Jonathan died and I took notes. I dutifully recorded the tidal wave of emotion that had swept through our family in the summer of 2006. Every night I returned my precious journal to the same place so I could find it again. If you think it’s hard to find missing car keys after age fifty, it is even more difficult to find a purpose to the day when you’ve lost a child. So I took notes. I carefully buried my musings under my mother’s scarves in my dresser drawer.
Letters to my dead son started in a small, worn journal that followed me everywhere. I wrote notes on flimsy white bar napkins and backs of torn envelopes. I stuffed 4″x6″ index cards in my pocket so I could record any idea that came to me whether I was on a bike ride or waiting in line at the post office. Write down all your thoughts.
My journal was my private refuge, a way for me to hide away what I didn’t dare confide. The note taking made me think. Thinking made me retrace his last steps. And retracing his fatal car accident on lined paper was less stressful than unloading on my family.
In one year my entire body felt ten years older and I felt oddly disfigured by his death. My pos-ture was crooked. I was disoriented. I waited out the pain and my real, haunted thoughts in soli-tude. My journal was the only place I could safely question my sanity. To stay motivated, I en-rolled in a writing class. When I was in my depths of grief I just wanted to go howl at the moon. But when I expressed my feelings on paper, I moved forward, word by word.
To help establish a routine for your journal, write a letter to your child once a year. Choose the same day — perhaps her birthday, the anniversary of her death, or the day she would be voting. The annual reckoning will become a sort of subterranean current that pulls you back into your personal, quiet memorial. The writing prevents you from drowning in your sorrow.
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