grief journal – why?
I’ve decided to try to keep a very loose day-by-day “grief journal” of my loss. One of the things I immediately did when Jackson passed was to look for some kind of information to help me know what to expect. I had lost another chocolate lab about a year before we got Jackson in 2005, and had lost both my elderly parents in the last couple of years (2016 and 2018) as well. Each experience was a little different and not entirely what I had feared or expected, so I went back and reviewed my journal entries from around the time of those events. I talked to friends who told me they’d lost parents or cherished pets and I searched for information on the Internet.
Unfortunately, I was unable to find exactly what I was looking for. In retrospect, maybe it doesn’t exist. Grief is a very personal thing. There’s no hard and fast rule about how long it will last. From an email to a friend:
“I knew it was going to be difficult and it is. Different people, different temperaments, different internal timetables. Not right or wrong; it just is what it is.“
In addition to the personal therapy I expect to gain by creating this timeline, it’s my hope that someone who’s had a cruel loss forced upon them by the loss of someone (human or animal) they loved might find some small measure of comfort in these words.
Right now, maybe you’re numb and the reality hasn’t really hit. Or maybe it has and you hurt like hell. It feels like you’ll never be whole again. Maybe friends and family have tried to offer comfort but have since filed off and resumed their normal lives, yet here you are, still with that gaping empty gash in your heart. You feel disconnected, aimless, alone. Maybe you’ve sunk into depression… even started to entertain some dark thoughts about taking your own life.
I don’t believe any of this is unusual. However, some people prefer to keep things like this off the front pages of their life. I’ve found I can’t be one of those. If I have anything to offer, it’s just to be honest. If nothing else, I can at least be someone about whom you can say “well I’m screwed up, sure; but not as bad as that guy.” As a little kid, when I fell off my tricycle and skinned my knee, the entire neighborhood probably heard about it. There’s unfortunately still a stigma about depression and other mental health related issues in our society, particularly in the church (at least in the conservative evangelical Protestant church – the only one with which I have much personal experience.) Why should this be? Nobody asks for cancer, but if you get that diagnosis, people will rally to your support. Nobody asks for depression either, but it’s almost like it’s contagious, or a distasteful subject, not to be broached in polite company. People tend to get fidgety and start looking at their watches or making subtle motions toward the nearest exit.
Regardless, let me assure you – you are not alone. It may not seem like it, but the pain won’t last forever. I’m writing this on October 2 – 33 days from the day I lost my best friend. Yes, it still hurts. I miss him and think of him constantly. I’m not waking up with a smile on my face but the tears have (mostly) stopped, the depression seems to slowly be lifting. I’m able to get on with the day-to-day, and think that gaping empty gash in my heart has maybe(?) begun to heal.