Tag Archives: loss

Grief: Ha.


I plunged a 9″ chef’s knife into a watermelon just now and cut a bunch of quarter slices. I’ve had the melon on the counter for about five days and completely forgot about it and the fresh pineapple I bought over our family birthday-Labor Day-Mimi’s death-anniversary weekend. I just tossed the remains of the birthday cake. My mind has been elsewhere. Waiting.

this is mom holding me in 1968 after i clearly just swatted my older brother. poor guy...

this is mom holding me in 1968 after i clearly just swatted my older brother. poor guy…

I thought I could deal yesterday. What I did yesterday however, was read. I holed myself up on our deck and read all day after I wrote my post about “clarity.” I see the irony now. When Mom died last year, the day was mostly ebbing. It was just around 3pm when I got the call from Dad, so all our plans of having a home-base Labor Day cookout were toast. No pun intended.

So I guess, you don’t experience the anniversary until you experience the anniversary. Of anything. I remember this after 9/11. Up until the one-year, I remember noticing how my body was gearing up, feeling the angle of the sun and other astral, silent and all-knowing familiarities which unrelentingly tie you to a trauma or event. I don’t remember the date when I saw Bruce Springsteen for the first time, but I remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard about the Towers.

And this is my first go. I have no clue what to expect, other than to know (now) that expecting anything is a waste. That it happened on Labor Day is just … well … what it is. I could judge it all I want. That’s stupid too, judging.  I’m so grateful to my husband though because he called me in the middle of writing this post to check on me and to also assure me that next year, Labor Day will be on the 7th and that’s great. I’m really looking forward to next year because the anniversary day and the holiday will be far apart.

That evening, last year, I went for a root beer float at the nearby Baskin-Robbins 31 after viewing her body. I bought two. I don’t know why. I decided yesterday morning, that yesterday was going to be a reinvention, a rebranding of Labor Day for me because last year’s was so traumatic. I was almost literally holding my breath until about 3:30pm. Once we passed that timeline, I had no choice (I suspect) because it was all I could do to not compare: “It’s 3:47 and no one has died. Keep reading.”

I realize now, that our human invention, denial, is really one of the stupidest inventions we’ve ever … invented. Don’t pay the taxes and they’ll go away. Don’t sweat the addiction and it will get better. Don’t cut the watermelon because nothing’s going on.

So when the early evening began last year, I was in it. I had fielded calls from my older brother and his wife; I had fielded calls and texts from my concerned friends and cousins; I had taken a couple calls from my uncle and godfather, Mom’s brother. I had taken calls from my kids.

MY KIDS. “Tomorrow,” the day after Labor Day, was their first day of school. My brother and his pregnant wife showed up. That was hard. My oldest son had told my brother about Mom. I gave the other root beer float to my sister-in-law.

As the sun set, I’d been at the hospital four hours; I stayed with my brother and SIL one more hour and then I was going to leave. My brother was there for Dad now.

The attending ER doc for that shift needed my dad to sign Mom’s papers so he could go home. I’m sure the staff would’ve waited and Dad could’ve signed them later, but … it was all a little surreal… he sort of y’know, a’hem, nudged us to y’know … sign. Release the body to the morgue. Let Mom go. I’m sure I wanted to ask him, “Has your mother died yet? Or your wife of 51 years? This shit’s not easy. … Just checking.” Of course the doctor didn’t want to nudge my father in his understandably granitic and unreachable state. No one nudges my father.

So I had to sort of y’know, nudge my brother. To nudge our father. To y’know … leave. It was his turn. I’d done so much already (not comparing, just acknowledging) by being with Dad when the news broke, by being with Dad to view her, by being with Dad when the doctor had to talk about doctorly things in a doctorly way. I was depleted. Mom was dead. There was no do-over.

As I started out, a nurse gave me Mom’s things: a bag of her jewelry to take from the hospital, so I did. In a white paper envelope was her passport (WHAT?). In a white double-plastic bag with those hard plastic snap-together handles were other effects including pants and the navy blue cashmere vneck she was wearing when she was transported via ambulance; it had a few of her stray silver hairs on it. I’m still trying to figure out what she was doing with her passport. It’s so odd. Inside that white bag was another bag containing her jewelry.

When it came to jewelry, Mom was … thorough. As she aged, her OCD really ticked up and she began to trust no one, very little of her nursing aide. So she wore a lot of her valuables. I think whenever Mom weighed-in at her doctors they must’ve just assessed her pirate’s chest of bangles and ancestral baubles and just let it stay; the hell with it. To take it off her and put it back on her would’ve added 15 minutes to the visit and she’dve never let any of it out of her sight. So the bag I was given must’ve weighed about three pounds. But seeing that bag of her favorite things, her “stuff” reduced to a hospital-issued ziplock emblazoned with “INOVA FAIRFAX HOSPITAL SYSTEM” … It was all too much. So I left. My husband and I left for our house.

I had to switch gears, as much as possible. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to deal with the ordeal, it’s that I needed to switch gears. I needed to get out of that pumped-in, fake white light, I had to get away from the Muzak and I wanted to get away from the well-intentioned security guard who simply didn’t know how to look at me.

I had to retrieve my children from their various locations. I had to put my kids to bed. I had to hug them. Inhale deeply and smell their heads, squeeze their bodies and wipe their tears, and press my forehead into theirs as I held them by their jawlines and tell them through tears and sniffles I was sad but that it was all going to be OK and that Mimi was in a better place now and that even though it doesn’t feel like it, things were really going to be OK in a few …


So later that night, around 10:00, Dad, my brother and his pregnant wife showed up at my house. I’m not sure when they left the hospital. It was a way station, I guess. I see my deflective madness: that whole plan, to have Dad not sleep here, but it was all I could deal with at the time. “We are animals in moments like these,” I remember thinking to myself, rationalizing.

My brother and I rallied and took Dad back to his house to get some things for the overnight. Dad stayed in my car. It was then that I saw the plate of uneaten breakfast on her side of the bed. She wasn’t feeling well that morning. Dad knows this now, but the signs for heart attack or dire cardiac trouble for women are totally different than for men. We don’t feel tremendous pressure, as though we have an elephant on our chest (that’s a normal feeling for us), we feel sick, nauseated and generally weak and profoundly unwell. Sadly, these symptoms also remind us of fatigue and gastrointestinal distress, from which Mom suffered a great deal. But it was unrelenting, this discomfort, but she didn’t want to go to the ER, she wanted to get ice cream. Dad obeyed; they were going to get ice cream. Then she fell. 

I knew that logistically it was best that Dad be here with me, because I live the closest to him and Mom, but … I’d been on this task for almost eight hours by this point. I was also not rational: I was terrified, frankly, that her spirit would come to my house looking for him. I wanted to reduce that liability. I was also comPLETEly terrified that he would live here in his grief. I wasn’t ready for that. I wasn’t able to deal with that. I was and can still be a selfish person (I learned from a very early age that relying on others was a precarious endeavor, so as much as I’ve tried to stay aware of it, primal moments like these can make me unhinged, so I go with “selfish”).

So I dug in my heels and it was just me and my team in my house that night. Of the immediate surviving family, I knew that no one would be really getting much sleep that night, but I didn’t want it all here. I also knew my home was going to be ground zero for the next day or so. I just knew it. Dad went home with my brother and his pregnant wife.

The next morning, my other brother flew to DC and we started to rally. That afternoon, Tuesday, Dad and my younger brother came back to the house and we continued and combined our own singular efforts to have Mom celebrated in five days. Out of state. Five hundred miles from where she died. We did all this on my deck with our various laptops, iDevices and phones. We did all this amongst the buzz and presence family and great friends who couldn’t suppress their support for us and their instinct to lift us up in our loss. I see now, a year later (and I sensed then but didn’t really have time or interest in indulging in the time) how Herculean that entire effort was, but true to form, we achieved it. We were like a newsroom.

I needed to write about this today. Fighting these urges to write and share is “crazy talk” as my brother would say (jokingly). I simply couldn’t have had a normal (ha!) day without doing it. Maybe reading this is even helpful to you. I have no clue about where this train will stop. I see now that it’s an unrealistic ambition to say ‘On this day I will end my writing about Mom and my memories of her and my life.” New stuff or old stuff in new suits occurs to me daily. I didn’t sleep well last night; I was afraid she’d visit me. When I did wake, I was sweaty and unrested. So I needed to flush some things out. I feel better now. I always do.

Processing… It’s part of my recovery to allow myself to look back on that day and then see 1) it’s over and 2) how far I’ve come. Without that perspective and ability / allowance to reminisce we would be lost.

Thank you.


Grief: A Status Update


I’ve gotten a few inquiries about my wellbeing lately. I suspect it’s because I’ve stopped formally writing about my grief.

I’ve heard it say that for every 1,000 people, there is one person who will say something; one person who will inquire.

So, with 7 billion people on the planet and seeing as how all of them know who I am, that would mean … take away 6, multiply by a factor of 4, add in daylight savings time, the rate of inflation by 9, and then add in that this was a leap year… I am guessing that three people want to know how I’m doing. (Just kidding — I know I am loved and I am so grateful.)

How am I doing?

Meh. Ok. Largely Ok. The grief is very well and alive but its highs and lows and mind-blowing sucker punches are totally unpredictable. At times, it’s bigger than I am. Laughing now feels more normal and less like a foreign experience or guilty pleasure.

The good news is that I have good perspective and an even greater sense of understanding of life and how we are supposed to live it. My mother lived her way and I have always lived mine. The one thing I can tell you though with complete assurance is that my days of being someone’s door mat and of doing things that don’t bring me some form of value (I’ll even take “hindsight is 20/20” as value) are over.

I’ve been grieving for almost 11 weeks. I feel indulgent saying “grieving” because it sounds so morose, but I guess the reality is that until a year passes, it won’t be a full cycle. “Feel all the feelings,” they say. I think that means all the feelings from all the seasons.

It’s been about three weeks, maybe more, since writing last about my grief and how it is being a member of a motherless society; we are a special group. It’s weird to say “my mother died.” Thanksgiving is approaching. Hallowe’en has come and gone. My birthday and my brother’s birthday were spent without her phone calls. The phone never rings from the house anymore, announcing: “Mimi and Dodo” in my son’s three-year-old voice. It’s really just totally weird. Place cards at the table… we will be one short. Thing 3 likes to make them. Secret Santa this year… her name won’t be written, a gift won’t be purchased or made in her name. It’s just incredibly “off,” like the earth is at an odd angle and you have to walk at a slant.

From time to time, my head is flooded with

  • The Day of The Phone Call: the weather was gorgeous, I was on the deck reading blogs, trying to catch up from my crazy summer, it was Labor Day after all;
  • The Moments with Dad at Their House: it was messy, and the sun shone from the west through the front door, and the policeman was nice, he told us the news;
  • The Ride to the Hospital: I sat in the backseat frantically texting my cousin because I couldn’t reach her mother, between those texts I texted my friend to find my younger brother;
  • Sitting in the Conference Room with the Doctors: the table was clean and huge, the doctor was kind and factual, the carpet was blue and my dad was logorrheic but the nurse had patience fathoms deep;
  • Seeing Her Body There: Good God she is really dead, there she is… that is her shell, she has gone, her spirit has flown to God. …

It goes on and on…

  • Picking out Her Burial Clothes, The Trip to Buffalo, The Signing of the Check for the Cemetery Plots, The Funeral, The Burial … loop and loop.

But not all the time, thank God, and nowhere near as frequent or intense or as long.

I have a keen appreciation, now, for people whose mothers died when they were much younger. I also have a keen appreciation of knowing what it was to grow up with my mother, as challenging as things were, versus having her completely g-o-n-e -gone.

My thinking has had to shift.

There was never a time when my mother was not in the back of my mind. Even when she was at the forefront, she was still in the back. I figure this is because I was often left wondering where she was, psychically, if that makes sense. Now she is still on my mind, but it’s different. There is no more expectation, hope, curiosity, wishing or delusion about anything ever getting better. I suppose that’s a form of liberty and I know it is, but I’d be lying if I said I’d like just one more nose-squinchy, eye-squinty, silly grin from her. I guess that’s what photos are supposed to do.

People come to me with stories about her and I love it; I welcome them to replace my stories.

Time has literally been sucked away. If it weren’t for emails and photos I’d not really know where my summer had gone. I’d like to say that it’s always been like that — that I’ve always moved at light speed and all that, but when you experience and suffer through a massive loss like this, regardless of the tenor of the relationship, your mind is elsewhere, you don’t really know what it is you’re actually thinking about because those thoughts are fleeting yet repetitive and cyclical. You just know you’re wiped out and depleted.

There is no (for me at least) moment of, “why am I thinking of that again?!” -moment because each time I consider something I might’ve already considered, it’s in a new iteration; a new fold; a new moment. Why? Because every moment — Every Single Moment we live is completely different from the preceding one. Just as I am now typing new letters on this screen and you are reading them, you are not reading the ones preceding AGAIN.

So the context changes. And then so do the undulations of the thoughts and memories and smells. The angle of the sun these days: I find it delicious. I always have. I love how the sun is weaker but its light feels more white to me, as though it is crisper and it knows, in some odd way, that its strength is waning, so it tries a little harder to work.

I am sleeping OK. I am eating well. I have resumed yoga in class and at home. I am walking more. I’m outside, running errands more with less anxiety, I guess that’s what it is… I’ve been volunteering a lot at the adult’s rowing club and helping out where I can at school. It brings me fulfillment to help others. Humility is a wonderful driver to get us out of our own egos.

I think I have sciatica. I say think because on a scale of 1-10, I believe I’m dealing with a 2 or 3. It’s more of a nagging sensation rather than a pain. But at night it bothers me, just as I doze off. It’s like my hip, just at those dots we have on our lower backs, it’s punch-drunk… like a kid who doesn’t want to go to church or who has a hard time falling asleep in the car: it’s whiney and nagging and annoying and then I get irritated, which of course doesn’t help things.

To remedy this, I’m going to read John Sarno’s The MindBody Prescription again. I believe most of our ills are self-induced. If stress and anxiety can create heart disease, which can ultimately kill us, why can’t I create a nervous issue in my back? We’re not as binary and separate as we think we are.

I’m also reading another book, Lit, by Mary Karr. It’s her memoir of recovery from alcoholism and abuse and how she came into accepting a higher power in her life. She also came from an alcoholic background, her observations of her mother’s antics feel familiar to me.

Karr herself sounds familiar to me… I see similarities in our self-defeating thoughts; in our anger and its repression and our lashing out. It scares me a little. I could be like Mary Karr: I could’ve ruined the first half of my life with alcohol but something stopped it. I credit my pregnancies along with the brutal self-awareness that if I didn’t get my act together that I’d be continuing Mom’s cycle. Karr has a way of completely making me feel worthless as a writer though — she’s a poet and her words are so gorgeous.

What’s the phrase, “Compare and despair.”? Yeah. That.

The other night, in a moment of supplication and more humility, I was weeping for my mother and my history wondering about why these things happen, why was I born to such a tragic person, what was my lesson? Watching your parent slowly self-destruct for decades without nary a thought for the future or her own health, and who just (seemingly to me) blithely lived … that it was all going to be OK, was not only soul-stealing, but it was so very cruel; it took me with it at times. Her narcissism and self-destruction created a rage that engulfed me.

I am sad at times. It’s ineffable, this woe. It weighs on my head and holds me until I process it. I still weep at night, silently or as quietly as I can. I don’t want to disturb my sons. Thing 2 (12) seems to have the hardest time with my distress; he wants to hold me and quell me, but ALL of my years of therapy have told me: don’t stop a crier. Let the crying process, let it slow itself down and let it pass before you offer a tissue or a glance or embrace. When we go to a crier, it’s we / us — the witness — who can’t handle the emotions, so we subconsciously try to stop it. We think we are helping, but we aren’t. So that’s how it is at night sometimes around here. I cry in my pillow or sniffle into my sleeve.

I’d get up and go to the basement and wail into a cushion but I’m too lazy, plus I know it will come back, so I may as well stay warm and drowsy.

. . . . .

You can not solve a problem from the same level of consciousness that created it. –Einstein

“Let go or be dragged.” That was the quote yesterday in yoga that our teacher read to us.

About a decade ago, I used to think that when something didn’t arrive when I was expecting it that it was late; and that its lateness was an inconvenience to me; it was a personal effrontery. I was like Kanga of Kanga and Roo in Winnie-the-Pooh books. “How dare …” and “Well! Hmph!” about those things. I fancied myself Mrs. Thurston Howell III I suppose. I internalized that I was somehow separate and better and above, when I was really nothing of the sort. Those affectations / coping skills were not nature. They were taught. As much as I can love my parents, they were/are probably some of the snobbiest people I knew… it came from feeling inadequate. I see that now. Snobs are the biggest ironies.

Mom used to say ironically of alcoholics that they are narcissists with self-esteem issues. That about sums it up.

I bring up my interpretation of something being ‘late’ and “letting go” because I ordered a DVD of The Sedona Method, aptly titled “Letting Go,” about three weeks ago from The Daily Om. I received an order confirmation, but no shipping information for about a week. So I inquired. They wrote back quickly and told me that it would be shipped the following week because it was out of stock and in high demand. “Great, that means with the Veteran’s Day holiday it’ll be even later…” I thought to myself, later smirking at myself: So much for even allowing The Sedona Method to start to trickle into my psyche.

I was intrigued by the DVD because I’m really tired of therapy. I don’t want to drive, sit, or share. I just want to be done.

This is a new therapist, for EMDR, whom I started with last spring because of reasons I haven’t disclosed until now: my father flat-out stopped talking to me in February because I laid down a boundary and effected a deadline of actions that he asked me to produce in order to help my mother. My boundary was quite clear: you asked me to do this and this and this. Here it is. Now, you do what you say you will do, based on this list, and then I will assist. My boundary was considered “hostile.” This is what you get when you deal with someone who’s not used to hearing, “No.”

It never was a game to me — to take care of her — and the patterns of my youth: to save her at all costs to myself, regardless of the toll it took on me (I failed 8th grade and then blew off some college), were rearing again and I simply couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t handle his abdication nor my mother’s agency in this crusade (I can feel my sciatica kick in now…) to save her. Her involvement was as much then as it always was: inauthentic insofar as any result outside of garnering attention. I feel in my heart of hearts that the request in February was highly ambitious, a bit fake and for me, too late. But my calling him out on it, my drawing a boundary and executing a clear directive is what enraged him. I was no longer a child. I was a mother, a wife, an adult and I HAD CHANGED CONSIDERABLY.

Dad’s silent treatment of me lasted about three months. It only ended because I took on the high school rowing club presidency and I had some questions about coaching for him. It wouldn’t have ended unless I ended it, perhaps it might’ve even gone until she died; I know this as we’ve gone longer years before, always because I’ve displeased him somehow and always because I’ve supplicated in the end. Mom tried, in her usual triangulating way to get us to talk, but I was clear with her about what and why I was doing what I was doing. She admired my concern for her, and never brought it up again. Often, my personal code of honesty and truth in all matters was very hard for her.

So I see now: that is when the ball started rolling which prepared me for her death and I am guessing my rebirth. I am fighting the rebirth. I like it here in my cave where I know nothing new is coming; but I know that’s how we stay stuck. So that’s why I got the DVD. And it didn’t arrive until I was ready to accept it. Today it arrived; after the quote in yoga, to ‘let go or be dragged.’ I must not be so näive: the ball has always been rolling, since way before I ever came into the picture.

I started to watch it today, while I was making Thing 3’s birthday cake. As you can see, I ended up laughing at myself — my inability to do one thing at a time enough to take a picture of it all:

I couldn't hear a blame thing he was saying. When I turned off the mixer I heard this, "... and so when you are fully in that state, you are ready to move on..." I think I missed something important.

I couldn’t hear a blame thing he was saying. When I turned off the mixer I heard this, “… and so when you are fully in that state, you are ready to move on…” I think I missed something important.

Admin notes: I have acquired a few new followers lately and I want to thank them for coming to see what I’m up to. Thank you! I’m in a transition. I’m trying to help me figure out what to do now that I’m all grown up. A few years ago when I first started this blog I was content to just let it be at that. Now I’m not so sure. Everyone has a shtick, a hook with their blogs: geek, humor, fitness, art, faith … I don’t have a shtick. This is who I am. But I feel a draw to do more with it. What? I do not know.

I know this was long and super twisty. I just wanted to touch bases with some of you.

Thank you all … 🙂

Grief: In Conclusion, Lessons from Mom, Acceptance


Eight days have passed since I last wrote. For a “blogger” this is akin to obscurity. For a writer, which I believe know I am, eight days is almost like torture.

I wanted the lesson I learned from the ether, the one about forgiveness, to gel. I considered it as though it were a soufflé: Shh! Don’t make noises around it, step gently, don’t disturb it.

Of my grief the other day, I wrote to a friend, “I think when my mom died I literally lost time and data. I am encountering things now that I don’t remember forgetting… If that makes any sense. It’s like some of them are totally new.”

. . . . .

CS Lewis was right when he wrote that when we love our departed and don’t feel grief about them, that they feel more near. I was in a place last week, true acceptance — and I am still there, although with occasional tears — that allowed her or my memory of her, or something real and true of hers to come to me. I let it feel safe. I let it know, without any specter or sliver of judgement or regret or resistance, that I am ready:

In yoga last week, the very next day after I appealed for forgiveness, I was in child’s pose, at the end of a vinyasa series, and I smelled her twice. The first for about six bewildering seconds and then >poof!< it was gone and then a few seconds later, it came back for about another three seconds. An incarnation of my mother’s earthly spirit as only I could relate to it was with me. I didn’t court it, I didn’t beg for it to stay, I just … accepted it. I didn’t believe it at first. I sniffed my clothes, my hands, my skin to debunk it; I must’ve looked like a lunatic: they’re all in child’s pose, face down, chest to thighs, shins to earth and I’m acting like a bloodhound. Nothing around me that smelled like her. I smelled of my laundry detergent and my hair conditioner. I nodded in gratitude. She felt safe; that was cool.

A friend just messaged me about the significance of that moment. Child’s pose is one we do to come down or cool down or relax from a series. That we are at peace, submission, when we do it. My friend said, “She was at peace and wants it too for you; the fact that you were in child’s pose, is a big deal too.” 

A few readers have lovingly appealed to me that I accept that my pre-Labor Day world is gone. I appreciate their guidance, and I agree that I have been reluctant to accept that truth. Who could blame me? No one I know. No one else is in my skin. But it is with heavy emotion imbued with truth that I accept it now. I will never be ‘over’ her death. I don’t think anyone ever expects me to be. My life has changed forever. The woman who bore me has left forever.

Mom used to speak all the time about acceptance. I suspect that some of it was a lecture for herself. She meant, despite my rigid assertions that she lived in the ether, reality. “You can’t change reality, or people,” she used to say.

The reality is that she has gone to God and is no more a living being on this earth. I know now, the deep and profound love I had for her was primal and true. How could it not be?

She used to say that about me all the time, “Maally, you are so true. True blue and loyal to the end!” she would exclaim, almost as a cheer, and I would recoil with embarrassment and pride; I guess that’s what we refer to as “sheepishly” now.

Those exchanges in my memory now are threatening my soufflé. They tread very close to evoking how I felt at the time she said such things, as though I was being teased. Right now, my gut is telling me to be careful not to lionize her for if I do, I disavow and invalidate the crushing challenges I endured as her child; to accept this entire thing means I must accept all of it: her perspective and limitations, and all of mine as well.

I feel her on my left side right now. Or something like her.

It’s gone.

. . . . .

It occurred to me, in this grief-inspired, post-guilt haze that I still have a lot of life to live. That I have other things to write about and that I need to assimilate the reality that Mom has died and is never ever >gulp< coming back, into my life because this is how all life goes. Eventually: it ends!

Most of us come into this world, meeting them for the first time and expecting them to always be there. Even as her health declined and I witnessed her truly staggeringly precipitous aging, and I rationally knew that her time was short, I was not at all accepting of it on an emotional level.

My ongoing break wall graffiti, “Pfft. We had barely known each other when I was growing up… it won’t be so hard to adjust to when she dies…” is total garbage. Her loss has been profound. Her personality was massive. She. Was. My. Mom. It doesn’t matter if the relationship was gossamer-strong or plutonium-fragile.

The fact is that she was always on my mind whether I own it or not. We shared cells, DNA … we were connected. Tragically, we both wanted acceptance from one another — constantly.

But that forgiveness and grace I experienced last week has ushered in a new space where I am allowed to matter to myself. I can write about other things and it’s not to spite her. For me to continually and actively devote this space to the void her death created and my grief from it is to feed a vacuum of self-indulgence.

While I will continue to write, the underlying truth is that I now write in the aftermath of her death. Just as I write in the aftermath of any other experience, of the first day of fall, of 9/11, of ten five two minutes ago.

Of course her loss will color my writing. I can hear her now, “Stop using parenthesis! You’re better than that! If you’re going to say it, Say It!” She was a very strong formidable editor.

Part of my quandary is that I want to move on from this publicly and I don’t know how. This is all new to me. I started this situation, by blogging about my grief, now I must clean it up. “You need to lighten up, Maally…” I can hear her.

Yes, I suppose she was mostly right. I was the Felix Unger to her Oscar Madison. Part of that entreaty was to get me to leave her alone, to let her be, and in my German shepherd mind, to let her continue with her self-indulgence. She won. She always did, and finally, I’m ok with it. I also win too — I don’t feel guilty about it not working out because it was never mine to fix.

So that is the deal here, the final lesson: you can’t change a damned thing about anyone else. All you can do is change your reaction to other people. It’s been the message of this earth and all its conflicts since the beginning of time. It is the mother of all realities. Once we accept it, truly, it colors our lives. Everything becomes less stressful.

We are not as separate as we once believed. When we let go, we let in.

This was a disjointed post because I cut a lot out. I found myself breaking my objective, to not blog so obviously about my grief. I just remembered that one of Kubler-Ross’s stages is “Acceptance.”

Thanks for sticking around. I’ll be back to new normal soon.

So I’m going to wrap it up with a quote from a movie that Mom loved,

Thank you.

Grief: Forgiveness, Grace


I’m Catholic on paper. Which means that I’m not a very “good” Catholic. What it also means is that I’m very educated on matters of guilt and how to beat myself up.

The guilt I’ve felt, over my relationship with my mother — all my life — and more recently since any chance of improvement on this earth with her has been vigorously snatched from my hands, has been unbearable.

I have heard from people privately: “Thank you for your blog; thank you for helping me find a little broken part of me…” I have also heard from others privately, “Be careful of what you share. Some of it is very private, and it fans the flames … it mightn’t help you… it keeps it out there… ” and I could not agree more.

I have vacillated: Keep a post up? Take it down?

It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, I remember this one truth: this is the Internet age. Where ADHD reigns and YouTube seems to hold the reins. I am old school and I can promise you this: I don’t share everything. I share what suits me.

But the days of late have been hard. I would say that I’ve spent a good two weeks in guilt stew. The last week has been uniquely painful.

So I spoke with a wise cousin last week; and I spoke with a wise friend. I went to dinner with wise women and I have basically immersed myself in a wonderful soup of women and the one thing that keeps coming at me — from all these walks of life, from all these wonderfully strong, vibrant, sagacious and heartfelt women is this: forgiveness.

Because I am Catholic, I don’t really pray-pray. My personal brand of Catholicism has been such that I don’t like to call in the “big guns” until I simply can’t take it anymore. Until I am at my personal rock bottom. I can likely count on one hand the number of times I have actually prostrated myself in prayer and each time, I have been gloriously answered.

As much as I say that I get things, prayer, on an intellectual level, I don’t get them on an emotional level. Or I get them on an emotional level, but not on an intellectual level. It’s not always balanced.

I am by default and practice a thinker. I learned as a child to trust the concrete, that the abstract was a gamble and that whatever I didn’t see couldn’t be relied upon. The moments when I know what I saw but was convinced otherwise were also less reliable. So, it took me a long time to get to feeling or at least allowing feeling. Trust a feeling? Greek.

I’m also big on repression when I can’t or don’t have the time to deal with something. (That’s usually when you absolutely MUST deal with something, but you know: driving, going out to dinner, in a meeting… those are not the best times, so when those feelings come up, I push them back down. I do deal with them eventually, and I have no intention of forgetting about them, it’s just that sometimes I can’t help it — they simply fade away or drop into a cup of ice cream.)

But this past weekend, when I simply COULD NOT shake the guilt, no matter how much I tried, I basically heard all the fantastic voices in my head, including my mother’s (her voice was really lovely, actually, a little like Jessica Lange’s) that kept saying, “Let it go…” and “Pray on it…” and “Talk to your mother…”

On FB chat yesterday, I asked a friend while waiting for my son, “When you say ‘talk to her‘ do you mean really, ‘talk to her’ as in verbally with the voice and vocally and all that? out loud?”

My friend said, “Yeah. Or write to her, or in your head…”

And I squirmed.

I can’t remember if I wrote or thought, “That’s not crazy? It sounds a little crazy. I mean, she’s not there…”

My friend said, “It’s not. But do what works for you.”

I thought or replied, “I’ve done everything but that. I’ve written, I’ve silently prayed, I’ve had the conversation in my head and I’ve talked about it with others… but you’re talking about out-loud talking; audible words coming from my mouth.”

And I think that’s the point of it. I think that we must get to a point where we are so humbled, so tired, so ready and so woeful or motivated or whatever to allow ourselves that “eff it” mentality where we’re going rip off the band-aid and spill our guts. It was like that time when I got really mad (the rage post) and I said aloud what I needed to get off my heart.

I have a notion that it’s not God who separates us from Him, but rather we who do the separating. He’s always there. It’s up to us to open the door or look out the window.

I also have another notion that when I can feel the tapping at the door, when I can hear His breath of peace, but I don’t allow it to wash over me, that it’s really my fault… it’s not His.

My mother was like that. She was patient and always wondering, ‘When are you coming back to me, Molly?’ and I have to say that I had a screen door that was locked because I was terrified of being hurt again, or a half-door like a country house that allowed her into my heart only so much because I was terrified of being hurt again. I had to erect my boundaries. I had to do what I could to feel safe.

But I know now, that was ok. Here’s how.

So, last night… after my famous grilled chicken and sweet potato dinner that my boys simply can’t get enough of, I went upstairs to my room to prepare for our family hot tub date.

I heard my friend in my head, “Out loud. To Mom.” So I basically said out loud to the Archangels and saints and to God and to Mom, to intercede on my behalf and to help me with the guilt.

I said,

“Mom, I know we’ve got our stuff. Or we had it. And I’m sorry about it. I really am, but you’re gone now and maybe we can have a relationship … y’know, now? I’ll take your comfort. I’ll take your love. I’ll take your protection because in my head now, you’re nothing but love and energy and light. You’re not a personality, you’re not your illnesses, or your fears. You’re nothing but love and I need it. I’ll take it now. I forgive you for all your stuff; I did the best I could and I know I KNOW that in your heart if you could’ve been better, you would’ve been better. No one wants to be unwell. No one wants to hurt others — it’s a sickness — and I release you. I release you from my anger; I wish you were here now, because I was ready Mom, I really was… but now I will take you any way I can get you and so, Mom, if you have an ounce of fierce and protective maternal love in you for me, as I know you did on earth but you couldn’t share it for whatever reason there was, I am asking you now, Mom: to get this monkey off my back. I am asking you and God and the angels, Mom, the big guns, to release this guilt and shame and keep it away and to remind me you are near and watching over me and to keep that off me. I was just your kid, Mom, and as I’ve said, with all due respect: you set the tone, Mom. I just fell in line… and as I matured, I simply kept it going because it was all I knew. You did your best and I did mine, but I always loved the essence of you and the glimpses of love that you shared with me, I will cherish forever, but ya gotta help me out here… Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…

Or something like that.

And after about three minutes of it, my crying subdued and my breathing started to regulate and this odd feeling of “Why am I so upset?” came over me. I felt lighter, and I couldn’t get as upset as I was; I couldn’t usher guilt if I tried and even now, as I recount it, I get weepy because I miss Mom and the glimpses she gave me, but I wonder if this isn’t the beginning of a new stage of relationship with her… in that I can appeal to her pure side, that I can have her with me energetically because she is free of her body and as much as I wish I could have her here to talk to, I can have her energetically to think of and be with.

Sounds crazy? I don’t know. I believe in energy healing; I believe in God and the Angels and all that stuff. I have no doubt that I will be sad and will mourn her. My physical energy is still quite low. I absolutely must be patient with myself and this process, so I get that for sure. I must have no expectations and I can not do this alone. Ironically, as I’ve matured, I’ve come to believe in the not-so-concrete; the stuff in front of us all the time is too simplistic. There has to be a better way. It takes guts and humility to do it, but I have no doubt it’s real.

Forgiveness is two-sided. I understood it intellectually but I get it emotionally now for sure. I have no doubt. When we forgive, we lose a lot of weight. Grace is weightless and it’s waiting for us all.

Thank you.