Journaling Through the Difficult Times

Bumpy Roads

With over twenty years scrapbooking experience, and much of that spent teaching and helping others, I’ve learned a lot about what people love and what they struggle with. I’ve heard many stories of love and joy and just as many of heartache and loss and with each one I felt their pain. Like so many of them, I was married young, had a family and then divorced.

I didn’t know I was getting divorced until one day he just up and left.

My story differed slightly in that I didn’t know I was getting divorced until one day he just up and left. That was it. No car, no money, and no fishing supplies. Yep, he even took the kid sized poles and all of the tackle boxes. That was a difficult time, and not just because he took the cute little Snoopy pole. Ten years we’d been a family and now I had to tell my children daddy left.


Traditionally journaling was a way to vent and to write what was not pleasant, not liked, not enjoyable OR what was amazing. 

What if it’s actually all amazing, just maybe not in the moment. 

It wasn’t fun having to tell my children their daddy was gone and I didn’t have an explanation or excuse for it. It wasn’t fun to face each day as a single parent and everything that came with it, but there were amazing blessings, joy and laughter in each day because of my wonderful children.

We moved on and put our life back together. We had so many great moments and I loved taking photos of my amazing kids! When they were still young, I learned about scrapbooking from a Creative Memories consultant. At that time there weren’t any local stores that taught it and I didn’t know anyone else doing it so I started a group online to help others learn how to scrapbook. Every Thursday evening for many years I would get on Yahoo Messenger and turn on my webcam to demonstrate the layout I had developed. There were members from around the world and all ages and experiences.

Scrapbooking became my way of journaling.

I had tried to journal many times but didn’t enjoy writing down and hashing out the pain of everything. I also didn’t want my kids to find and read it, they had enough to deal with in their dad walking out so abruptly. Scrapbooking became my way of journaling as I wrote out the details of the story using the photos and elements to add to it all. 

Hurt, Abandonment, Divorce – Not in my Albums

When my husband left us, it was a horrible, difficult situation that was actually an amazing blessing. We were happier, safer, and more stable than any time before. Although I loved to journal at the time, I couldn’t put my thoughts to paper. It was all so overwhelming.

I did find a way to express myself through the pages of my scrapbooks.

When I sat down to journal the anger, resentment, disappointment and surprisingly violent thoughts towards the man would come pouring out making all of those awful emotions my focus. It left me drained and so burdened with grief and confusion that I couldn’t think, laugh, cry or properly be a mom.

I recognized they were hurting too, and I chose to help them focus on what we did have rather than what we didn’t. I started planning fun activities and taking pictures. In the pages of the scrapbooks were laughter, excitement, silliness and joy.

None of the difficult times are found in my albums, but he is.

I made pages full of family memories and laughter of just me and the kids at first. I recognized early on that I could fill the pages with the hurt and anger that I felt towards him OR I could fill them with the love, joy, and blessings I wanted to share with my kids. I chose to empower and uplift my family.

Oh, it didn’t happen quickly, but it did happen. One day at a time, one layout (scrapbook page), one joyful memory at a time.

I chose love.

A Conversation I’ll Never Forget

She wanted to simply wipe him from her tree and felt that would teach him and would somehow even things. However, that’s not actually possible.

Oh, she could throw away all the photos of him, but it didn’t change what had happened or her history with him. 

We discussed the permanency of tearing, or destroying, the decades old photos and focused on the treasure such old photographs were. We talked about the history in them and how amazing it was that her children actually had visual glimpses into the lives that came before them.

I encouraged her to see how he was a part of her story, but she was in control of sharing his part in it. 

She came to realize that by putting so much effort in to punishing her long dead grandfather, she was really giving away her personal power by giving in to the hurt and keeping it alive inside her.   She was feeding the hatred, shame, and guilt and realized she was also sharing that with her children. Instead, she wanted to leave a beautiful legacy for her them, one that was full of love and a strong sense of family.

She wanted to build her story and theirs and strengthen them with it.

She realized she didn’t want to share the poison from those few years with him forever with them. She wanted to build her story and theirs and strengthen them with it.  

Slowly she shifted to realizing he was a part of them and that by building up her story, she built up her children as well. She focused on family and the positive things her grandparents taught and shared with her.

She chose to include the photos with him in it, but at first she simply included his name below his picture.  Later, she started to add funny stories and warm memories.

After a few months her thought patterns shifted and she focused on sharing the strong family bonds that existed and what an amazing history her children were inheriting from their grandparents. She told of how her grandparents came to America, how they met and married and how they worked hard to create the family farm.

She started small, like referring to him as the ornery old fart, but admiring how tough he had to have been to get through the freezing Midwest winters without running water or electricity! She chose to share his strengths and focus on what he did right and how she saw those same strengths and passions in herself and her children.

She knew how her story should be written and she wrote it that way. 

She knew how her story should be written and she wrote it that way by focusing on what she loved, what she wanted shared, and uplifting and empowering her children.


When faced with tough situations and overwhelming feelings, I often stop and ask myself:

“What do I really want? How do I want to feel?”

I could have stayed mad at my ex-husband and tore up photos, removed him from the albums and spoke poorly of him. It wouldn’t have changed a thing, but it would have held me captive in the negative quicksand of emotions.

Instead of focusing on what I didn’t want and what didn’t feel good, I began in the small things and finding what I did enjoy and what did feel good.

 Here are a few more fun prompts to inspire you as you journal on paper, in a notebook, on the computer or in scrapbooks!

  • What I love about mornings
  • What I love about me
  • What I love to do in my free time
  • What I love to create
  • What I love about my family
  • What I love about (hobby/sport/group)
  • What I love about my life
  • What makes me smile
  • What brings me joy
  • My little one/furkid/loved one said/did ___________ and it really made my day!
  • I surprised ________________ with ___________ and they…….

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