In media res: Accidentally writing a grief journal to cope

Woman writing on a journal

I hadn’t written in quite some time.

Sometime in January, I found out that an old childhood friend of mine had passed. One morning, I groggily woke up to a text about her and couldn’t believe it. I checked on her Facebook and saw the messages of condolences. My disbelief fell into dismay. Then anger, at her, at myself. Guilt and disappointment rankled soon after.

There were so many things I had wanted to say. We grew apart as we developed into adults. The common, silent tragedy of the slow alienation between friends turned awkward strangers. I imagined we would have had enough time to reconnect. Sometime in the future, when we would have figured out this adulthood nonsense, maybe we would have happened to see each other by chance. Or, I would have swallowed my pride and attempted to rekindle a friendship. At least as a transaction on Facebook. Add Friend. Then in my mind, maybe we would have exchanged messages and agree to meet over coffee or beer. Maybe we would have forgiven each other of our sins and decided then and there where our friendship would go. Dress it up with niceties like, “Let’s hang out again sometime,” and never see each other again. Or it actually goes somewhere, and we turn awkward strangers to furtive acquaintances.

I had unknowingly stored such words and stories in the back of my mind, uncertain when to welcome this character again.

But her story ended abruptly.

Processing grief became an attempt to find the remaining words. I hung on to each sorrowed gasp between eulogies at the memorial service, desperate for closure. Clarity.

I took to writing to try to understand my emotions, creating what became something of a grief journal. It became my way of recycling these unfinished phrases, articles, and sentences to my story of mourning this person. In my confusion of navigation this cloudy path of grief, it gave me direction, transferring words from brain to finger to paper. It allowed me to analyze my feelings, remember this person, and understand my emotions and the facts of what happened.

Writing this clumsy grief journal became my way of coping: I wrote about mundane everyday things like what I ate, emotions I felt, spouts of grief that came and went. It help realigned my thoughts and validate my feelings. This person isn’t here anymore, but my memories of her are here, my sadness is here, and I had eggs and toast for breakfast. And if I remember that, then I remember I’m in the present. But I’m also allowing myself to mourn the past.

Writing helped me remember this person, realize my pain, and remember the boring things I did so I can stay grounded. There may be a time where I can reconnect with this person somehow. In the meantime, there are more words and stories to tell.



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