Journaling Your Memories


Why Memories?

Good question - why write about your memories? Rather than just speculate with random hypothetical situations, I would prefer to draw upon my own experience.

My mother's extended illness and then her death left me deeply grieving. My mother had been a Christian and I was not worried about her eternal destination; in fact, that knowledge was the only thing that comforted me. Still, I was lost without her. My grief further deepened when I was struck with the reality that I could never ask for her advice, or share a recipe, or take her out to eat, etc. A bit later, I came across all sorts of very old photographs of hers, and most of the subjects of those photos were unknown to me. I didn't know a soul who could help me identify them. It seemed like each passing day became more difficult instead of less so. I had grieved before, but not to this extent.

On one particular afternoon I came through the fog enough to make a decision of sorts. I didn't want my daughter to experience this total sense of loss one day after I was gone. I felt an urgency to begin a journal for her - of things important to me from my childhood, of things important in our family, handed-down hints and tips about this and that, etc. So, this was my "why."

How to Begin

Okay, I knew what I wanted to do, but had no idea how to begin. For one thing, I was having difficulty remembering anything about my "family life" apart from my father's lung cancer and cantankerousness (is that even a word?) and my mother's years-long illness and the agonizing decisions I found myself making at the end.

I did some Internet research and found a message board that seemed appropriate. After posting a question about how to begin, someone suggested using a universal topic, something with which every person on earth can identify: food. Food? I remember thinking how silly that sounded, but I decided to give it a try. I refused to use one of my pretty journals until I knew that this project was going to work. Instead, I went to my wonderful stack of super-inexpensive one-subject composition books and voila - birth of my "practice" journal. If I found the venture to be successful, I'd start a "real" one in a pretty journal, maybe the one with the suede cover.

The first question for this journal was "what's your favorite food?" Okay, that was easy. Chicken - fried, baked, stewed, any way you can make it - chicken. Now - "who made it for you - and for what occasion(s)?" Mama, of course, and usually after church for Sunday "dinner" (the southern countryfied woman's term for lunch.) While writing about those flavorful memories, my mind wandered, quite naturally, and remember that fried chicken had always been a favorite food at our annual family reunions at a little country church nestled in the mountains.  There the kids would eat and play while the grownups listened to various southern gospel music groups and other folks sing the rest of the afternoon.

As my memories clucked right along, I recalled there were various gatherings for chicken stew in the fall. We would be invited to someone's home where a huge black kettle would be cooking over an open fire in their back yard. We'd take our own bowls and spoons, and the host provided the chicken stew, "light" bread and drinks. I recall quite vividly the butter floating on top of the delectable stew and how later all the kids would play tag and capture lightning bugs in jars which were magically provided by someone still unknown to me.   

Let me tell you, folks, I began to feel myself lifting from that low, low point.  My GOOD memories began to break through all the heartbreaking ones. How wonderful it was to remember how much my mother loved watermelon and how she would give each of us a huge slice to eat in the back yard. Of course, we'd spit the seeds into the grass, and before long some of those seeds would actually sprout! The journal I was trying to begin for my daughter was also helping me with my grief, and I couldn't write fast enough! I was remembering all sorts of family memories and one day my daughter can read all about them. It's odd how a simple topic of food can spur so many memories. After all, most events, special and otherwise, include food, don't they? Whether you were catching lightning bugs or spitting watermelon seeds, those are memories just waiting to be dusted off and shared. Once those memories start finding their way to the surface, others will follow so quickly you'll need to keep a notepad close by to record ideas for future journal entries.

To be sure, each person's past is unique. There are surely plenty of painful memories and you might feel totally depleted for a bit after writing about those. Still, writing about the good, the bad and the ugly is cathartic.

For me, remembering a time when we went to bed with our doors unlocked, standing in just the right spot for the television reception to be clear, and having ice cream one Saturday night a month at Farmer's Dairy was just what I needed - for myself and my daughter, too. Who knows, maybe even my grandchildren will read my memories journals. I hope they enjoy the composition books. :) I was so comfortable writing in the first one, I continued using them afterwards!

Also, if you're interested in doing so, you might consider volunteering at a nursing home or similar facility and help a patient or resident put together a memories journal. Just think of all the rich stories waiting to be rediscovered and recorded. What a treasure you could help provide for someone and his or her loved ones. A call to the facility's activities coordinator would be a great starting point.

Why not begin a memories journal of your own? And while you're thinking about it, would you please pass the chicken?


More by this Author

Comments 39 comments

Tammy E. 5 years ago

I never realized how lost you were without your Mom. Sending you a hug!

Vickie Bovender profile image

Vickie Bovender 5 years ago from Southeastern US Author

Aw, thank you, Tammy, and thank you for reading my Hub. I hope and pray to NEVER endure that depth of grief again.

carolapple profile image

carolapple 5 years ago from Suffolk Virginia

Great reminder of the value of journaling for your children. My mother died after a long illness last May and like you, I am still coming to terms with the loss. During the holidays I also had that experience of not being able to pick up the phone and ask Mom about a recipe. Years ago she gave me a binder full of her recipes, something I took for granted that is now one of my most treasured possessions.

Vickie Bovender profile image

Vickie Bovender 5 years ago from Southeastern US Author

Hey there, Carol - Thank you so much for reading and commenting on my little Hub. I'm so sorry to hear of your mother's passing. It's so hard, isn't it? My "Mama" had an old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook - so well worn. It's a treasure, definitely, especially her little handwritten recipes stuck between the pages here and there. Hang in there...and thank you again.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

I'm now on the downhill side of life, and as much as I regret the lost years I never recorded, there's no reason I cannot begin today.

Excellent Hub and voted that way.

Vickie Bovender profile image

Vickie Bovender 5 years ago from Southeastern US Author

Ah...there you go! I just said in the other comment that it's never to late to begin, and I meant every word. And judging from the poem I read today (that you wrote), you'll never be on the down side.

Thank you so much, Will.

vietnamvet68 profile image

vietnamvet68 5 years ago from New York State

I kind of did the same thing except I put mine into a book of my life. My wife talked me into writing a story about all my experiences through life. . Writing it brought back a lot of old vivid memories for me.

Great hub enjoyed it very much

God Bless

Vickie Bovender profile image

Vickie Bovender 5 years ago from Southeastern US Author

What a surprise to find you here! Writing is such a cathartic activity, VV. Sometimes it drains you for days at a time, but it's good to get it out, even better if someone reads it! And as I'm sure you learned, as you write about one aspect of your life, you make room for other memories to come forward. Keep writing, and thank you for reading my Hub. :) More importantly, thank you for your service to our country.

Dawn Herring 5 years ago


I was truly touched by your heart felt post. It's amazing what journaling can do for a grieving soul. And to create a journal of memories for your daughter so she would know more about you is a wonderful idea. It's amazing how many associations we can grapple with from just one word, especially the word 'food'. I enjoyed reading your excerpts.

I have chosen your post, #Journaling Your Memories, for the #JournalChat Pick of the Day for all things journaling on Twitter on Valentines Day, 2/14/11. I will post a link on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and my blog, Refresh with Dawn Herring.

You're welcome to follow my @JournalChat account for all things journaling on Twitter. :)

Thanks again for sharing your grief and your heart in the journaling process; hope your daughters enjoys!

Be refreshed,

Dawn Herring

JournalWriter Freelance

@JournalChat on Twitter for all thing journaling

Vickie Bovender profile image

Vickie Bovender 5 years ago from Southeastern US Author

Dawn, hello! I am honored and delighted that you enjoyed my Hub - and am thrilled that you chose it for your pick of the day! I wish I'd seen this earlier - I would love to have joined you. (I'll see if I can find your blog, too! What a great name for it.)

Thank you thank you! :)


SweetMarie83 profile image

SweetMarie83 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

What a beautiful hub, I really enjoyed reading this. :-) My 99-year-old Grama has been keeping journals for decades...she keeps one out at all times and reads a bit each night. My mum has started keeping a journal the last few years and I do too, but I love the idea of childhood memories, special times, etc. My family has been trying to convince my Grama to write her memoirs but she thinks it's too late and there's a lot she's forgotten, but we keep telling her how special it would be to have those memories recorded other than just a few short lines in a journal.

Vickie Bovender profile image

Vickie Bovender 5 years ago from Southeastern US Author

Hello, Marie.

Thank you for reading my Hub! Tell Grama it's never too late to begin, and if nothing else, you could get her a recorder of some sort and she could "speak" her stories and memories into it. Someone else could transcribe it for her.

Take care.

arthurchappell profile image

arthurchappell 5 years ago from Manchester, England

A great useful Hub - My Granddad kept a journal - he shared extracts from it with me but it vanished without trace after he died so I was never able to do anything with it - that saddened me a great deal.

Vickie Bovender profile image

Vickie Bovender 5 years ago from Southeastern US Author

Hey there, Arthur...How sad that Granddad's journal disappeared. Maybe it contained information he didn't want anyone else to see and he may have destroyed it himself at some point. Still, I know you'd love to have it. Perhaps you could begin one of your own, hmm?

Thank you for commenting and for the follow! I'm honored.

Take care...

arthurchappell profile image

arthurchappell 5 years ago from Manchester, England

More likely it was thrown out by my gran when she got rid of a lot of his stuff after he died - he did tend to horde everything he ever got his hands on so the house was full of junk, newspapers from years back, etc - my gran was always trying to get him to part with a lot of it and did it herself soon after he died - the journal seemed to go out with the rest of his unwanted stuff. She never realized it might mean something to me - I do keep journals, and part of my life story was self published a few years back on a print on demand publishing site called Lulu - it deals with my time in an extremiist cult - my daily diaries here are very much a rolling memoir - might well write a Hub feature on writing memoirs myself too, inspired by this conversation. Thank you

Vickie Bovender profile image

Vickie Bovender 5 years ago from Southeastern US Author

I look forward to reading it!

arthurchappell profile image

arthurchappell 5 years ago from Manchester, England

I'll let you know when it goes live. Cheers.

Ingenira profile image

Ingenira 5 years ago

Beautiful work, Vickie. I love what you shared. Writing can have such an impact in our lives. I guess that's one of the reason I am writing, even if I cannot do it very well. Keep writing !

Vickie Bovender profile image

Vickie Bovender 5 years ago from Southeastern US Author

Thanks, Arthur!

Ingenira - You DO write well, silly. Thank you for reading my lil Hub. :)

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago

Writing is very cathartic. When we lose someone we love, writing is a good way to deal with the grieving process. I lost my Mom this past October, and I wrote a hub about "Grieving When You Lose Someone Close to You". While I still hurt, writing has helped me. Journaling is such a constructive way to express yourself. You give so many wonderful and positive ideas about helping others journal also. Thanks for creating an inspiring hub. I hope you will keep writing more.

What Is Q profile image

What Is Q 5 years ago from Tennessee

What a great idea, Vickie, and I'm glad the writing helped with your loss. So sorry you had to experience that. Maybe I should start on a journal while I'm still young and making new memories, because I tend to forget a lot of stuff. But that's a great gift for your daughter, and maybe even the grandchildren, and I'm sure it'll be treasured always. Thanks for the great hub and passing on the idea.

Vickie Bovender profile image

Vickie Bovender 5 years ago from Southeastern US Author

Thank you both, Toknow and Q... and Q - the sooner you begin, the better! :)

marala17 profile image

marala17 5 years ago

Thank you for writing this beautiful article. It is so heartfelt and uplifting. I really loved it and felt it. You are a gifted writer. Can't wait to read more.

"Your new follower" Marala

Vickie Bovender profile image

Vickie Bovender 5 years ago from Southeastern US Author

Marala, thank you so much for reading my Hub and for your kind comment. :) Nice to "meet" you!

DexisView profile image

DexisView 5 years ago from New England

Journaling is a wonderful way to record bits of your personal history. My grandmother shared so many fascinating stories with us of her family coming to the U.S. from Ireland that I wish she had journaled. I have journaled many important family events for my own children through the years. It's fun to see them now doing the same. It's great that you have your mom's photos. Thanks for sharing.

Vickie Bovender profile image

Vickie Bovender 5 years ago from Southeastern US Author

Thank you so much. I'm happy to know you've journaled - and what a priceless gift to leave for your loved ones one day. (Then there are the ones you burn. LOL!)

Take care, and thank you for reading and commenting on my little Hub.

vadette971 profile image

vadette971 5 years ago from Zambales, Philippines

It is said " The Pen is Mightier than the Sword" so it is also compared to memories. Im quite getting old and Don't remember things i did days ago. Very unlikely when i was younger. Thanks for Being a Fan Mail!

Vickie Bovender profile image

Vickie Bovender 5 years ago from Southeastern US Author

Hello, Vadette~~

Thank you for reading my Hub. My memory's slipping, too, but fortunately those long-ago memories don't escape as quickly as the short-term ones. :) (I guess it's fortunate, anyway.) It's worth a try!

Take care!

pinkydoo profile image

pinkydoo 5 years ago from New York

Writing is so therapeutic! I don't know what I would do if I couldn't write! I enjoyed your hub - and I like the cute ending. I like chicken, too!

Vickie Bovender profile image

Vickie Bovender 5 years ago from Southeastern US Author

Aw, thank you, Pinkydoo! Love the pink kitty and the cute-i-ful name you chose! :)

HattieMattieMae profile image

HattieMattieMae 5 years ago from Limburg, Netherlands

Yeah I just bought a book talking about this because I want to write my life story, and it talks about journaling your memories. Good pointers!

Vickie Bovender profile image

Vickie Bovender 5 years ago from Southeastern US Author

Really? That's wonderful! Start writing, Hattie! Thank you for reading. :)

viveresperando profile image

viveresperando 5 years ago from A Place Where Nothing Is Real

I do love to journal, right now I started to keep a dream journal; what a beautiful tribute you are making for your children. Writing can be so healing, I am deeply sorry about your loss.

Vickie Bovender profile image

Vickie Bovender 5 years ago from Southeastern US Author

Hello, Vive~~

Dreams are fascinating, aren't they? It's amazing what the mind cooks up when we're asleep. I've always wished that I could write stories as great as some of my dreams. No doubt your dream journal will be insightful and entertaining - good luck with the project. Try to capture as much of your dream as soon as you wake - details have a way of evaporating quickly as the day's "busyness" begins to creep into the front of your thinking. :) Thanks for reading and commenting - and following me! I look forward to seeing more of YOUR writing!

RheaSunshine 5 years ago

I loved your hub. I am a huge journal person and I am OBSESSED with memories. I love to re-live things and have the comfort of knowing that if someday I lose my mind, I still have a way to remember my past. I'm happy that journaling has helped you through all of your hardships and it's great that you kept pressing forawrd. I also think it's neat that your thinking about your kids reading them. I always think about that when I write in mine (although I'm not sure if i even want to get married..). But hearing what people went through helps others feel like they're not alone, and maybe your kids will find inspiration in your words that maybe they never knew you had. I don't know..sorry I'm ranting. But anyways, I always tell people that the best way to write is just to write what comes to mind, and that sounds like what you did as you went from food to other memories. People think too much now days, but the most beatufiul words are straigh from your mind. Anywayz..I'm done with my long rant now =] haha.


P.S: Thanks for the FanMail =D!

Billrrrr profile image

Billrrrr 5 years ago from Cape Cod

Thanks for this great hub. I have only been able to revisit my past in the last few years with the help of Hubpages. Though I have written of some of my experiences, most of my life remains buried because I just don't like to think about it. Losing my parents almost 12 years ago still bothers me very much that I don't care to think about them because I get sad. I lost my dog around the same time and she was the best 'person' that I've ever known. I still can't think about her without getting depressed....and I cannot get another dog because they are not like tires on a car....some people lose one and just run out and get another....I cannot do it. The hubs are good therapy and last week I did write about one adventure my dog "Samantha" and I had with some kind of a swamp creature. I think soon, I will be able to some more revisiting of the past.

eventsyoudesign profile image

eventsyoudesign 5 years ago from Nashville, Tennessee

Good article. My husband always says we suffer here on earth more than the person who has passed away. I like your article. I think a journal is a great idea and you have inspired me to start one. Thanks for sharing. Teresa

Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

I love the idea of a journal but have never kept at it long enough to create the habit. Through your inspiration I will give it another try. I know these memories are very important for future generations.

Vickie Bovender profile image

Vickie Bovender 5 years ago from Southeastern US Author

For those who've read my oldie hubs, I am grateful. I've not been to HubPages for a while now. Not sure why, exactly, but...maybe soon. God bless each and everyone - and thank you again for reading.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article