One of the biggest regrets I have experienced in my grieving since I lost my two oldest children, 21 year old Denis and 19 year old Peggy, in the same automobile accident, is not having kept a journal through the Valley of the Shadows.
Jotting down daily thoughts or fleeting ideas that run through your mind helps keep a record of your journey. You would be surprised how you can analyze your heartís progress as you read your entries. Noticing situations that upset you, learning of happenings that provide some joy for you, can be important tools in your attempt to deal with your loss and to make a new life for yourself.
Exhaustion was one of the biggest hurdles I had to contend with as I tried to re-weave my family tapestry and to make a meaningful life for myself. I fell into bed every night and was asleep in two seconds, never affording myself the few minutes it takes to record my dayís feelings. I missed a great opportunity to realize the depth and path of my sorrow. Being glad to just get through another day, I never gave it a thought.
Pouring my heart out on paper as I wrote their individual eulogies for their funerals, which were four days apart, began the healing power of telling the world how special each was and how much I loved them and all the qualities that formed their exuberant personalities. Of course, I shed many tears while searching for the right words to describe them, but that in itself, was a release of my pent up emotions.
Six weeks later after I had gotten a little stronger, I wanted to send an acknowledgment card reflecting the distinct personalities of my Peggy and Denis. After visiting the local printing shop and finding no model to "kind of" copy, I designed my very own card, which folded like a birthday card. On the front, I composed my heartfelt "thank you" to the people for their support, prayers, flowers, food, and whatever else they had done to help us, which appeared under a favorite picture of Peggy and Denis together as young children. Inside the card, in my own "motherly" words, I told everybody the special things I remembered about my Peggy and Denis, with Peggyís picture and story on the left side and Denisí picture and story on the right. To this day, years later, I share the writings on that card with people I meet, so they will know my children. No one ever told me how one piece of writing could help the heart so much.
It wasnít until I wrote a few articles describing my feelings that I realized I couldnít pinpoint the peaks and plateaus in my journey, or accurately measure the giant steps I had taken in my grief, since I hadnít kept an ongoing record of them. As I began to write more and more about my experience as a bereaved parent, I found that sharing my children "with the world" was a great healing part of my grief. There was something therapeutic in retelling their story and talking about them. Reaching out to other bereaved families with the simple wisdom I had learned in the months of grieving brought a sense of peace to my heart. Telling everybody about my Peggy and Denis made their deaths become more of a reality to me and made them more part of me.
Writing articles for their anniversaries and sharing what Iíve learned in newsletters, magazines and newspapers always helps somebody else just starting out and that brings great peace to my heart.
As one bereaved mother
wrote me recently. "Isnít it wonderful that even ten years later Peggy
and Denis still make a difference in the world?" And I thought, "Oh boy,
the power of words and what a beautiful thought for my heart!"