All posts by MonicaWelty

About MonicaWelty

I blog about life after the loss of my son, Harvey.


He was the first to go to college. It was not expected or even encouraged. But he got on a train one day and started a new trajectory for himself and his family, yet to come.

He went to a school he loved. Met friends he still has. Played a lot of cards and got a good job.

He had a son and then a daughter, who, though troubled, grew and left in cars he bought them. For college and then for life.

His daughter had a daughter and then she had a son. Her son died. He canceled his trip to Italy, despite her protests, and flew across the country for the funeral one week after the boy died. He sat at her dining room table and told her college roommate, the first friend she made there, that he would start a scholarship.

He is humble. He told close family only and worked close with a man at his old college, the one in Ohio, the one he took the train to, the one that is full of brand new buildings that look old, the one where he still feels at home. He and the man became friends He and the man made a plan: the Harvey Richard Walker Scholarship for Humans Right.

He flew his daughter and her daughter to the college to see it, to dine with the man and the dean and the president and the other alums. The man arranged a meeting with the director of the human rights center at the university of Dayton, the only one of its kind. The kind that trains not academics but advocates. That teaches responsibility, accountability, compassion and care. That is actually doing something, many things, to stop human trafficking and slavery in the states and abroad. The director assured us, as did the dean, that this was a program that is making a difference. His daughter could feel the ripples.

She had sat holding her dying baby trying desperately to come up with ways to not let this just be a waste, just a loss. They donated his organs. She pumped his milk. What else could be done? What other good could come from his body, from his being here? The eyes, the heart valves, the milk were the first ripples, the front lines. Could there be more? More than personal transformation through fire and hell on earth? There could. Even though it felt meaningless for so long, robbed her of so much joy, no gift or lesson able to even be imagined, there could be.

He could use the money he made, the money his parents made, the money that made money on the market. He could make a difference in this world in the name of the boy who died. Because he was here and he died and we loved him with our whole hearts and wanted him to stay more than anything we’ve ever wanted in our lives, students for years to come will be able to get the education they need and want but couldn’t afford. They will learn real skills, how to negotiate, create policy, evaluate programs, talk to victims and perpetrators, lawyers and law enforcement, travel the world and advocate, research and innovate. They will tell the stories of the most vulnerable. They will change the course of the lives of the most  vulnerable. Because he was here, because he died, because he was loved and wanted, this boy and his grandpa will change the world.

They called his name and he and his daughter and her daughter, all arms empty without the little boy to wrangle, walked up to the podium. They told his story. They said the boy’s name. They took a picture. His daughter went back to the table and cried in front of everyone because someone said his name.  She so rarely gets to hear it and never from a stranger anymore. Because people are going to type his name and write his name and say his name because of the scholarship, because of the generosity of his grandpa, because there is so much horror in this world that needs light shone upon it and young people will want to do just that and will, under his name. 

Read more about the amazing work being done at the University of Dayton’s Center for Human Rights.


Will you become a full citizen of vulnerability, loss and disappearance, which you have no choice about?

                             David Whyte

Three years, boy. Three years. 

How is that even possible? What you would have been through in these years. Just the beginning but you would have learned to nurse or take a bottle or both. You would have felt the sunlight and the rain, the cold and the heat. You would have touched grass. Laughed and smiled. Started eating food. Learned to roll over, crawl, walk, run. Speak. You would have thousands of words by now. 

There are several families in Vesta’s class with kids your age. I see what you would be, what you would be doing, in a general sense. I see inevitable milestones, averages. Not your particular timeline, abilities, personality, quirks. Not what kind of eater you would be. Not how in your body or in your head you’d be. Not how well or terribly you sleep. Not the books and toys and activities that you’d love and prefer. Not the sweet smell of your dirty hair. Not your details and particulars. I see you there in these other children who are about your age and I see you starkly not there. Every day. 

It has been three lifetimes and these three years have blown past me. I find myself waking up on a new level at this anniversary, looking around and taking stock. 

I have worked my ass off to get where I am. Thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in therapy, three different therapists. An incredible amount of bodywork: massage, acupuncture, chiropractic and energy work. I have worked with shamans to heal our spiritual connection and understand my own soul’s journey. I went to my support group twice a month for a year and only stopped that because your dad moved out and I didn’t have any one to watch your sister at night so I couldn’t go anymore. And my focused shifted to the grief and heartbreak of the loss of my marriage. I’ve had countless conversations with many, many grieving parents. Some of whom have become close friends, always united in our loss, always with a keen understanding of the terrain of each other’s path. I have written over one hundred blog posts, the story of your birth, begun a book. I have stood in front of two audiences and told my story. I went on a healing retreat with other bereaved mothers and a writer’s workshop in which both the leader and half a dozen others in the class had lost children. I have written and am producing a performance and visual art piece based on our story. I have danced and done yoga and gone swimming and walking and hiking. I have cried more tears than I ever thought possible. I have taken medications and supplements and your placenta and am doing work with my brain to rewire it out of its  traumatized, anxious state. I have answered unanswerable questions. Grappled with this crazy, hypocritical, ironic state of humanness. I have found joy again. And hope. And love. After all of this, I have returned to my body and to my life, more fully than I ever imagined I’d be able. 

That’s the thing about this. I never thought I’d get back to myself, smile authentically, feel single emotions again. It was all consuming, my grief at your loss. It colored everything in bitter sweetness. It made me hateful and angry and vengeful, experiencing thoughts and emotions I thought I was incapable of. That made me feel inhuman. 

One does not “get over” the loss of a child. That is true. But it gets easier. It gets better. Breath by breath, step by step, I am able to recover from wounds that won’t heal. I am not only able to live with these wounds turned scars, not just tolerate and live with the pain but accept them, allow them, integrate them into who I am, who I am becoming now.

Harvey, I accept that you died. I accept that you are not coming back. I accept that I will live the rest of my life without you. I have come to accept the most unacceptable, the most impossible of circumstances. And I marvel. It doesn’t seem to be something that is acceptable, something that can be intergrated but I have done it, I am doing it. As much as I have enjoyed moments of pure and simple joy again, I also now enjoy moments of pure and simple grief. I don’t spend time with kids your age and come home ruined on a variety of levels anymore. I just miss you, you and only you. I am jealous that other families get to have all of their children, get to have their almost three year olds and I have twinges of hatred toward them and anger at the naïveté their lives have granted them but it doesn’t take me out. I can see it now for what it is. Just thoughts, just feelings, which now pass, leaving me with only my grief for you. For your details and particulars. For the Harvey shaped hole that will always exist in my life. 

I don’t want anymore children anymore. I have accepted my infertility. I have embraced the end of my marriage. When I see these families, I even think that I couldn’t imagine having a three year old now. The idea of another baby, going through all of the stages and sleeplessness and imbalance and fear and lack of autonomy that accompanies parenthood, is extremely off putting to me now. And even that, son. Even that, I accept. I chide myself at these thoughts because they sound a little too close to gratitude that you are dead for my comfort. But I soon notice that it’s not gratitude, but another indication of my acceptance. I wanted you. I wanted to care for you. I wanted to be the exhausted, worried, begrudging parent we all are a little bit. I wanted to be the mom that raised you, got to know you, guided you, learned from you, not buried you. I understand now that not wanting another child doesn’t mean I didn’t want you or wouldn’t instantly change everything to have you back. It just means that I am okay. I am okay without you, without my fertility, without my husband and the family and path we planned. I still don’t know how that is possible, but here it is, in the flesh.

It’s possible because I’ve gone broke trying to feel better and get back on my feet. Get functional and then way past functional. It’s possible because I have the most incredible community of friends and family, students and clients, coworkers and colleagues, acquaintances and soul mates in all of human history. You know what happens when babies die? Friendships die, too. Family relationships fall apart. You know how many friends and family I have lost? Zero. You know how many I have gained? Dozens. The support and love and encouragement I have received is unprecedented. Even through the ugliest parts of my grief, through my sharing torturous details on my blog that even I can no longer read through, people loved me. I asked them to look at exactly the things they don’t want to look at and they did. They cried with me and hugged me and held my hand and walked beside me and held me up when I couldn’t walk on my own. The sent me messages and letter and presents and donation cards. They still do. I demanded people remember and acknowledge and they compassionately, thoughtfully and lovingly did and still do. 

After you died, I thought I would never say that I was lucky again. I had shit luck, the worst kind of luck there is because my baby died. But now I count myself among the luckiest people on the planet, because in the worst of experiences I survived. Thanks to my community, my close friends and family, other bereaved parents, professionals, authors, musicians and sheer force of will.

 I didn’t kill myself because I had a daughter and parents who I would just be transferring my burden to. Not healing anything, not stopping anything, not ending pain. Just giving it to the people I love the most. And so I stayed. And then after awhile, I realized I  couldn’t  depend  on them to keep me alive, especially your sister. That, too, becomes a burden. Being the people that someone else is staying alive for. And so, I went about the business of trying to figure out what keeps me alive. And it turns out, that’s about a million things. It’s dancing and community and sunshine and laughter and falling in love again and drinking too much with my best friend and trying to figure out what the fuck this whole being a human animal means and never being fully able to. 

I am not healed nor will I ever fully heal. But I don’t want to be anyone else anymore except myself. My broken, scar tissued, resurrected, stronger, weaker, braver, more afraid self. I came to a point with my grief that I didn’t want to be the person I was before you died. I didn’t want the naïveté back after awhile. I didn’t want the self righteousness I once held so dear. Like I had some truths. Like there was only black and white. And now   I have come to a place where I don’t want to be the person who I was when I realized that. She was filled with blood curdling anxiety, always waiting for the next tragedy she was sure was just around the corner. She was hateful and angry and irritable and sad and lost all of the time. Now, that I can feel grateful again, lucky, joyful, at ease in many moments, aware of life’s fragility and our hardiness through it, now I want to be the person I am becoming. The person I am becoming because you were here and because you died and because I had to figure out how to live without you. I want to be the person I am becoming who has gotten through the worst thing that can happen and several quick succession, subsequent traumas. I want to be the person I will become who embraces and accepts the true nature of this life: both its joys and sorrows, it’s grief and hopes, it’s fears and dreams, alive in the life force and human will to not only survive but to evolve and grow and learn and become better. I want to be the person who sees that love and support are our one and only true life line. Who appreciates it when it’s received and who gives of it freely. I want to become the people who got me through, to others. I want to be the people who said I jnderstand your pain or I don’t understand your pain and I’m going to sit here with you while you’re in it. Because of you, my beautiful, perfectly-formed, dead son, I will become, I am becoming, I am the best, truest form of myself.

I am no longer even living for you. I am no longer trying to create some legacy for you, though it’s happening anyway. I am not living my life in your name. I am living my life in my name. And you are informing all of it. They way you have transformed me means that you will be in everything I do, every interaction, every piece of art, everything and anything I contribute to this crazy world.

I can’t live without you and I don’t have to. I have to live without your body, your physical presence but I will never live one day of my life without you. Not one day.

You are three.  And I am three. Let’s begin. Again.


My life partner, in the literal sense of the phrase, left today on the newest iteration of her adventure. I drove her and her family to the airport and left them on the curb to carry their 6 suitcases of worldly possessions inside. 

We hugged twice. No one gives a better hug then my Jenn. Not nobody. She hugs you because she means it. She puts her arms around me and holds me tight. She always has. I am safe with her. One of those few places in this world where I know everything’s going to be okay is in her arms. Because she’s got me. If nothing else, Jenn’s got me.

We grew up in the same town, but she moved to Germany for much of elementary school. We went to rival high schools, but she moved to Colorado before we graduated. We almost lived in Portland together but she moved to Boston and I to San Francsico. We missed each other by a year or so.

 We have gone years sometimes without talking but we’re the kind of friends in which time and space and distance are irrelevant. Even catching up on major life events feels like we spoke yesterday.

Once, when me heart was breaking, she got on her bike and rode from her small town to my small town to put her arms around me.
One summer, we spent everyday eating pizza, drinking coke and playing cards in my tv room.
Several times, she put up with my shitty relationship choices and nursed my heart back to whole each time it broke.
She has always been taller than me. More formidable. More ready for this life. 
She looked up to me as a kid and I have looked up to her my whole adult life. Admiring her joy and zest. Her free spirit and honesty. Most recently, her incredible parenting.

She’s my advisor and confidant. I can tell her anything, disapprove of her decisions, and be my true self without any fear of loss. She is a warm quilt I wrap myself around when I’m freezing. She’s the cool ocean breeze on my tear stained face. She’s the tonic to my gin. Shit, she’s my tonic.

Our family life brought us together in Portland, 3000 miles away from where we grew up, and living just three blocks away. The playground we took out kids to a million times the only distance between us. The honor and privilege and unprecedented serendipity that let us raise our young girls together as we were raised together seems like a dream and nothing short of a miracle.

She arrived in Portland with her three month old the day my son was conceived. We spent my pregnancy in the last hours of our innocence, before we knew that we could be touched so acutely by babies who die and infertility, in both of our cases. We canned tomatoes, took our kids swimming, made dinners for each other, celebrated our birthdays and our daughters birthdays, rode ponies at the pumpkin farm, and drank endless cups of coffee while the girls played. We spent nearly every day together. We prepared for the baby: she handed me down toys and clothes, planned my shower, tried to figure out how we’d cart three kids around in cars that only fit two.

She kept my daughter on the days and night I labored for my son. She kept my daughter on the days and nights he was dying and dead. She came to the NICU and touched his soft head and sang to him. She rooted for him to survive longer than there was hope. She told me that they walked through the park on the day he was born chanting “you can do it, baby brother!”. At the time, her unbridled enthusiasm, that optimism I can always count on, pissed me off. I had to come to terms with the bare fact that my son was going to die and she was giving his sister false hope and herself the same. I remember feeling like I had to smack her over the head with the reality and she burst into tears when she realized there was no fight left to be fought. That the worst was true. Now, I think back on the image of her and our daughters parading through the park, cheering Harvey on, and I smile and my heart warms. There she was, being Jenn, spreading her hope and love and positivity to our girls, to my son across town dying in my arms, and to her own auntie self. Now, I wish I could have mustered some of that myself. But she did it for me, as she’s done so many times before and since and, I’m positive, she always will. Hope against hope. That’s my Jenn. Making lemonade, and adding a jigger of gin, to the shitty lemons life hands us.

In the aftermath of our loss, she watched me all but die. The friend she knew and loved ultimately changed before her eyes. She let me be the shell I had become. She was my friend and support, for years, when I could be neither back to her. She tolerated my grief brain that made me anxious and demanding and too quiet and very forgetful. She watched her passionate friend sink into meaninglessness. So very many things fundamentally changed about me and, at least to me, she was unphased. Further to her credit, if she was phased, she talked to her other friends about it and just let be where I was, placing no demand or expectations upon me to be anything but a shell. Simultaneously following my lead and guiding me through the devastating grief, the debilitating surgeries, the brutal details of the end of my marriage. She listened to me repeat the same stories, the same questions, the same bewilderment of how to proceed over and over and over again. She told me it was okay that I had started smoking because she knew I would quit again. She thought I should go on meds and then when I went off, she thought I should go back on. She was right on all counts.

 She held me as I cried on countless occasions. Somehow, she knew what to say. She knew what to do. She arranged my son’s funeral with my brother-in-law. She took over being my daughter’s mother when all I could do was yell, crumple into tears, or sit catatonicly.

She took care of my kid while I had surgery. She yelled at my husband and posed questions I was unable to and took the anger I couldn’t yet feel on for both of us. She supported me when I decided to stay and work it out with him. She watched our kid every time we went to therapy and wasted our breath. After he moved out, she walked into my house and told me it felt lighter, better, easier. That it wasn’t Harvey weighing us down but the secrets and lies and betrayals that were very much alive inside my marriage. She didn’t let me kill myself. She believed what happened with the shamans. She marveled as I got better after that. She recognized my return. She got me there. She saved my life and filled my daughter’s life with joy when her mother had none to give. She baked both of my kid’s birthday cakes for two years. She came to the six month and first birthday ceremonies I created for my son. She revisited her own grief time and time again. She held her own grief in until she walked the three blocks home to her husband, so that I could have mine purely. She shared her grief with me, too. She told me time and again that she thinks of him every day, just like I do. She tells me when she sees ladybugs and hawks. She talks to him when she needs some guidance. She sees his hand in our lives and she feels his absence almost as acutely as I do. She knows that we are all missing out, especially our girls, because he is gone.

My darling son called her in. Brought her here on the day he came in. She stayed until I was back on my feet. When it was time to leave, when she saw I could make it without her, she let herself go. Back on her own path, back to her own dreams and intentions, back to her own life, knowing that nothing but proximity will change. 

In the months leading up to her departure, I was consumed. Single parenting and still trying to get on my feet financially so I worked all the time and couldn’t go out much in the evenings anymore. Vesta started kindergarten and spent weekends at her dads, so they saw each other less and less. I funneled my grief into my art and performance project and spent times working on that when I would have been with her. I fell in love and my scope narrowed, wanting to spend as much time as I could with my new love, again interrupting our usual routine. I stopped prioritizing us. I stopped needing her to survive again., I started taking her for granted, knowing that I had precious time left with her and spending it elsewhere anyway, because we are so solid and so forever. We spent a lot of time together the week before she left and I realized one morning after crying on her bed about many woes and overwhelm that I hadn’t been not prioritizing her as much as I had been avoiding her. I feel abandoned. I have a belief that everyone leaves me: my son, my husband, my previous loves, grandparents and aunts and even teenaged friends. As we talked that morning like we hadn’t in weeks maybe months, I consciously realized how incredibly hard this move was going to be on me. That I had come face to face with yet another chapter ending. And yet, this time, I could see another chapter beginning, just like she’s been saying for over a year that I would see it. A new chapter for both of us. Same book, same story, different page. There it is again: hope, optimism and zest. All the things I admire and aspire to and receive as gifts from my best friend. 

I believe that I made contracts with people before I came to this life. That every one is in my life because we agreed in it. Ours is very likely the most important one. The one that said there will be someone in your life who loves you unconditionally, by choice, not by blood or obligation but because we continually have chosen each other. For 36 years, I have chosen her and she has chosen me and it is in the choosing, the living, the loving, the laughter, the sharing that I find the most profound gratitude of my life. For my Jenn. Who will never leave me, even when she does.


I am the one who will never die young

I am the martyr and I cannot hide

But I’m not a winner, I’m just brilliantly bitter

I am sealed by my skin but broken inside.

-Lori McKenna

I swam.

Freestyle, butterfly, back and breast. The whole nine. After being a swimmer for all of my life I realized that in back stroke you can breathe the whole time. In breast stroke, you breathe every stroke. But in my two strokes, free and butterfly, you only breathe very 3,5 or even 7. I chose the strokes, the two that appealed the most, were those that are mostly underwater. The ones that require holding and gasping and enduring.

On my last lap, I floated, just at the water’s surface. I floated underneath the blue and white flags, hung at each end of the pool, so you can count your back strokes and know when to turn. The curled in on themselves at their tips and my body sunk, my heals to the bottom, just my face above water. I closed my eyes to listen to the silence that I love so much about water. How everything is muffled and quiet.

My body, at this particular angle, remembered. Rememebered the birthing tubs. Twice I lay like this, attempting to use the warm water to soften the pain of contractions. Closing my eyes in the quiet, breathing, concentrating, hypnotizing myself against the writhing in my body, the gripping, rhythmic muscles, working to get my babies out.

I didn’t remember. My body did. I wrapped my arm around the blue and white plastic  rings of the lane marker. A buoy for a moment. I can’t believe that’s over. That time in my life when it was time to have my babies. That one never made it out in that tub or the house but on the operating table. That another died inside and was birthed by medicine into the toilet and flushed. That the last, labored for in the tub, birthed on the toilet, died in my arms the next day. How much hope has been lost. How much innocence and joy. How much time.

Later, in the car, I would hear a song called “Never Die Young” about a girl left after her friend from Catholic school has passed away. Yes, that, too. How now I know so acutely the pain Theresa’s mom was in, and likely still is 21 years later, after her daughter died just before turning 17. How now I wish I could find her mom and tell her that I still think about her daughter, I still miss her. That I haven’t forgotten her long thin fingers, her face when she laughed, her huge, generous heart.   I know that would be salve to her heart.

As I turn the corner in the car, as I float there in the water, the finality of death strikes me as so odd, as it still often does despite my close acquaintance with it. How is it that it’s just over? How is it that they are gone? That they won’t ever come back? Why does that still feel so strange, so surreal?

If I could find her, I’d ask Mrs Rigo that. Does it still strike her as odd? And are the days it feels like that still the good days?

I turned the corner and cried. I let go of the line and sunk below the water, holding my breath, floating, weightless in the muffled aloneness, just for a few more moments.


Two days before Harvey was born and three before he died, I posted a picture to Facebook of three and half year old Vesta in her new blue shoes. I captioned it with lyrics from my favorite Paolo Nutini song: “hey, I got my new shoes on and everything’s going to be alright.”
Yesterday, Vesta was playing dress up in my closet. Pulling dresses from hangers, she came to me holding the dress I wore to Harvey’s funeral. “Look at this one, mama! So beautiful!”. That day as I fumbled around trying to find something that fit my postpartum body, complete with a uterus that had finally coagulated it’s leaking blood, I pulled that dress on. I tried to put myself together. I stepped outside into the rare May sunshine and hear and Vesta said “oooo Mommy! You look beautiful! Spin around”. And so I spun. I remember buying that dress. I was so excited to receive it. I wore it to Vesta’s baby shower. And then her brother’s funeral. It struck me yesterday as I tied it around her neck and she spun, that without any foreknowledge, many years ago, I was so excited to receive the dress I would wear to my dead baby’s memorial service. Sureal and odd. And still worn. Still spun in.

We walked in the door the other day and Vesta wondered if a package recently delivered from UPS was a gift for her. I jokingly said I gave her life and that’s gift enough. Without skipping a beat she said, “why didn’t you give Harvey life?”. “I tried”, I said laughing and noticing that it didn’t sting, her innocent, true words. But they haunt me. Why didn’t I give Harvey life? Why did one child receive the gift of life and two die, one inside and one out. Why will there be no other lives to give?

What no one tells you about grief.

You know what they don’t tell you about grief?

It’s fucking rich.

Don’t get me wrong. When it first comes and then when it keeps on coming,  even years and decades later like it’s that very first day, it’s not rich. It’s dense and it’s dark and it’s overwhelming and it feels so real, like the whole world is actually ending. It feels so thick that you can touch it. It feels like you’re drowning in it. It courses through your veins like acid and sits upon your chest like an anvil. Sit with someone who’s in the early throes and they will tell you that it’s only deep. They will tell you that there’s no way out. That there is no through, that there is no other side. It takes over everything.

You have to get used to the acid. You have to feel the anvil breaking each of your ribs. And then you have to take a breath. And then you have to take another one. Even though each breath presses against what’s broken, presses back against the pressure.

I’ve done it but I can’t tell you how. Somehow, I’ve gotten to this place where I can feel this beautiful richness. How my grief has brought me closer to myself, revealed myself to me. I can feel the ragged edges of myself with the way it’s shaped me. I can see now, everyday, that I am someone new, someone I like better, someone I never would have become without all of my grief and loss. 

I went to a storytelling evening called Grief Rites. Each person stood up there and told us about themselves. Told us about the new shape they are in because they lost their mom or dad or son or sister. Each one shared about how profoundly and fundamentally changed they are. How they don’t know how to live in this world without their love and at the same time, telling us exactly how they are doing it. Through tears and laughter and gut wrenching fear and deep, down, dirty joy. With gratitude. Because they were here with us. Because their presence changed us and shaped us and re-formed us as much as their absence has, sometimes more.

It’s fucking rich. I sat there listening, laughing, crying, nodding my head because I understood, feel horrified and overjoyed. I sat there feeling grateful. For the first time. Listening to others tell me what I’ve told myself a million times but in their unique way, from their own experience. Watching these people as they grapple and struggle with this inevitable human experience, I thanked God for my grief. Not the loss, not that my son is not here with me but for the richness I have been given. How much more human I am. How more intricate and intense my fear is, how much less afraid I am. How much more acutely and accurately I feel joy and pleasure in my life for knowing so many long hours of their absence, for fearing neither would ever return to me. I thanked God for my grief. For how it’s asked me to explore myself, spelunk the deepest, darkest places of myself. How it asked me to be bitter and angry and spiteful and hateful and so inhumanly unhappy. And how I did that, and sometimes still do. And how now my grief askes so much grace of me. So much forgiveness, so much compassion, so much empathy. How it’s asked me again and again to find words of comfort, words of connection, words of understanding to share with others. How it sits me squarely and completely in awe at other’s abilities to sit with their own excruciating  pain and to tell me about it. To share, with tears and swear words and shaking hands, how they think they will die from it and then don’t.

How do we do it? I have no fucking idea and I’ve done it. I’ve sat there myself, bawling and swearing and shaking and needing to get out of this skin that’s burning with acid just under the surface. I’ve known that the world has ended and that I’ll never be the same again and so what is the point of going on? I’ve watched the secondary and tertiary losses in my life fall away: from fertility to relationships to my inability to take care of myself to my career path veering off into another unknown to my inability to give a shit about things that were once so intensely important to me.

 I don’t know how we do it except in the sharing of it. Except in those moments when we give each other the gift of our story. In watching each other navigate these waves that keep pulling us under, smashing us against the rocks before lulling us to sleep or incapacity or a moment’s respite. In sitting together and crying and nodding because we understand so well. How these moments turn into scar tissue on our hearts. Little by very, very little how we heal each other up. Never forgetting, never not being changed, never not grieving. We can heal while simultaneously grieving. In fact, there’s no other way. That’s something else they don’t tell you. 

It’s in the telling. It’s in the relating. That is where the richness reveals itself to us. If we’ll only keep on talking and listening and feeling it. Only then, slowly and unsteadily, wil we find ourselves again.

If you are in the Portland, Oregon area, please consider attending a reading at Grief Rites. The first Monday of every month at Post 134 on NE Alberta. I’ll be reading on March 7th.

I love you grievers.

for Ann.

I love you grievers

you who reveal to near strangers your deepest wailing. at first, because you have to. because it cannot be contained. because it is the truest expression of you. you who have never been more you while feeling so completely foreign and unknown to yourself

you who continue to reveal your deepest wailing after it is no longer inevitable. after you have come to find the sliver of self-control that can keep it under wraps. but you don’t anymore.

I love you grievers who keep revealing yourself anyway

I love you grievers

you who are angry. who look to the heavens and condemn the god you don’t believe in. who are willing to look the Father in the eye and say Fuck You! Fuck You for leaving me here with this. for taking my beloved. the one I cannot live without and then watch me as I flounder and flail and nearly die from it myself. Fuck you.

you who are angry at other people for no other reason except that all of their beloveds are still alive. angry because other people get to keep their babies and husbands and mothers and brothers and you have to do this shit alone know. more than just alone. without.

you who walk through your days scorned and bitter and angry and resentful and fucking terrified.

I love you grievers who talk about it, who tell me, even though we shoudl not feel such things, let alone say them out loud. even though we all do.

I love you grievers.

you who laugh. who laugh at the absurdity. the unfairness. this ridiculousness. you who hear what you are saying, who see for a second what you have been feeling as it moves outside of yourself and throw your head back and laugh. you who have been crying for hours and days and weeks and months and then find the smallest upturn on the sides of your mouth, the contraction of the laughing diaphram, the sparkle in your eye for a even just a moment and who let it come. you who find and feel the slightest moment of joy, even though  it is completely unrecognizable to you anymore.

I love you grievers who laugh.

I love you grievers.

you who are terrified. who don’t know how to make it in this world anymore. who once had sureity and now fear ever corner, ever turn, every step.

I love you grievers who round each corner, make every turn, tack each step anyway.

I love you grievers.

you who feel absolutely, 100%, undeniably alone. misunderstood. isolated. hurt by well intentioned words. loved ones who make it worse. who say “at least” and “but” and try to silver lining this shit away. you who are alone in your grief even when surrounded by people who understand. you who are alone in your grief even when surrounded by people who you’d never imagined would every be lonely with. you who can no longer find your place here.

I love you grievers who have never felt so alone.

I love you grievers.

you who are ashamed. ashamed for all of this. that you couldn’t save your baby. that you didn’t pick up the phone the last time your brother called you. that you see know how you took your husband for granted. that only if you had been kinder to your mother.

you who are ashamed for all of this. for your wailing because we are not to wail and certainly not in front of each other. for your anger because it is unwarranted and we should be grateful and relieved for the lack of suffering in others. for your laughter and the guilt that quickly follows, the fear that it is taking you farther away from your beloved who is gone. for your loneliness, for the changing nature of your relationships, for the inevitability of more and more loss and how it is routinely overlooked and then feels wrong.

I love you grievers who are ashamed.

I love you grievers.

you who hate people telling you are “strong” and “brave”. you who want to punch other people in the face. you who seethe at mere existence. you who no longer recognize yourself for these and a million other reasons.

you who can make no fucking sense of anything and any more. who cannot celebrate birthdays or new years or the gift of another day. you who want to puke at such cliche. you who’s darkness will not be honored. you surrounded by a world that is not mourning. except that it’s worse: it is mourning but just not showing up to it. not like you are.

not like you are

not like you who are learning these lessons that are bullshit. who are getting stronger even though you were strong enough. not like you who begin to see some gifts in this fucking mire. not like you who slowly allow joy to creep in again. who begin to feel grateful. who find the new version of yourself that you never wanted but that you possibly might like even more. you who just keep on going until the blood starts flowing again, until the tinlge of being alive returns to just beneath your skin. until you find your tribe. and feel less alone. and laugh more even though it’s often bitter. and find beauty in places you never would have even noticed.

I love you grievers. not like you are. exactly as you are.

New Year.

The wind screams and it jolts me awake because I’m sure it was a person calling out. It whips around my house, over the roof, and I imagine a tree falling on the house. Then I picture the outside of the house and there are no trees right nearby and I don’t worry anymore.

But I lay there awake. Listening to my kid’s raspy breathing from a chest cold. Listening to our cat purring. So happy we are home.

I haven’t slept enough as the years changed but I can’t go back so I get up. I get up and go into the wind, like I once went into the rain. It’s morning but it’s still night and I see the stars and I hear the quiet and I feel the cold, cold air kissing my cheeks and hands. Making me feel alive again. Sometimes we need the elements to wake us up. To remind us. “Here I am” in this cold, in this rain, in this discomfort, exposed.

It’s the new year. I feel better. But I hear from the newly bereaved. And, shit, even the seasoned bereaved. And they are hurting. And I want so much more than “Happy New Year”, more than “May all your dreams come true this year”, more than toasts to the best year yet. I want more than hope, more than possibility, more than the first page of a 365 page book where we’re inscented to write out story just the way we want it to be.

I want every hurting heart to be matched. I want those for which 2015 was nothing but a living nightmare to know that it’s entirely possible that 2016 is also going to suck because they are in the rubble. I want to acknowledge the rubble. I want to say “it’s the new year. Best of luck this time around the sun.” I want texts sent like the one I just got from my step mother: “now onto a new year of experiences.”

I want to acknowledge that things fall apart. That babies die and houses foreclose and hearts are broken and jobs are lost and disease strikes. Just as sure as new love is found, kindness is received, joy is reveled in and lived are transformed for the better.

It’s a detriment, always trying to be happy or get to happy. It makes the hard times harder because we’re supposed to be happy and grateful and find the silver lining.

I want to learn to accept it all. To push on with appreciation that the wind is blowing and the rains come and the clouds cover. To step out into a day with the sun shining and the birds chirping and the flowers blooming. To let the days that are foggy and gray and not too cold just be what they are. There is so little that we can change, so little that we control. It’s fine to believe that we can change things, control things, make things happen, write a new 365 page book, even create our own realities. It’s fine. Until your world crashes down on you, as worlds are wont to do. I was hospitalized as a young teen for depression and repressed suicide attempts. On the day of my release, one of the nurses sat with me in my room and asked me to look him in the eyes, something that was exceedingly hard to do when your trying so hard to hide away. He said “Monica, it sounds like you are expecting the worst but hoping for the best and that’s no way to live.” I thought that was a good plan and I’ve mulled that over for two decades now. I still don’t understand why it’s not a good plan. Terrible shit happens, it happened to me, but I hope for the best anyway. I don’t rose colored glasses, I want clear lenses to see through. I want to see the reality that some of the beauty of life is exactly that we don’t have control, that our reality just happens and what we can create from it is meaning. I can choose the meaning I that I live in a cold cruel universe in which babies just die for no known reason, and if we know the reason it doesn’t make a stitch of difference to the parents. And it’s fucking true. This is a fact. I can choose the meaning that just because this is true it doesn’t mean that I have to die from my loss or live the rest of days bitter and angry and broken and sad. I can choose the meaning that somehow, despite the uncaring natural order of things, I can live fully, search for joy until I find it again, feel the undeterred human spirit that pushes on no matter what. I choose to make meaning. I choose to let the meaning I’ve created about the same story, the same circumstance, change over time. I want to let my life unfold, out of control and also choosing.

I want this year, for all of us to be more “fuck yeah” than “fuck this” and if it’s not, I want someone to sit next to me and say “this fucking sucks” and I’ll cry or scream or feel defeated and say “it sure does.” And then, for now, that will be story, that will be the meaning, and that is enough. Silverliningless, just shitty, and sucky and not what I planned or chose or created. Just wind blowing and rain falling and clouds covering. No need for sunshine and rainbows just yet. There will be a time for all of that, too.

So, here’s to New year full of new experiences. May it be awesome and when it’s not, may someone sit by your side and let it rain.


Six years old, 40 pounds and 40 inches tall

We got all dressed up tonight

My high heels sink into the wet earth

I parked too close to the pole so I have to wriggle you out and you stay asleep on my shoulder

 I am tired, too 

Missing the ritual and the ease it brought. The comfort of sharing, of creating and then doing.

The car rolled forward, the doors propped open, the bed readied for your tiny body. One of us carrying you, one the bags and leftovers in the car from this or that celebration. The coming together. The not sinking down into the earth. The heels not scrapping the edge of the stairs under our weight. The scarf not tangling at my feet as I try to navigate us back home.

I miss him only in the tiniest of moments now, only in the logistics, only in the carrying of heavy things. To and from the car. The loading and unloading. 

How many more times? At what age, what weight, what height? Will I know it’s the last time? Will you stop falling asleep in the car? Will I wake you and ask you to walk? Will you ask me to carry you and I, unable?

Will I be able to help you with your heavy things? We’ll work together on the logistics, on the loading and unloading. And I’ll try to make your life easier: propping doors and readying your surroundings for wherever you decide to lay your body down. For wherever you decide to go. 

I’ll do my best. Which will come up short. We inevitably do that for each other. Except when we rise above. Above and beyond. That is my wish for you.

My girl. You’ll always be my girl.


Six years old, 40 pounds and 40 inches tall

We got all dressed up tonight

My high heels sink into the wet earth

I parked too close to the pole so I have to wriggle you out and you stay asleep on my shoulder

 I am tired, too 

Missing the ritual and the ease it brought. The comfort of sharing, of creating and then doing.

The car rolled forward, the doors propped open, the bed readied for your tiny body. One of us carrying you, one the bags and leftovers in the car from this or that celebration. The coming together. The not sinking down into the earth. The heels not scrapping the edge of the stairs under our weight. The scarf not tangling at my feet as I try to navigate us back home.

I miss him only in the tiniest of moments now, only in the logistics, only in the carrying of heavy things. To and from the car. The loading and unloading. 

How many more times? At what age, what weight, what height? Will I know it’s the last time? Will you stop falling asleep in the car? Will I wake you and ask you to walk? Will you ask me to carry you and I, unable?

Will I be able to help you with your heavy things? We’ll work together on the logistics, on the loading and unloading. And I’ll try to make your life easier: propping doors and readying your surroundings for wherever you decide to lay your body down. For wherever you decide to go. 

I’ll do my best. Which will come up short. We inevitably do that for each other. Except when we rise above. Above and beyond. That is my wish for you.

My girl. You’ll always be my girl.