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The Book and Journal Connection

In the summer of 2017, I traveled to Italy on my own.  I was attending a friend’s 40th birthday in Sicily and decided to extend the trip by a week and travel to Rome and Pompeii.

My husband, Jamie, who couldn’t travel with me for work reasons, had a friend who lived in Rome and encouraged me to call her.  So I met Maya Marcia Wieder for coffee, and that encounter had a profound impact on my life.

Maya, at that time, had already authored six books. In our two-hour coffee meeting, she shared how she created the outlines for her books, where she got her inspiration, and what her writing process consisted.

Over the next few days, as I walked throughout Rome by myself, my mind was filled with ideas, while my belly was happily filled with gelato and pasta.     A seed had been planted that I couldn’t ignore.  Perhaps I, too, could write a book!  

I intended for my journal to be a self-help manual and incorporate some of my lessons learned as I had navigated the journey through grief. I wanted to help others and share the tools I had embraced while I was grieving deeply.  I wanted to share how I had learned to live alongside grief.  

As I sat down to create a grief journal, though, a different story emerged.  No matter how much I tried to suppress this deviation from my original intent, the history of my loved ones who had died dominated my writing.  The harder I tried to create a journal, the more my memoir filled the pages. 

I struggled.  A memoir was not the book I had set out to write.   Who would want to read my story?  I wasn’t someone famous. I had not accomplished extraordinary feats.  I was just someone who had lost six family members in a short period of time.

A year passed, and I had only succeeded in writing a few disjointed chapters. I was still struggling with telling this story. I had allowed self-doubt to creep in.

One day, Jamie and I went to see the King Tut Exhibit at the Los Angeles Science Center.  As we walked in to the exhibit,  I saw a quote on the wall from the Egyptian Book of the Dead in big beautiful gold lettering that said "Speak the name of the dead to make them live again."

Ancient Egyptians believed that we died twice.  Once when our physical body died, and then a second time when our name was spoken for the last time. It was as if my loved ones had pushed me to this place.  

As I stood there staring at the quote, I realized why I needed to write my story. I needed to keep my loved ones alive by memorializing their names in writing.  Writing the memoir had nothing to do with me and everything to do with them. Their stories needed to be heard. 

Since I don’t have children, the only way that I can keep their memories alives is to tell their story and say their names.  

These are my loved ones who are no longer physically with me, and who remain alive in my heart:   

  • My stepmother Shaheen, died Jan 2011
  • My father Amir, died Feb 2011
  • My mother, Mahshid, died  April 2011
  • My Uncle Jahan, died  March 2013
  • My cousin Melise, died December 2013
  • My stepfather Bob, Jan 2015

Once I knew my purpose, I was able to focus on writing my book, The Butterfly Years, a journey from grief toward hope. It took two more years to complete it and finally I released the book on the 10th Honorversary of my parent’s death in 2021.

And then, and only then, I was able to turn my attention to what I had originally intended.  To create a journal and share the lessons I had learned and the practices that helped me learn to live with loss.

I’ve created the Butterfly Years journal as a daily transformation from grief to growth so that others carry on their unfinished conversations with their loved ones.  

This is not a Grief Journal.  I’d rather think of it as a hope journal and one that can lead to personal growth, despite the grief we’ve all endured.

Many have asked about the connection of the two. I hope both the book and journal can provide some solace in this journey from grief toward hope and growth.

~ Katty

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