Journaling After Brain Injury

Brain Injury Blog

Journaling after Brain Injury

by Barbara Stahura

journalingKeeping a private journal after a brain injury allows survivors and family caregivers to record their lives in whatever unique way suits them. Additionally, when a journal also includes its owner’s thoughts and feelings, it can become an easy-to-use therapeutic tool that can bring some measure of peace, acceptance, clarity, and healing. Since journals are as individual as the people who write them, entries can contain anything: events, dreams, lists, poems, quotes, art work, memories, celebrations, rants, and much more. Over time, they track the various pathways their owner’s life takes and so become a valuable record of post-injury stories.

We humans constantly “talk” to ourselves in the privacy of our minds, yet especially in times of crisis, this talk can lead us in circles or carry us away from what is most important to us, which only compounds the problem. (This kind of ruminating self-talk can increase after a brain injury and in horribly stressful times, such as while caring for an injured family member.) Yet by committing our words to the page (or computer screen, or audio recording device), we capture our thoughts and stop the incessant chatter for a few moments. With journal writing, we become our own compassionate listener. Especially after the traumatic, life-changing experience of a brain injury, journaling gives survivors and caregivers the opportunity to begin the process of personal understanding that can foster crucial self-empowerment.

Diary vs. Journal

Many people ask about the difference between a diary and a journal. Both are records of a person’s life, so using one name or the other can be a matter of semantics. However, with journaling’s rise in popularity over the last few decades, a distinction is usually made. A diary is now more often seen as a brief record of mostly objective truth—brief reporting about what happened during the day. A journal, on the other hand, is more reflective, more about emotional truth in that the writer goes beyond merely recounting or reporting to include deeper feelings and thoughts, too. Journal writers give themselves more opportunity for healthy self-exploration by going below the surface of events to look at their emotions.

Journaling can be therapeutic

And today, journaling is also a proven, evidence-based therapeutic method for healing, self-empowerment, and self-directed change, among other things. People can certainly keep a journal if they’re in therapy, but they can also keep one if they’re not. In fact, keeping a journal in itself is like having a therapist who listens to the most private emotions and thoughts without judgment or criticism—and it’s much cheaper!

For those who think they couldn’t possibly make time to keep a journal, it doesn’t have to take an hour or a half-hour a day. It can be done in as little as five or ten minutes several times a week. And for those not able to write by hand or use a keyboard because of a brain injury, they can use an audio recording device, voice-operated software, or have a trusted person scribe their words. There’s always a way

In upcoming posts to this blog, I’ll take an in-depth look at journaling for people with brain injury and family caregivers: its benefits and cautions, techniques, facilitating a journaling group, and more.

Next time:

Benefits of journaling after brain injury for survivors and family caregivers.

Recommended Reading

After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story, by Barbara Stahura and Susan B. Schuster, MA, CCC-SLP. Lash & Associates Publishing/Training, 2009.

Journaling After Brain Injury,” tip card by Barbara Stahura. Lash & Associates Publishing/Training, 2011.

Journal to the Self: Twenty-two Paths to Personal Growth, by Kathleen Adams, M.A. Grand

July 11, 2012

2 responses to “Journaling After Brain Injury”

  1. brain injury is very dangerous so about this topic your information is great Thank you so much for posting information All your information are fantastically helpful and I appreciate your documentation. Well done guys

  2. Dawn Herring says:

    Barbara,
    I appreciate the vital point you made about the mind chatter we all experience and how journaling can help calm that down, enabling us to listen compassionately to what occupies our minds. The description you share of the difference between a diary and journal is also telling, with the journal often being used to reflect on emotions and feelings in connection with life experience.

    I have chosen your post, Journaling After Brain Injury, for the #JournalChat Pick of the Day on 7/11/12 for all things journaling on Twitter; I will post a link on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, my blog and website Refresh with Dawn Herring, and in Refresh Journal, my weekly e-journal: http://tinyurl.com/d4fjlg9.

    #JournalChat Live is every Thursday, 5 EST/2 PST for all things journaling on Twitter; our topic this week is Your Journaling: Powerful Purpose.

    Thanks again for this insightful post on journaling for compassionate listening and benefits of the practice.

    Be refreshed,
    Dawn Herring
    Host of #JournalChat Live and Links Edition on Twitter
    Author of The Birthday Wall: Create a Collage to Celebrate Your Child

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