Journal Writing Tips: What Will Happen to Your Journals? 16

AS JOURNAL KEEPERS, it’s important to think about what will happen to our journals when we are gone. Or even — and of course we hope this never happens — an accident befall us. This may seem like a morbid topic and something we’d rather avoid thinking about, but our journals are arguably our most private documents, full of thoughts and feelings which we have etched on paper (or on our hard drives). And we each have different ideas and feelings about what kind of legacy they might leave.

When my mother passed away, nearly four years ago, I inherited a lifetime of letters and journals she had written — priceless treasures as far as I’m concerned. As I read them, I’m getting to know my mother so much better, as the person and woman she was, not simply how I have imagined her. Yes, sometimes I read uncomfortably intimate information, stuff that I could get by without knowing, but it gives me a fuller picture of who she was. Her letters and journals, dating from around 1935 on, are important historical documents, detailing not only the inner life of a woman of her times but her view of world events as well.

As a result of my personal experience, I know that I’ll leave my journals for my children (they can decide whether the journals are of any value to them or not). Yet, I’ve talked to other journal keepers who wouldn’t want anyone else — especially not their children — to read their intimate thoughts, feelings, struggles.

However you feel about the subject, it’s important to communicate to someone — an estate executor, a friend, or relative — how you feel and to make arrangements for your wishes to be carried out. Then you can journal in peace, knowing that your writing will be in good hands.

How do you feel about your journals? What do you want to have done with them when you’re gone? Do you think it’s a good idea to leave them for others to read? And does it even matter? Why or why not? Leave a comment and let’s have a discussion.

For more on this topic, be sure to read my related post on about ways to safely store your journal writing (which will be posted tomorrow, the 22nd).

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16 thoughts on “Journal Writing Tips: What Will Happen to Your Journals?

  • Sandra

    I have done journaling off and on for years. After my divorce I started journaling and purchased journals for my kids. When my kids were grown my daughter found my journal that covered them time between my divorce and my second marriage. She told me she had not realized how much I had kept from them. She brought me her journal and she had similar thoughts in hers. She asked to keep my journal and I gave it to her. My mom kept one after my father passed away and gave it to me when she moved in a few years ago. She said it would help me understand what we were getting ourselves into. I will leave mine to my children.

  • Laurinda Wheeler

    While I HAVE thought about this over the years, I hadn’t really thought of in quite in as much depth as you offer here!

    I certainly imagine that I would leave them to my daughter, in hopes of her also gaining a better understanding of who I was and who I became… Knowing that my journals do have a lot darkness and detail of the crazy times in my life does leave me feeling, a little nervous I suppose, about what will be thought of me… But, I won’t be here to face any judgements, and as I said, I only hope that my words will bring light to the person I was on the journey to becoming!

  • Linda Sievers

    Ooooooohhhhh, I hope before I die, I can remember where I’ve put all the litte bugger journals I have written and burn them before anybody finds them!
    I consider my journals entirely for me and no one else. Not because I care that much if someone reads what I’ve written, but because my journaling process is the only place in my life, with the exception of prayer, that encapsulates my one-on-one relationship with me. It’s where I get to be my best friend.

  • Amber Lea Starfire

    Linda, I know several women who feel exactly the way you do about it and who have made arrangements for their journals to be destroyed if/when they are no longer able to make that decision for themselves. My suggestion would be to gather them up somewhere, put ’em in a box somewhere they can be retrieved easily (either by you for research purposes or by your “journal executor”) and designate someone to handle that for you. It’s a good idea to make your wishes known in writing, as well — include it in your will.

    This might sound like a wild and crazy thing to do, but you will have peace of mind about all those “little bugger journals” 🙂

  • Marcus

    I am keeping a journal for a number of years and filled about 5 I would say and number 6 in the process and nearly filled up with my thoughts. My partner knows about it and I am being teased that the only reason I won’t let anyone read is that I have secrets ….
    When my mum died I found a few letters and I kept them close to my heart. However, I am not sure if I want anybody to read my journals at all. I am torn between the two options. Maybe you geve me another journal prompt to find out.

  • Amber Lea Starfire

    Marcus, thank you for your comment. Yes, it’s a big decision. What’s most important in my mind is that we feel safe to write whatever we want in our journals — our most private thoughts, feelings, conflicts, ideas, lists, whatever. If, by deciding to leave our journals for others to read, we end up holding back, that is no good. So yes, spend some time writing about this idea — all the pro’s and con’s about leaving your journals for others and/or having them destroyed. It’s a very personal decision, and only you can know with what you are most comfortable.

    Also, remember you can change your mind. If you think at this point you want your journals destroyed, you can leave those instructions. In a year or so, if you change your mind, you can change your instructions.

  • Marcus

    Thanks for the reply, Amber.
    I wrote a few things down and it boils down to me being happy for others to read my thoughts under one condition: No questioning what they read. I realise that this could be difficult, so it might be the best to wait until this option just does not exist anymore.
    But, this leads to the questions of storing the journals in way that only I have access to them and no other has access to them by accident. What are your thoughts on this?

  • Amber Lea Starfire

    Hi Marcus, I store my journals in a locked storage unit (along with a whole lot of other stuff, such as boxes of books, etc.). If you don’t have access to a storage unit, you might try buying one of those inexpensive footlockers and putting a padlock on it. You could then keep it under your bed or in an attic. Although — if you check out my Saturday article at (referenced above), you’ll note that I really recommend storing important papers in a more secure location, in case of fire or other disaster. If you journal on the computer, you have the advantage of having two storage locations: hard copy and digital.

  • Carol

    Ironic that I should come across this article now. I have thought about my many journals and what would become of them when I can not make that choice. Now, I am scanning through them for any info that I want to remember and making notes and the rest will be burned in a personal ‘ceremony’ I have yet to decide on. Too much of my writing is “venting” and certainly not something I want to share with anyone else.

    I also keep a journal where I write about 4 or 5 things to be grateful for everyday and also, what did I learn today about myself, the world I live in. Those journals I will keep and leave for my daughters when I am ‘gone’.

    Some journal writing is for my eyes only, but my gratitude and what did I learn today can be shared with my family.

  • Bonnie Danielson

    My mother-in-law left journals behind that were copied & spiral-bound for the children & grandchildren. Everyone LOVED them and wished she’d left more! We learned more about her life & times, and simply got to know her better by reading the things she chose to share. My kids have asked me to write for them… family stories, personal thoughts on the events of life… and I love the fact that they want those things from me. It’s a great lagacy!

      • Sandy Brown Jensen

        I realize that was a 2011-13 blog post, but that’s the beauty of SEO! Years later, I can still find and benefit by it.
        I am 70 and am beginning my retirement. I have no children—various nieces and nephews. By which I mean, I don’t think there will be anyone left behind when I die who will care to “get to know me” through reading journals.

        I just spent the first week of 2021 cleaning my studio and boxing up my journals, of which there are well over a hundred; five book boxes full, tumbled in in no particular order, in dozens of beautiful PaperBlanks. I’ve been journaling since I was eight years old. My husband, 78, has even more. He would have a fit if I tried to burn or recycle them.

        So in reviewing your thoughts and the thoughts of others here, I think I will store them in the garage well labeled. If he goes before me, I will then feel free to thrown them out. If vice versa, he can make the call. At least they’ll be in a compact, identified area.

        Meanwhile, my journaling habit continues, adding more fuel to a future fire!

        • Amber Lea Starfire Post author

          Sandy, thank you for sharing your story and thoughts (and sorry for this delayed reply). Your plan is very sensible. I’m glad you’re continuing to journal and continuing to preserve those journals. You just never know what the future holds.