How are you? Three words. That’s about all we need to say right now, or during any period of grief, isn’t it? Then listen to the answer. But, let’s chat awhile. Really, what else do you have going on right now?

True story: lots of the typical emotional terribleness happened to me after my mom died, but there were some bright spots, too. Among them my induction into the Dead Mom Club.

Mom

OK, it’s not a real club–or maybe it is and my invitation’s been lost in the mail for 14 years. But, suddenly, I had a monumental thing in common with many people. However, being 30 at the time, I wasn’t friends with lots of those people. Most of my friends still had both their parents. But my husband had a couple friends who’d lost a parent on the youngish side–and suddenly we had this life-changing fact in common. That’s heavy. Whether we wanted to be or not (I choose not!) we were members of the same grief club.

Now, here we are in 2020, suffering from grief as a global entity. It’s a much bigger club no one gets out of belonging to. Let’s just hope the dues don’t skyrocket.

Sure, it’s grief we’re feeling–not that I recognized it as such, right away. It took something novelist Amber Sparks (a fellow native Midwesterner) and the funniest writer on Twitter said:

I just thought ‘I should call my mom, I need a mom right now,’ and I felt immense relief, and then I remembered my mom is dead and I am my own mom now.

Amber Sparks @ambernoelle, author of And I Do Not Forgive You

Oh, it’s grief alright–even if the symptoms manifest differently for each of us. Even if we’re grieving different stuff on our own micro level. For me that’s missing experiencing the regular-level penitential stuff of Lent, rather than this penance on steroids. That’s taking part in a spring Lit Walk in my old ‘hood of Richmond, VA. That’s watching my kids play with friends that are not their twin. And don’t forget eating anywhere besides my own house.

Yep, what started as ennui is making its way through the ol’ stages of grief named by Kübler-Ross and co. Don’t believe me? Ask Harvard.

Now that we can name this heaviness, maybe we can do something about it. In the Harvard Business Review piece, “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief,” writer Scott Berinato interviews David Kessler (one of Kübler-Ross’s and co.) for ideas on how to manage our pandemic-induced grief. My top takeaways and my own spins:

  1. “Acceptance…is where the power lies”
  2. Don’t ignore your anxious thoughts, but “find balance in the things you’re thinking”
  3. Let go of what you can’t change, and focus on what’s in your control (i.e. washing your hands for the 512th time today)
  4. Pull meaning from grief–for instance, appreciating the connections we can still make through the miracles of tech (i.e. what we bloggers have known all along!)
  5. Allow your feelings to happen

I’ll admit it took awhile for this grief to hit me. I was busy figuring out how I was going to manage my kids’ schooling on top of my work and the care and feeding of boys all day. I got lost in the minutia. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. Bricks of song. Follow me here: my choir director reached out with a choral piece on YouTube to share–because we choir members have been unable to share our voices with each other. So, I listened to the gorgeous choral strains and ugly-cried all over my keyboard. And then I felt a little better.

I’m not going to pat myself on the back for reaching the level of acceptance, because grief isn’t linear. I know that all too well.

But I also know that we’re in this club together, and for that I’m happy.

So, how are you? How have you been keeping? What have you done this week that’s made you smile? (Around here, we traveled in the way-back machine to introduce the boys to Jim Henson’s Muppets. Last night it was The Muppet Movie–I highly recommend.)

Have a little time on your hands for some more reading? I’ve been busy with my editing gig at Parhelion Literary Magazine, and wrote a short essay here. It’s light and optimistic and nature-y. If you like that, I encourage you to read around PLM’s Winter 2020 issue, with short stories, flash fiction, poetry, and nonfiction for every literary taste.

40 thoughts on “The Dead Mom Club…and other lessons in grief

  1. I have been feeling waves of grief as well. But I have also come to appreciate the all of the meals my husband and I cook together, and the nature trail in our neighborhood that we can still walk. I started my compost bin. And before our state’s shelter in place order, I was able to have a micro celebration with my twin sister.

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    1. Oh, I’d forgotten you’re a twin! I’m glad you two could celebrate–and that you’re enjoying having more time with your husband. (I know the work-from-home situation with some couples can be frustrating.) And compost! Somebody just told me: no onions in the compost–I didn’t know that. Yes, certainly this time is helping us to appreciate the little things, isn’t it?

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  2. my garden is going to be show worthy this year, it’s getting so much love. We don’t normally do many veg but this year… planted 250 pea plants! I’ll go green if it kills me. Then there are the puds, the courgettes… and as for smiles it’s the ridiculous gifs and clips my friends whatsapp me all the time. Biggest laugh was the cats of trump, where owners groom their moggies, then take the resultant fur and create a suitable styled comb-over redolent of your much loved president!

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  3. The outbreak has taught me that I didn’t spend enough time with my mom. She’s 70 and survived pneumonia at 56 with ARDS that required ICU care and ventilator use. She’s been home for weeks in part so we don’t join the Club. I call her several times a week, but of course it’s not the same as seeing her in person. On the opposite side, there is joy that my daughter gets to finish high school at home. She so hated the need to actually be in the building with hundreds of other students that I feared she was going to try dropping out. The mandatory online classes have been a blessing for her!

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    1. It’s so tough to be separated from our parents! Sounds like it’s best for your mom to isolate as much as possible though. I know I was hoping my dad could come visit for Easter but now that seems like maybe wishful thinking. I bet it’s wonderful to see your daughter thriving, online. How nice for her to not have to deal with other the other nonsense at school. Hope you’re staying well, Michelle!

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  4. I just saw some olives and baby tomatoes at the supermarket! So thrilled to see them. You never know what you are going to see on the shelves these days. Served them with some cured meats and a crusty walnut bread. It was delicious. Funny how a simple thing like food can lift our spirits. I never thought of our reaction to this pandemic as grief. Fear can be so powerful sometimes it masks our underlying pain. Thank you for pointing that out in your blog post today.

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    1. I know what you mean! I guess I’m going through waves, allowing myself to feel distraught and unhappy–and then trying to take some kind of action to put those feelings to use. That’s the best thing about writing. Without it, I would just be whining into the wind all day! I appreciate you stopping by!

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  5. Your post made me smile. Looking at the picture of your mom did too. Your smile reminds me of her smile! And your short essay – that made me smile too. I remember reading Elisabeth’s words of grief wisdom when I said goodbye to my mom. This quote seems fitting, “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths.” You’re a beautiful and encouraging person, Rebecca – stay safe, stay well, and keep on sharing your thoughts! xx

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    1. Big virtual hugs, Shelley! I am sorry we’re in the same club, but it is a comfort to share. Thank you, as always, for reading and responding. Thinking about you and your husband, holed up with his wonderful cooking and your pets, and lots of love–that’s always evident in your posts. Beautiful quote. Thank you for sharing, and stay well!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m fighting anxiety rather than grief at the moment, but it’s a fragile, ever changing situation they could swap any time – not that I want them to. Who knew I’d ever choose anxiety?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I isolate plenty, on the regular–but miss the freedom. I think you’re right there. And the virtual funerals, weddings, and other rituals that are almost unimaginable without loved ones with us…tough. Thanks for your always-helpful posts, and for stopping by here!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Lisa! Sorry for your loss, too. Grief gets blunter, year by year, but not always easier, I’ve found. Hugs to you, too! It’s been nice to hear how your family is managing the isolation–you are always a ray of optimism and practicality!

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  7. Oh Rebecca you sum it all up so well. It’s grief pure and simple! I love the fact that the connections we make as bloggers are now providing comfort to those around the world. I feel for you having lost your mum and I don’t want to join your club just for a while thanks, but I understand the meaning behind your words.

    I’m smiling that I’ve decided to officially grow my hair now, seeing as though hairdressers are shut, and am interested to see what colour it decides to be when left to it’s own devices!! I’m smiling at the lovely family connections I’m having with all my family living away and the gorgeous photos of my grandchildren that my daughters are sending me to brighten my day. Thanks for your lovely words and stay well 🙂

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  8. Thank you for reading and for your kind words! We bloggers are lucky, I think, to have had this community in place before all this craziness started.

    I love that you’re smiling–you have wonderful things to smile about. Especially those grandkids! And I’m excited to see what comes of your hair adventures. Mine hasn’t been so long in a while! Stay safe and well!

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    1. Thank you, Kelly! Fun fact that she would be mortified I’m sharing, but all bets are off during a pandemic: she was known for her great rear end (!) while a student at Western Reserve in the 60s. (I was always too afraid to ask why–or how?) She graduated the year before the school merged with Case. She lived on the fairly famous Hessler Rd., and somehow managed never to even try pot. She was a wonder! Thank you for giving me this lovely moment. Now, I’m back to work and home school–never have I been more impressed with you home school geniuses!!!

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  9. Oh Rebecca. I hope you are doing okay. I have to admit, this is one club that I am not keen to join, but I am so glad for all our blogging friends supporting each other.

    I’m sending all the virtual hugs to help get through this pandemic madness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re the best, Josy. Thank you for the read–and the virtual hugs! We’re all making it here. I hope you’re staying safe and getting in some socially-distanced adventures. Turns out this blogging community is such a comfort, especially during these challenging times, when I’d like to give everybody a hug! Be safe and well!

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