the LORD, so too may my pen place the words or the drawings down in a creative way that glorifies God. Not all journaling will be praises, but it can lead to time with Him and time in prayer for those we care for and about. When we fill our hearts with praise, the power of that praise can come tumbling out on paper.
I willingly took on the care of my mother with the help of facility staff and a Christian woman twice a week. We cared for her for fifteen years. I have two sisters, but they live thousands of miles away so their annual visits were really all I could count on from them.
As a caregiver, no matter what your individual circumstances may be, there will always be many things that cause you to need an outlet of some kind. There usually are unrelenting demands, no time for yourself, stress, and frustration. You may feel a physical toll on your body, loneliness, anxiety, even depression. On top of these and other stresses, if there is a struggle with family members over the way you do things or have an accusation tossed out about you by an angry sibling or even by a dementia-riddled mind of the one you care for, you feel burdened and weary. Feelings as a giver of care well up and can be a heavy weight upon you.
I found that journaling was a way for me to release some of these thoughts, stresses, and emotions, plus it gave me a way to organize tasks and to pray. But you might ask, “How do I find time to journal with all I have to do?” A few possibilities for a time out might be while the care receiver is napping and you have time to sit, or while waiting in the doctor’s office, or even starting your day 20 minutes earlier or staying up a few minutes longer. Yes, there will be some days or weeks without time at all. That’s okay. I am not suggesting you begin journaling so that you will feel guilty when you cannot. Just do the best you can!
I like to have a journal the size that I can carry with me so that I can journal when I have time, wherever I am.
There are many ways to journal. The written word is the most common, done in any kind of notebook or journal-type book. It can be a place to express emotions, pray, organize things to do, dates, or appointments. You may want to write down various events that occur in the days of your care recipient, such as changes in behavior or habits, illnesses or hospitalization, etc.
A number of resources may be of help as you begin this part of your journey:
Budd, Luann, Journal Keeping: Writing for Spiritual Growth
DeSalvo, Louise, Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives
Goodwin, B. Lynn, You Want Me to Do What? Journaling for Caregivers (http://writeradvice.com/ywmtdw.html)
Karpinski, Marion, A Guided Journal for Caregivers – A Journey into Renewal and Well-Being
- Pennebaker, James W., Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma & Emotional Upheaval
- Pennebaker, James W., Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions (Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin) (http://www.utexas.edu/features/2005/writing/)
Using prompts can help you get started: “Sometimes I wonder…,” “If I let myself cry…,” “I wonder what my mother would write about me.” Here are a few resources where prompts may be found:
- http://www.caregiving.com/articles/blogged/community-caregiving-journal/ (journal prompts)
- Another way to journal is to draw or doodle, using a sketch book. That may include expressing emotions whether wild or calm. Sketching pictures or freeform doodling can help you describe what you are going through, name people to pray for, express feelings with colors, write Scripture using an art form. I use colored pencils. I find this method to be extremely soothing
- (MacBeth, Sybil, Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God; http://prayingincolor.com).
- A calendar with large areas at each date allows for writing short snippets to help with recalling an event or behavior, dietary changes, etc. Cutting pictures or words from magazines, making a collage to express feelings or thoughts can be a creative way to journal. Copy down a quote that means something special, adding your own notes. Choose a song to reflect upon that brings your heart comfort and peace. Or write a list of special memories. The ways can be endless.
I like to have a journal a size that I can carry with me so that I can write when I have time, wherever I am.
If you want your words to remain completely private, I suggest writing or drawing. Then, tear up or shred the paper. Writing things down does help to vent and give expression to what you are feeling and going through. Nobody needs to read it!
Father, You love us and care about us and the precious person you have placed in our care. We pray for Your wisdom as we endeavor to do Your will and for Your ways to express that which is curled up inside of us, to draw, doodle, and color the creativity You have given us, to pray in Your Son’s Name, to place our lives in Your hands through ways written on a piece of paper. Even, Father, when we make lists of things to do or groceries to buy, may we always be mindful of You. Father, guide us and teach us as we lay the pen to the tablet. Etch Your Words before us so that we stay close to You. In the Name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.