Before I go any further, I suppose I should add the disclaimer that I am not a doctor or a psychologist. I do not have training in this in any way. I am just a writer and a life-long journaler who has used those skills to help me heal. The topics I will present here will be pulled from my personal blog topics, from the suggestions of other mothers of loss, and from some internet research. It will always be a work in progress, but feel free to share with others if you think they may need it.
Journaling through Grief
Before you begin any journaling, it is important to remember to never censor yourself. Don't worry about eloquence or perfect vocabulary. Just write. If it is in you - it needs to be written. No matter how dark, how scary, how terrible you feel it is to say - say it. You never have to share it. You can even destroy it when you're finished, but get it out. Think about cleaning out your refrigerator to make room for more groceries. You might find something rotten and disgusting stuck to the back of a drawer, but you don't leave it there to fester and get worse. You clean it up and wipe it down. Journaling is a cleansing and a purging, and then a reorganizing and refilling.
None of these need to be done in any sort of order, and can be completed as many times as you need. Do what feels right for you.
1. Tell your story. This might be very difficult. My very first blog post took about two hours to write simply because I had to stop and cry every two minutes. You might take several days, but, it is important to get out. Try to remember all the details you can. Where were you when you first knew you'd lost your baby? Who was with you? What were the events surrounding your loss? Try to keep your writing sequenced in a beginning to end manner. I wrote from the moment I found out at my doctor's appointment to that night in the hospital when I held her for the first and last time.
2. Organize a memorial and write about the event. How have you chosen to remember your baby? Did you have a funeral? Did you plant a tree? Release balloons? Write about the day you honored your child's life and how it makes you feel. You can read about Kenley's memorial service here.
3. Imagine a life for your baby. When I lost Kenley, the hardest part was knowing she would never have a life. She would never grow up. At her memorial service, I read a letter I wrote to her in which I created a life for her - the life she should have had and the life she deserved. Think about the milestones your baby would have had, the life you wanted them to lead. Give them that life in your writing.
4. Remember a happy moment. After losing your baby, it is hard to associate your child with anything other than pain. Take a minute to think about one joyful moment either during your pregnancy, or during your baby's short life. What happened in that moment? Why is it such a happy memory? How do you feel when you remember this time? This is a journal activity you don't want to limit to doing only once. Think of your baby with joy often. Write about all the moments that make your heart sing.
5. Scream and Yell. You are angry. Let it out. Write about how unfair this is. Write about how angry you are that your child is gone. You have every right to feel anger and rage. Use whatever language you need to in order to convey your feelings. When you're finished, take a few deep breaths. Wipe your tears away, and go for a walk, hug someone you love, play with your dog. Keep the balance.
6. Write about daily events. What did you do today? How did those events affect how you feel? Do you feel that some things are harder to accomplish on a daily basis? What makes them so hard? Besides having your baby back, what might make them easier? If you don't know these answers, that's okay. I have often found that the more I write about things, the more my brain processes them. Sometimes, I have to write about something several times before a light bulb will go off...."This is what I need to do!"
7. Write a letter to your baby. Tell them how much you miss them. Tell them how much you love them. Tell them how much your life has changed because of them and without them. You could combine this with daily events and write a daily letter to your baby if you felt so inclined. Here is a letter I wrote to Kenley on Mother's Day.
8. Write about your emotions. Make a list of all the emotions you feel regarding your baby's death. Sorrow? Rage? Desperation? Hopelessness? Fear? Once you have your list, take time to write about each one. How does it physically make you feel? A knotted stomach? Shaking hands? Why do you think you have this feeling? Write about each feeling in depth. Take your time. You don't have to do this all at once. Leave and come back to it if you need to. Sometimes, when I am writing, I realize I am not ready to talk about something. I need more time to process my emotions. I shelve that topic for the time being and revisit it when I feel better prepared. You can read a few of my emotional posts here, here, and here.
9. Get Creative. Sometimes, writing can't convey the emotion we need it to. Sometimes, we need to do something beyond a pen and paper or a keyboard. Some suggestions for this include drawing or creating a collage of your grief. Draw your emotions. Scribble on the page. Collage images that show how you feel - or how you choose to remember your child. Magazines, fabric pieces, buttons, stickers...anything you have available. Use your camera to find images that help you say what you need to say. You can chose to also write about your art - or you can leave it as is. Some of my art pieces can be found here and here. In addition, I found a free online photography course called Illuminate specifically geared towards mothers of loss, which inspired a few other posts. You can look into that here.
10. Stream of Consciousness. A creative writing class I took in college used this method of writing, and I was often surprised as to where it took me. In this, you decide on a time limit for writing. 5 minutes. 10 minutes. Whatever you are comfortable with, but try to keep it short. Then, just write about anything that pops into your head. It doesn't have to be about losing your baby. Just let the contents of your brain flow. One thought might trigger another, which in turn will trigger another and another. Don't stop to censor yourself or to get back on track. Just go where it takes you. Sometimes, your subconscious knows what you need before you do. Do this as often as you like. It's a nice, quick mental purge.
11. Write a "How To" guide telling people how you want to be treated following the loss of your baby. Your feelings regarding this will probably change often. Many times, people don't know how to respond to our loss because they can't imagine such a terrible tragedy. As a result, you probably feel isolated and misunderstood. Write about what you need from others on a daily basis. Even if you don't share this with anyone, writing down what you need might help you deal with people in some social situations - and you might find yourself taking actions to actually get it. Here is a Top Ten list I created on what I wanted others to know about losing my daughter.
This is all I have for now. I will continue to hone the details and add to this page. If you have any suggestions or feedback, I'd be glad to hear it. You can comment on this post or email me at KenleyNinja@gmail.com
Whatever you do, don't be afraid to explore your grief. It's a dark and scary jungle, but if you're not willing to walk through it, you'll never get out. I will gladly take your hand and we can walk through it together. You can also check out the FYI page for links to other blogs and support. If you find yourself in too dark of a place and haven't already sought professional support, please do so. There are many wonderful grief counselors out there who can help you as well.
Hugs and love to you today and for always.