As you make your way into your new life as a widowed man, it can be helpful to keep track of some of the events on your journey. This is new territory. You may want to know later what you have been through.

There are at least two benefits of journaling: first: When you get your feelings and thoughts out on paper, they are stabilized. You can see your thoughts in front of you, and they no longer simply swirl around in your head and heart.

Second, by recording your experiences, thoughts, feelings, fears, and hopes, you will create “memory capital” that you can draw upon in future months and years. Sometimes you can better understand where you are in life by reading about where you have come from and what you have been through.

Above all, your journal is a way to understand your new self in the new world you have entered as a widowed man. It can become a tool as you rebuild your life.

Don’t assume that you will remember all of the important things that will happen to you in the coming year. Experiences that seem so vivid today can evaporate in hours. So please try taking some notes, not necessarily every day, but when the time seems right for you to confer with yourself. But try this process and see if it works for you.

Diaries vs. Journals

A diary is simply a log of the day’s events: what happened, who called, and where you had dinner. I keep a small diary at my bedside in which I write every night just before I turn out the light. It’s a set of reminders of the day’s events. It’s mostly mundane and trivial, but once in a while, it helps me pin down a particular event to the day it occurred; sometimes, that helps me see how one event relates to another.

A journal is what I have sometimes called my “narrative diary,” a more extended kind of writing in which I think on paper about my deepest thoughts, most profound experiences, and the feelings and attitudes that shape my actions. I write accounts of events in my life and in the lives of my friends and family. Sometimes it’s a week or two between entries there.

I write longhand in my diary and my journal, but I also do a lot of journaling on my computer in a Word document. Journaling on a computer may not have the personal feel of writing longhand, but it can be quick if you’re competent on the keyboard, and it’s handy for revising thoughts and searching for keywords and events years later.

If you don’t like to write, you may just want to make notes in your calendar that will remind you of thoughts, feelings, concerns, and joys – not just dates and times.

I encourage you to consider keeping both a diary and a journal or maybe just extended calendar entries. If you think that journaling is an effeminate thing to do, remember the captains of sailing ships in earlier times, meticulously recording the events on their great journeys. Sometimes they sailed through storms, and sometimes the weather was fair; they noted it all. Now imagine yourself to be a ship’s captain recording the things you experience as you continue your great journey through life. This is a man’s job.

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