What to do with all the grief

May 25, 2022

grief-toolsAfter my girlfriend passed, I found myself staring sightlessly at the incredible obituary in the New York Times and at the one her husband wrote that appears on Legacy.com. And then tearing up when I thought of the hole she’s left in my life–and in the life of family and other friends.

I tried to analyze what she meant to me and why —what it was about her that resonated with me so deeply–and what I wanted to remember.

Almost immediately I went to the shelf to pull out a blank Guided Journal through Grief.

The bewilderment of death

grief-toolsThat isn’t usually my first move after a loss, but this time, it was. Maybe because she was a writer, too, and could appreciate working out feelings on the page.  Maybe because I felt a great need to work though the puzzle of her death and what her life had meant to me.

We were, after all, newer friends in the scheme of things: a bit more than a decade. I knew of her blazing trails for women: she was in the first  Princeton class to admit women …the first woman in a professional sports locker room…a great hockey writer and a great writer, period…a dean at Harvard. I knew all that.

But our friendship was more current than the history. It was about the right now. And the idea that her right nows with me would no longer happen here was bewildering. As life and death can be. I was… perplexed.

And so I sat down with the Guided Journal through Grief to try to work though what this amazing woman meant to me. Sure, as a writer I could free-form it, but I wanted the structure the journal provided. I wanted to really work with my grief in a targeted way.

I see you laughing, girlfriend!

grief-toolsI’m sure she’s laughing at that in the afterlife right this very minute. Because I’d sent her my healing tools early in her cancer battle. From time to time, she’d quote a healing affirmation back to me. The last one she quoted was “I am not distracted by other people’s stories. They are not my story.” To which she said “Yeah, that’s a good one, for sure.” Because I’m certain well-meaning people had been sharing their own stories and if they were about ovarian cancer they might have been far grimmer than she needed to hear.

So yeah, that resonated for her. It’s one of the few affirmations that also appears in my Transforming Grief deck. It now applied to me. Because seconds after I learned of her death someone else had started telling me THEIR story.

Funny how she had called it out last year.  No coincidences.

grief-toolsAnd so, like so many who have received my grief tools, I sat with the journal and started to remember my friend. I wrote. I printed. I even drew in my childlike style. (God forgive me, and Robin, as a really great artist, please also forgive me!)

I’ve completed the journal for other losses, but this one? Different. It might have been the first time I really wanted to work though my grief. Not to make it disappear. To have it make sense. To give it a context. And to remember my beautiful friend in a tangible way.

I’m still working on it. I’m going to print out some photos and add them. And when it’s done, it’ll go on my bookshelf. I’ll pick it up now and again so that I can remember the smiles, the laughter, the trips, the conversations, the texts and that damn llama I gave her, Dolly, that is now her family’s spirit animal.

If you’d like to consider some of these effective grief tools for yourself or others,  you can find them here . They really ARE helpful condolence gifts.

12 comments on “What to do with all the grief
  1. Grief tools are helpful, even essential, but so much of grief is a personal and unique struggle as well.

  2. Lynda Beth Unkeless says:

    Your guided journal book on grief
    arrived yesterday.

    What a beautiful gift!

    Thank you!

  3. Diane says:

    I love that there is a framework upon which to hang my thoughts and ideas.
    You are doing such a good work, Carol!

  4. Thanks for the work you do, Carol. It’s important.

  5. Laurie Stone says:

    I love this idea. So many people don’t know what to do with all their feelings of grief. You help guide them and that’s a wonderful help.

  6. Too much grief these days. Even when it isn’t personal.

  7. Jennifer says:

    I find writing helps me process my grief. Especially true when my sister died. I don’t know how I would have handled it if I couldn’t write it out.

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