Think about it tomorrow.

29 Apr

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts (especially the last one), I’ve been frustrated by the grief resources that I’ve found so far. Most books are focused on the grief itself, and encourage us to dwell in our grief until we are “ready” to take a small step in the direction of health and healing. There’s not a lot out there that focuses on action — yet when I think back on the past 8 weeks, it’s the *actions* that I instinctually took that were the most helpful to me.

The first few days after Julian died seemed to go by in slow motion, yet my brain was going a mile a minute. I couldn’t stop thinking about the last week of Julian’s life. I constantly re-played and obsessively analyzed every detail, repeatedly asking myself, “What if I had done *that* differently?” There were countless “thats,” and none of them were logical.

But logic didn’t stop the loop in my head. Logic had nothing to do with it. I was searching for something that I could go back and change, to result in a different outcome. I wanted to rewind, command-z my life, change history. My brain was on auto-pilot, and was convinced that this would be possible.

The day after Julian died was the worst day of this illogical mental treadmill, and by the end of that first day, my brain needed to rest. I don’t think I was able to make the distinction between logical and illogical thoughts at that point. I just wanted to take a break from thinking, period. My instincts told me that these thoughts — and the suffering they caused — weren’t healthy or helpful. But I couldn’t seem to stop them.

So at the end of the day, it occurred to me that if I couldn’t stop the mental loops, maybe I could distract myself. So I turned on the TV in our bedroom, picked something from the DVR queue, and tried to relax. Yet there it was again: The Voice. It was back on that mental treadmill.

So I took action.

I got up out of bed, found a pad of post-it notes, and wrote this:

I stuck it on the TV just below the screen, and I got back in bed. I vaguely remember giving John a reason for doing this, but I was operating on instinct… I didn’t really have a reason, other than it just seemed like it would be helpful.

And here’s what happened: I would follow the TV show for a few minutes, then my mind would start the loop again. My gaze would drift down from the TV screen — and then I’d notice the bright yellow post-it.


I reminded myself that there was nothing to be gained by thinking about this right now. Maybe tomorrow I’d discover a way to turn back time and change the outcome, but not right now.

Eventually, the number of minutes between loops slowly increased. I don’t think I really comprehended anything on the TV show that first night, but I had taken one small action and it WORKED. It made a difference that night, and every night since then. Each day, the illogical looping got weaker.

Today, thanks to the post-it note and other actions that I’ll describe in future blog posts, the looping has stopped. My brain has given up the hope that it can change the past. But the post-it is still on the TV, just in case I need a reminder.

The post-it is still there, an ongoing reminder to not get stuck in thought patterns that aren’t healthy or helpful — especially right before bed. I can always just think about it tomorrow.

Posted by on April 29, 2011 in month 2


3 responses to “Think about it tomorrow.

  1. Deb Mathews

    April 29, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    Sounds like you are on to something…..maybe you will end up writing that helpful book. I’ll share that with my psycologist friend when I see her in October.

  2. Leanne (Trebilcock) Avila

    May 2, 2011 at 8:42 am

    Yes. This. Because how can you move forward if you are stuck in an infinite loop in the past. At best the loops are self-defeating, and at worst the illogical thoughts lead to illogical actions.

    And as you have mentioned time and again, it’s not about forgetting.The pain and sadness can be recognized without wallowing in it (“grief in your pocket”).

    Also how infinitely better is it to move past these thoughts and to be able to DO something, something for yourself, something that does your heart and soul good.

  3. Anne-Marie Finsaas

    May 2, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Dear Emily,

    You are one brave soul! Continued blessings on your journey….

    Shalom (as in peace and well being to you),


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: