It was 14 years ago.
I still remember everything about that day. Sure, I had people I loved who died: grandparents and great-grandparents, but they lived full lives.
It stung, but not like this.
This one rocked me to my core.
So many thoughts: You don’t die in your early 30s. We just spoke at 11 last night. What do you mean she’s dead?
My best friend. Gone.
I wish I had discovered this way to journal that I’m about to share with you back then. It would have saved me from 7 months of agony.
How to Keep a Memory Journal
We’ve heard of gratitude journals, where you write down 3-5 things that you’re grateful for each day, forcing us to seek out only the uplifting, pleasant moments.
Well, let’s takes a different play on it.
Right before going to bed, write a paragraph (5-7 sentences max) summarizing all emotions experienced during that day. The one caveat is to end your journal entry with a happy memory of your loved one. Here’s an example:
Hi [Loved One],
Someone asked me today how I was holding up, and my eyes filled with tears. I feel hollow like I can hear my voice echoing in my chest. I really missed you today, especially when I went to the cafeteria and they had spinach lasagna – your favorite! I smiled a little to myself because, in a way, I believe you were sending me a message.
Here’s my fun memory of us today.
Remember that time we skipped Ms. Wheeler’s class and got caught? We had to write an apology letter in Spanish for our detention. It was so well-written that we became her favorites!
Here’s why this journaling technique works. By acknowledging and tracking every emotion, you tap into the principle of Pearson’s Law, which states:
“That which is measured improves. That which is measured and REPORTED, improves exponentially.”
This Law is used primarily in business, but the premise can be applied to processing your grief, as well. Think about it: as you write your thoughts on paper, you have an outlet for all your internalized feelings.
It’s cathartic to release.
Also, by ending on a positive memory, it puts your mind in an optimistic state which is more conducive to good sleep and better thoughts around the triggers (hearing their name, driving past their favorite restaurant, etc.)
Once a week, review your journal and see how you’re progressing. Are you crying less? Do you feel less raw? Look for wins. Any win will do. You might have to search hard for it, but I guarantee you will find encouraging achievements. Besides, it will give you a new benchmark to meet and, more importantly, cause for celebrating.
Loss is never easy, but finding ways to neutralize the pain is a great first step.
One day at a time.
Give yourself that freedom to heal.