Ann Fabrikant, Esq.NJ Divorce and Family Law Attorney
Keeping a journal or diary can be said to be a person’s first real exposure to therapy. This is why it should come as no surprise when a therapist recommends keeping one, or at least recording relevant thoughts, as part of the process. “Entries” do not need to be typed or even neat. What matters most is that whatever weighs heavy on the mind makes it out of the mind and onto the paper. With divorce being one of the most common causes for seeking therapy and a subject that certainly weighs heavy on the mind, the recommendation of starting a divorce journal is especially common.
Divorce can be a veritable fountain of negative thoughts and feelings. If you should choose to start keeping a divorce journal, writer’s block may never be a problem you face. Whether you know it or not, your natural response to this occurring in your life is to form a narrative, a story you at least tell yourself or possibly those closest to you. It makes a perfect argument for the divorce journal when you think about it. Still not convinced? Let’s take a look at some of the more compelling reasons for keeping a divorce journal.
Trust yourself again
In marriage, you let the voice of another human being deeper into your heart and mind than any other. At least that is the general idea. It is what makes the whole process of reversing or undoing this so painful. Even if the terms are amicable, the relationship must be redefined. Any involvement on the part of friends or family only adds more voices to the fold. When the day comes that you can focus on your own voice and reconnect with your own thoughts, you will find cause to celebrate. Journaling can grant you this gift. In a journal entry, only your voice is required. Only your voice matters. Even tough questions you may have been asking about trusting that voice can be addressed in this fashion. Yes, writing is that powerful.
Journaling is a healthy coping strategy in and of itself. It is especially beneficial when compared to the hazardous alternatives that can seem attractive when enduring the most painful episodes that emerge during divorce. Rather than wait until a crisis occurs, develop the habit of writing when you are thinking clearly. When the dark times come around, the practice will be a refuge, like a port in a storm.
For as long as mankind has had thoughts to record, surfaces and the means to make marks on them have been around. Of course, your mobile device is also readily available and should have multiple features that will allow you to capture your thoughts. Pen and paper may still be the most comforting and intimate option. Either way, no other coping method, healthy or unhealthy, rivals the divorce journal when it comes to accessibility.
Putting it in perspective
There is no pause button in life. Hindsight is not immediately 20/20. Mundane complications continue to interfere while you are struggling to cope with your divorce. Journaling makes it possible to harness the chaos and put things in perspective. Past events are laid out before you, hopefully creating a meaningful timeline. More importantly, the crucial aspects of the present will not be lost. Before they become memories skewed more and more by passing time, a more accurate account is possible.
Even the therapist that recommended the divorce journal is another point of view, one that present potential conflict when discussing the divorce. Obviously, a professional is supposed to present a degree of impartiality that is not possible with friends, family or exes. Still, nothing beats the objectivity of your journal. You can be sure it won’t respond at all. The need to vent will occur frequently in a time like this. A divorce journal provides the perfect outlet for this, creating a space for your voice and your voice only.
The most specific response anticipated by those going through a divorce tends to be judgment. Most of the taboo associated with divorce throughout history may have dissipated but for some reason, judgment has not. Perhaps judgment persists because of the public aspect of marriage and divorce. Marriage is a conscious decision to bring your partnership before witnesses, in a ceremony before loved ones. It then follows that the same network is affected when the decision to undo that union. Unfortunately, where people are involved, judgment is not far behind. This may be part of the longstanding appeal of all diaries and journals. We all think of a young child beginning their entry with “Dear diary” as if writing a letter to an actual person. It is no different with divorce journals. The idea is for you to have “someone” to write to, without having to worry about that someone judging you.
Analysis & process
The ultimate objective is for you to process these events and move on with your life. A divorce journal is a tool meant to facilitate this and one shouldn’t lose sight of this. By all means, pour your heart out. Just remember that the idea is to be able to put things in perspective so your thoughts can be laid out for analysis. Our culture is not one that encourages reflection. If you have a career and children, you might not even recognize the word. No one is asking you to write a memoir but journal entries, wherever you can squeeze them in, will provide raw material from which clues can be unearthed, hints at that future beyond the divorce.
The divorce journal should be an outlet that allows you to begin letting go. You may find it so cathartic that you drop the word ‘divorce’ all together and employ journaling in other aspects of your life. At the very least, a divorce journal should simplify this one chapter in your story and eventually help you see it as just that.