In the last 15 months, I have had the privilege of talking and listening to many people on this journey of grief.  One thing that seems to be constant with everyone I’ve listened to is the loss of memory. Not the memories created with their loved ones, but simply remembering everyday things.

Why did I come into the kitchen? What was I going to do? Where did I put my keys?

Those forgetful moments are normal when your mind and heart are grieving.  I remember several times I was driving in the car and forgot where I was going!  There were mornings I couldn’t find my glasses and would search the entire house, only to have my husband gently say to me, “Honey, you’re wearing your glasses.”

Often, I felt I was going crazy.  I forgot birthdays. I forgot phone numbers. It seemed like I would forever be going through life, trying to remember what I was supposed to do each day.

I’ve listened to many people describe the same things.  I am so glad I’m there to reassure them that it is normal.

I developed a few strategies to help me remember the daily things I needed to do.  Some may think I went to the extreme to remember, but  it worked for me.

I found several little notebooks, all a different color. I labeled the notebooks with important things I needed to remember. One was labeled” Doctor.” Another was labeled “Marriage.” One was labeled “Work.”

I probably had 8-10 of these little notebooks, and I kept them close to me at all times. I’d write down appointments in the corresponding notebook. If I had questions for the doctor, I’d write those questions in that notebook. It was my way of organizing my brain!  It helped.

As the months went on after my sister’s murder, I often felt like there was too much going on in my mind.  It was overwhelming to say the least.  At one of my support group meetings, I remember describing it as if I had a twelve-burner stove and on each burner was a big pot of soup that needed to be stirred. I felt like I was bouncing back and forth between those pots, stirring and stirring. It was exhausting and I was always afraid I was forgetting something.

My support group leader helped me immensely with those pots. Together, we sat down and talked about each pot of soup. Which pots could I really control, which pots belonged on the front burners of the stove?  I slowly learned to let some of the pots remain on the back burner and not worry about them. I’d tell myself they were slowly simmering and were fine left unattended.  I learned to let go of those pots that I couldn’t control. I learned to prioritize which pots needed my attention. I learned to de clutter my mind.

So if you are forgetting while grieving, you are not going crazy. Find what works for you to de-clutter your mind.  I am happy to say, that I am down to only a few notebooks.

In this new year, my goal is to keep my lists to a minimum.  I’m learning to let go of the small stuff.  When I empty my mind of all that small stuff, it’s amazing how the wonderful memories of my sister fill my mind.

Shirley Wiles Dickinson

Shirley Wiles-Dickinson

Shirley Wiles-Dickinson is the youngest of four girls in a Midwestern family. In 2009, her sister was brutally murdered. She writes about her experience following this loss.

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