When my 19-year old son John died of a drug overdose, I was emotionally paralyzed. All the layers of hope for his recovery instantly vanished, yet still lingered in my mind and heart. I knew I should journal, but the task seemed overwhelming. At the same time I worried I would forget critical thoughts and memories if I didn’t write them down.
I’m a list-maker by nature, so I came up with a strategy that worked for me. Initially, all I required of myself was to list headings on the top of journal pages. Then, when I had the emotional strength to write, I tackled the heading that seemed most manageable. I could dabble or dig deep. And, with these topics, I could always trigger memories I feared I would forget.
Here’re some of my topic headings:
Words and advice that haunt me.
The first time I held John.
Telling our daughter about John’s death.
Specific memories of his laughter, his gentleness.
Relief from worry—really?
Scanning crowds for his face.
Eventually many of these emotional truths made it into of my children’s book about sibling loss, ALWAYS MY BROTHER. (Tilbury House Publishers, June 2009)
One unexpected joy I experienced in writing this story was that I could “rewind” John’s life to a younger and healthy period before he was tortured by drug addiction. For more information about the story behind the book, visit www.jeanreagan.com.
Thanks Jean for this valuable inspiration. The book is beautiful and your words will touch many.