Who Gets to Grieve?

Posted on November 1, 2015

Sometimes death reminds me of language. As soon as I learn a new word it suddenly pops up in conversation, in a book, or on my favorite show; it’s literally everywhere. Death feels like that. A friend takes their own life and suddenly the headlines are all about suicide, plot lines follow a suicide, people I barely know die by suicide.

Or is death always there? Have people always been using that word and have dozens of people taken their own lives and I just didn’t notice?

We understand death for the first time
when he puts his hand upon one whom we love.
~Madame de Stael


A suicide in August, another in September, and then this month a death that rocked me, followed by another that came without fanfare. The aftermath of these deaths, and actually any death, is confusing. How do we grieve? Do we grieve? Who has the right to grieve? Who decides? None of these answers are clear to me, the only thing I truly know is that the grief I felt for each of these deaths tore through me with a serrated blade, no sooner would I think that I had slogged through the worst of the confusion and despair then the blade would pull through in the other direction. Trying to give into it felt selfish, but trying to suppress it was futile.


A man’s dying is more the survivors’ affair than his own.
~Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

I tried logging off my computer to keep from seeing more reflections about the person, even though I was grateful for the memories, each one seemed to pull the wound open again. Later came speculation, which made me angry. How dare they? Which, of course, how dare I, right? We each get to do this and some may find solace in questing to place blame somewhere, even if it did seem like spitting on a grave to me.

For me, three babies were brought into the world by his hands, but only after he had seen me through the highs and lows of pregnancy. He listened to me, laughed with me, furrowed his brow, cocked his head and asked me what I wanted. He shook Sean’s hand, he kissed my cheek, he sewed me up, he told me I did beautifully, and he waved hello in passing.

None of the stories are ours alone, nor do the losses belong exclusively to anyone. Every death is a shape-changing plume that blows through more houses than any of us know. How many lives do we touch? How many touch ours? How do we balance the keen slice of loss with the relatively minor role in a life? Or can we honor the pain that comes as genuine? Can loving an addict mean that the loss of any addict grazes that heart? Does the distance of celebrity make the mourning of that person any less significant?

Grieving is messy business. I think you rarely grieve for only one person. Saying a permanent goodbye to someone you’ve known and loved triggers a memory of all the others you’ve lost. It’s like they’re all called out on the stage again, taking their place in line, holding hands, the full cast of the beloved, stepping forward for their encore bows a second, third, and fourth time. Side by side, the line splits in the center to make space for the newly departed, and together dipping their heads, skipping forward, their farewell bows perfectly synchronized. There you are in the audience, clutching a tissue and fighting back tears for each and every one of them, all over again.

This morning Maggie’s post reminded me again of the unpredictable and inescapable journey of loss. You can duck and weave to no end. It will seep into your being like woodsmoke, thick in each breath but invisible, and with it will come memories and emotions beyond your control.

The leaves of memory seemed to make
A mournful rustling in the dark.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Wherever you are, whoever you are mourning, wishing you time and space to remember and to heal.





Stop Fearing Goldilocks

Posted on October 27, 2015

Ive been trying to allow myself to see some of my emotions like I do the girls’, which is to say, with a measure of compassion. The girls are tumbling through changes and launching themselves toward new things and people. They don’t always know why. They are trying o figure out how to explain what they are feeling or make sense of a new desire not to talk about every little thing. Patience is gold and I am trying to be a diligent miner.

This post is something that I posted on Medium last week. As friends have shared it I have reread it and each time I rediscover forgiveness for myself and little smidges of resolve to trust my instinct. I’d love to know if any of this resonates with you or what sorts of things you are trying to figure out, because the thing that keeps getting clearer to me is that we are never done figuring “it” or ourselves out in life.

A weeks ago I took off my FitBit. I noticed what seemed like an unhealthy preoccupation, less with my own activity, than with that of the people I was connected with on the app. I was participating in workweek challenges and found myself running in place in the bathroom as I brushed my teeth. I wouldn’t stop until I pulled ahead of my competitors, even if it meant going to sleep sweaty a half an hour late. Each morning I’d check and realize that someone on the West Coast had pulled ahead of me in the night. It was a relentless and wholly ungratifying cycle.

I’ve done a similar thing with Facebook, the predictable tide of likes on pithy posts and the silence on posts related to race or women’s rights wears on my nerves. Add to that the people in my circle who aren’t friends, rather acquaintances I begrudgingly let in because my husband friended them or people whose views are in riotous contradiction with my own but I fear angering with an unfriending. Not checking Facebook makes me feel good every time.

Figuring out how to balance what makes me happy and what makes me feel like I am failing is, I am realizing, a life long process. I tend to think of myself as less organized than other people. I lament having a haphazard approach to everything; I don’t follow recipes, I don’t have a specific clothing style, I don’t train for 10ks or marathons, and I don’t have a nightly eye cream routine. Sometimes it feels like I don’t so much live my life as I spend each day trying not to fall on my face or get buried by the things I forgot I needed to do.

I realize in the grand scheme of things that none of this really matters, but it does when used as a measure of worth. The things I am doing with Facebook and FitBit have made me feel ashamed, like I am unable to manage things that shouldn’t be a problem.

The other day when I saw this image on Instagram from Nicole Feliciano, it all clicked.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 7.58.29 AM

“Edit your like frequently and ruthlessly. It’s your masterpiece after all.” Why shouldn’t we edit? This isn’t an invitation to curate a perfect life in images on Facebook; this is a genuine call to arms to create the life that is just right for you by editing. Take away what doesn’t fit, add back what used to feel good. Be Goldilocks, unapologetically, you know, minus the part about breaking into people’s homes.

I am not other women. My kids are not the same as the kids down the street. My marriage isn’t anyone’s marriage but my husband’s and mine. It’s ok to focus on ourselves; try on a 10k for size or pass up the faux fur trend being touted as this season’s must have. It isn’t high maintenance to want for things be just right; this is called living.

Why then, do some of us fear editing? How is it that I can be afraid to unfriend someone on Facebook? Can I accept without guilt that I don’t like Zombie tv shows in spite of people swearing that I have to try them?

                           Goldilocks illustration by Patten Wilson

At the table in the kitchen, there were three bowls of porridge. Goldilocks was hungry. She tasted the porridge from the first bowl.

“This porridge is too hot!” she exclaimed.

So, she tasted the porridge from the second bowl.

“This porridge is too cold,” she said

So, she tasted the last bowl of porridge.

“Ahhh, this porridge is just right,” she said happily and she ate it all up.

It’s time we reclaim our instinct to seek out what is best. This can be scary, I know. Each time I get an invitation to another FitBit competition I doubt myself, “Am I wimping out? Should I jump back in?” The answer is that if there comes a time when getting back in that particular game feels good, then that’s when I return. I don’t need to wedge myself into a race, outfit, or friendship that doesn’t feel right.

My mom said something to me growing up that has stayed with me through my adult life, applicable as a parent and a business owner. “My favorite people for you are not always the people who I like best, they are the people who I see making you feel the happiest. Trust that, mandarin.”

If you take one thing away from this post I hope it’s this, “You are the best judge of what is right for you.”

We All Go Through Puberty

Posted on October 20, 2015

I am a believer in meant to be things. I don’t mean that I just let life happen to me, but when a person comes into my life when I need them, it’s meant to be. When I work really hard at something and despite my best efforts it doesn’t click, I trust that it wasn’t meant to be at that time. When my friend Galit Breen reached out to me a few weeks ago I felt the tickle of what might be meant to be.

Galit invited me to try out Master Classes from VProudTV; a series of videos from experts to help us avoid “Dr. Google”. I winced; I’m not into webinars or online classes.

I didn’t say no, one of the things I’ve learned over the last couple of years is that it’s ok to pause before making a decision. I trust and respect Galit. Scanning the VProudTV site I was impressed by the quality and the idea that it is “troll free” was incredibly refreshing.

One of the classes was titled, “Parenting Through Puberty. I sat up a little bit, shocked by my own eagerness. Puberty has been knocking on our door for a few years. “Let me take a look,” I said.

The video is made up of several 8-10 minutes chapters presented by Dr. Cara Natterson*. It felt completely natural, like I was at a coffee shop with her, well, you know, except I wasn’t worried people were going to eavesdrop on details of pubic hair and body odor. I actually wore ear buds and had the video running behind other windows on my laptop while I worked on a project at my office.

Puberty is more than one talk or one milestone; it’s an ongoing experience that we all have. It can start as early as 8 or 9, which is about how old I am here.

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 12.10.56 PM


Why do we fear it?

What makes us cringe and approach it like it’s going to be a nightmare?

The points in this video were so sensible, but I think in the way that puberty gets us all a little off balance as we live it, trying to parent through it makes us forget stuff. I could have spaced the chapters out over a few days, but my appetite was such that I consumed it in one sitting.

When my girls were little I monitored their sleep and diet, I listened to them and taught them on a daily basis and most importantly, I approached each developmental stage with compassion. There shouldn’t be shame in puberty, the living of it or the parenting.

At one point Dr. Natterson said, “You will be asked, maybe start thinking about it now.” I no longer feel like I have to tiptoe. I honestly feel like I can walk hand in hand with my daughters through all the turbulence and wonder of puberty. I’ll be watching or listening to more of these, no doubt. I’ll also be working with VProudTV to make sure more people know about these classes. We tell our kids that knowledge is important and we know it to be true ourselves, but I think a lot of us stumble. If you want to try a class, there are many (diet, fertility, behavior, sexual dysfunction), here is a link.

I wrote a post for VProudTV about puberty, which is right here. Will you go over and read it?


*Dr. Cara Natterson wrote the Care and Keeping of You Books that we love and that I recommend every chance that I get.

DISCLOSURE: I’m happy to have partnered with VProudTV to share this with you. The link I’ve provided is an affiliate link, meaning that if you sign up I will be compensated. That all being said, everything I’ve written here is in my own voice and represents my genuine respect for the programs.  

A Song We Travel By Heart

Posted on October 18, 2015

Music is always playing in the car when Sean drives. If we go for a long trip he creates playlists, if we’re running errands it’s the radio, and if we’re going somewhere for work he plays NPR. Music is something he considers at home, on the road, and even at the office.


I enjoy music, but it’s nothing that I ever plan. When I’m driving it takes less than a block for one of the girls to ask me to turn on the radio. It makes me smile because I know it’s a part of Sean manifested in their souls. Music is always with them, either from a speaker or from their own lips.

For me the constant is light, seeking out shades that help bulbs cast warm light, the flicker of candles, worshipping the change through windows and seasons. The girls notice light, but the tilting toward it doesn’t pulse in them in the way music always has.

I’m amazed at the way they all know every word, harmonizing and drifting in and out of songs seamlessly, like driving a familiar route. Old standards to Taylor Swift, country to show tunes, they love them all. Driving through the hills of Washington County and over to Vermont, corn fields that were taller than the truck only a few weeks ago are gone now, making our view greater and the girls trace their fingers along the windows as their heads sway to John Legend’s voice.

I play with my wedding ring, noting that it’s loose. My skin isn’t yet cracking, though the coming cold months will do that. I shiver thinking about it as we round a bend. I hear Briar start to sing, her high voice begins softly and builds to a full bodied voice that belies her size and age. She effortlessly matches the next voice coming from the speaker. I watch her through the mirror, she is singing even as she plays with her little sister. Her head swings back and forth and she waggles her eyebrows at Finley before turning to look out the window. Sun pours through the truck.

She goes quiet and after a moment pipes up with a perfect trill echoing the vibrato filling the car. Sean moves beside me and I know before looking that he is smiling. Since they first began making sounds that weren’t cries, Sean has responded to their love of music like high tide, pulled toward them completely, lighting up with a smile that runs the entirety of his person.


Sometimes I hum along, but mostly my body moves slowly, intimately familiar with every line, not of the song but of this language between parent a child, their innate love of music. He watches her through the rearview mirror, the sides of his eyes crinkling as he smiles at her singing. My whole body warms, because even though I’m not singing, I am a part of their song and the miles we cover as they move are my favorite tracks.

Your Worth Never Fades

Posted on October 1, 2015

I was scrolling through Twitter the other night when an update popped up:

“It’s been a night, is what I’m saying.”

Then I saw another from someone else:

“Having a really really really really bad fucking day.”

A week ago I saw an Instagram post that carried a similar tone:

“…And I’m trying. But I can’t do it all.”

I read a post from a dear friend that was titled Casseroles for Depression.

Jenny Lawson has Furiously Happy on the New York Times Best Seller list.

The reality is that for all the people complaining that Facebook is a waste land of carefully constructed, emotionally inaccurate representations of people and their lives, there are many ripples in social media and day to day life that are honest declarations of pain, struggle, and faltering hope.

When I saw this quote shared by my friend Lotus, I inhaled sharply, feeling the clarifying sting of a remarkable truth. I do not say this to dismiss anyone trying to get through something, but rather to emphasize how much we are all going through. Pema Chödrön

We are not our pain.

We are not our shitty days.

We have not failed if we aren’t over it or are still dealing with it. It isn’t wrong if you talk about it or if you prefer not to.

Whether we are struggling to find the energy to nod our heads or sprinting from something, our inherent worth never fades.

Your worth never fades.

I promise.



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