Before my Mum died, I went to pre-bereavement sessions with Balloons, a bereavement charity. I had about 4 sessions, and later had 4 post bereavement sessions.
On my first session, we spoke about how difficult it can be to actually talk when you’re in a high-pressure environment. How can you really talk though, when everyone around you is in pain? How can you especially communicate with your loved one, who you are already grieving for?
The lady I used to meet with gave me two journals. One for me, and one for Katie.
Internally, I rolled my eyes and thought “I already journal”. I already do the whole pour-out-your-emotions-and-cry thing. But if I’m honest, my journal was becoming dusty, worn and I would write messages like “Why is this book so sad?” I wasn’t really journaling or writing how I feel. I was dissecting my day, given a receipt of how many nurses came and went, how Katie was feeling, how Mum was doing. I wasn’t giving my own thoughts the time of day. I think I was afraid of the stuff I was going to write. Journaling meant acknowledging “Yep. This is really happening.” I was terrified.
I didn’t write in the new journal for weeks. Until one day, I just had to.
I can compare journaling to a massage. For me, it is like sorting through each gritty twist and knot in your brain and it relaxing for a while. I had to get it out.
I opened my new journal, flattened the page, and made a mind-map titled “Today I feel stupid, lost and alone”. I cried. But it was healthier because I had finally admitted to myself that I was afraid of my Mum passing away. This seems obvious, but sometimes you have to realize something rather than just know it.
After that it became something I did regularly, and looked forward to. I didn’t just do traditional journaling, I drew doodles, mind-maps, or just wrote one word.
This was my new lifeline, my new friend who I could be completely honest with. Being in a high-pressured environment is difficult, because I never wanted to add to the pressure, I didn’t want to stress Mum or Katie or anyone else out by crying or shouting or screaming. Outside of my body I tried to hide and remain composed, but this book meant that I could riot, rebel, but also riddle my way through my thoughts.
I remember a page where I just scribbled “WHY”. One word which took up the whole page. I scratched it in so much the letters were thick and black but each time I drove my pen into the paper I felt a release.
After my Mum passed away, my journal grew in importance. I wrote letters to her, started to write a list of all my memories with her. I started with her physical qualities that I was afraid to forget, but also the weird things like what pudding she would order from a menu. It helped me to process, carry on, and connect back with myself.
Journaling has been an important step for me and my grief. It was a fresh slate given to me to pour the darkest pieces, but also the lightest pieces of my grief into. Having a journal can give you freedom, however traditional journaling might not work for you. If it doesn’t work for you, I still encourage you to get a blank, ugly (or pretty- though I find pretty things are harder to be ugly into) notebook and maybe try:
- Writing a stream of consciousness.
- Writing crap poetry.
- Ripping up.
- Drawing into.
- Writing stories.
- Writing mind-maps.
- Writing letters to people.
I have done all of these things. Even if they didn’t help me a lot, they still helped me to find my methods of coping. Do not give up with it. You are worth at least 15 minutes of your day to process everything you are going through.
If writing really isn’t your thing, try reading, exercising (running is a good option as it is cheap and hard), or trying to go on walks by yourself. If you don’t want to be alone, try meeting people for coffee to talk things through, or try going to a friend’s house or flat for a couple hours, if it’s possible to do so.
I want to give you options. Katie’s journal didn’t really work for her, but she found a lot of solace in exercise, or when we try to get out of the house together for a while.
I want you to know that although caring or grieving seems like the biggest thing for you right now, you are worth more than bottling up your emotions and you deserve time to truly feel and be your authentic self.