grief journal review

Why I Keep a Grief Journal

April 23, 2020 New Moon in Taurus

Eight years later, for me. Here we all are – isolated together in a mist of Coronavirus 19.

Since December, I have been in a sweeping reconstruction for how I offer my grief and energy coaching practices. All I understand is being gathered into a new format – not the book I set upon (incremental progress) but into a new website presentation. The current site is broken and a mess underneath, and this new place – like moving into a new home – will be a fresh start. Navigating Grief is moving virtually as we speak! I am updating, cleaning up and transferring all of my website, electronic communications and adding content. In tandem, I excitedly return to group work with a hybrid online and virtual course for Start Here Now. This is full circle around the expanding spiral on my journey, now accessible in a new generation of technology and connectivity. If you find household moves are daunting, try the digital assets of home and office! Over ten years in the making…

I am once again between the breaths of what I thought would happen and how it unfolds. Between is such an operative word for me! Of course, between is the walkway of the metaphoric bridge I love so much. Chaos and creativity, in the words of transition expert William Bridges.

My home office has become the 2.0 version of Discover Create Share Center in a private re-configuration of the three-room business suite I opened in 2013. This morning as I rearranged some of the last stuff of books, journals and history I stumbled onto the earliest of my grief journal entries. The first phrase that popped up is “Note – Profoundly personal.” Then a few pages later, I find a dream written just days after my husband’s death.

The Set Up: My husband Dave dies February 15, 2012. He had been on hospice care service for lung cancer one week short of a full year. His illness forced his retirement as a College professor.

In December of 2011, as my husband lay dying, in a preemptive move of impending separation and in service to my own future, I enrolled in a life coaching program to augment my skills of an online client writing platform. This was my original course delivery for the Storybooks for Healing / Grief Reflection program, which later evolved into my signature Start Here Now. The system I used at that time was developed for life coaches so I thought it would be useful to understand this professional perspective. I was curious. What I found in coaching – I continued courses until credentialed – was an education that deeply aligned and furthered my instincts for guiding others through grief, and more importantly life. Unbeknownst then, this was the start of my many educational and experiential programs for professional, personal and spiritual growth ever since. Even this morning I signed up for a much-awaited Crystal Ally Card Master Reading Class! Never in my predictions…

Of note for reading this journal entry to follow, I was also a former hospice respite volunteer. Dave and I were featured in a video that supported our local hospice organization during his end-of-life care. We met with the social worker Jennifer and other hospice organization folk often.

When Dave was diagnosed in 2010 with terminal cancer, I began writing in earnest, for both personal cathartic insight and to “walk the talk” of grief and loss. Over the years, my journal writing can wax and wane, but in every time of need to hear my heart, I always return to the pen. What I want you to know is that writing is an extremely important instrument of insight, hindsight and even foresight. Please. Keep a journal. No matter how tiny or random the thought may seem in the moment. They often show up as amazing finds of synchronicity and messages we yearn to feel and hear forever.

Private journal entry: Monday, February 20, 2012

I had a dream that Dave is still alive – Here’s what I remember:

Dave was going to teach. He was thin, his hair thin and dirty. He needed to bathe. He had to go to College one more day, one more class. Just to see his students.

I helped him, but was not happy for him to go to class. I knew he was not up for it physically. I tried to make him presentable for this day. He wasn’t going to shower. He’d just be there for this last class to tell them he won’t be back. Last thing to do. (He’s at the College – makes me cry.)

I had to meet with the professionals. There is a policeman in the dream somewhere – I just remember the uniform.

Meeting w/ pros – I explained that I saw I spoke w/ Dave, he was going back to College one more time. It didn’t matter if he was dressed up. It would be OK.

I knew he died and didn’t understand how he got back here to go to class again. It wasn’t making sense and I had to get help to know if this is right.

I had a call to talk about Dave’s return. I’d be turned over to a social worker to sort it out. Jennifer wasn’t available but there were other who could listen.

I was at the building for my appointment talking with someone – all were women counselors. There was a lot about who could help me – which person and what type of person – social worker came up most.

I told my story – knowing that Dave had died last week but that he came back for a day to work. Could that happen I wondered? Was I crazy to know better yet still be visited?

We had to go to a different building to talk. This person and I drive the short distance. It was rainy.

I had to go back and forth between buildings. Sometimes by myself, remembering the steps and hallways. I was driven back to the first building and had to go through 3 buildings from the interior to get back to the counselor.

I often tried to sort through the counselor’s credentials and relationship. I need validation about this. (Wow! My career??)

I explained again that Dave came home and readied for his last class. She listened and asked if I thought he could be back. Was I sure he was dead? I said yes, he was at the crematorium, so I knew he died, but it was so real he was here again.

I had a last walk between the buildings. There was a set of stairs – shallow and riser-type / open on the bottom. A woman was rolling almost slithering among them.

Do you need help I asked hurriedly? Yes, came the answer. I yelled for help – many times. Help, help! People came from everywhere, all around. The woman had rolled under the stairwell and back around to the other side. She was OK by the time others arrived.

I was questioned about whether this person needed help – was she in pain or not?

I knew she was. I called for help even though on the outside everything appeared all right. I knew that truth about her. It was genuine. But she is OK.

I was back at the office area for finishing up the appointment. The counselor was helping someone else – perhaps even a co-worker. She was receiving a massage from my counselor. She could see I really needed the support. What about my keys locked in the empty office? I wondered.

I have just one more question I said. Really, seeing Dave and believing he’s come back, even in the midst of knowing he has died / he is dead…. Is that (gesture quotation marks) “normal?”

Of course it is. Was the reassuring answer.

In this end of the dream I have an overwhelming sense that reminds me that I am not working alone. In fact, that I am leading some along. Also, that Dave really is with me –

There is also a dream part about writing a book.

What Dreams are Made of…

The 20/20 hindsight. Holy Moley! Did that just show itself, too! 2020? And the entry itself? 2/20/2012. So funny.

Perhaps you too can see this personal and professional journey foreshadowed, at least in how I interpret this dream today. This journal ghost seems to have come to remind me how universal grief and loss are timeless. I know its accuracy given the choices I make now as I re-commit to the first steps for Navigating Grief. We must sometimes go a long way around in order to come back a very short distance.

“I called for help even though on the outside everything appeared all right. I knew that truth about her. It was genuine. But she is OK.”

Is My Grief Normal? How Long Does Grief Take? How Do I Navigate Grief? These three unstated questions were posed and answered in this dream. The questions I am most asked after significant loss. They are the lead pages on my new website! They are fundamental Navigating Grief concepts developed in my early loss years in coaching, grief and widowhood. Along with that metaphorical bridge full of slats and The Other Side, like the stairwell in the dream. They are concepts which show themselves as universal truths. We will be OK.

The first coursework I am rolling out online is my group support for widows known affectionately as WOW – Wisdom of Widows. “Wow!!,” I wrote in the journal aside. “my career?” I love to coach for all losses so a decision to focus most of my energy on widows today has felt ambiguous to me. This dream indicates lots of women, so perhaps it is my clue of “the right path.” I am on target for a start date for late May, to be announced soon. As well, I am calling others forth to be guides to offer specific loss programs in the coming year on this universal program, too. And, I can meet everyone through private practice. I am excited to rekindle and carry this light forth.

We are experiencing incredibly trying times that shake our core beliefs, stir up every existential fear for ourselves and our loved ones, and even reaches a sense of compassion and gratitude for life, not seen globally before. Finally, it is time to come together. I hate that Coronavirus 19 is an instigator. But it is hard to deny what death does to us.

In my growth through widow’s grief, along with client services and additional losses (my mother, step-father and a brother have died since), I’ve come to a much bigger model for healing, meaning and purpose. You’ll find this on an upcoming page titled The Venn (not Zen) for Whole Being: Beliefs, Body, Mind. This is the area for Being with Loss and personal reidentification once the dark Coping with Loss zone is passed.

In 2017, as I immersed myself into a series of retreats on traditional and contemporary group teaching methods, I emerged with more creative writing and played with doodling journals. This is the intersection I have come to find as “personal grief and healing meet” to arrive at Grief in the World. I can’t think of any better phrase for what we are going through now than “Grief in the World.” I am rolling out more on this concept on the new website. In the meantime, I have written! So much still unpublished, unsaid, like the dream.

In late 2017, I penned a poem: What if. I’ll sign off here for you to ponder the first three questions:

What if death is a messenger of love and connection, not separation?
What if grief is calling to create individual meaning and purpose in life?
What if emptiness is a receptacle for filling?

(Navigating Grief newsletter. April 24, 2020)

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