One day at suppertime

photo by  erin purcell

photo by erin purcell

I will always be suffocating on my own sorrow. ... How do you come back from this type of thing? Will this loss always define me? Should I feel guilty for not wanting it to define me? Or guilty because I want it to?

Oh, how to navigate this new part of my life...

One aching mother left this on our discussion board, not the first nor the last time the very same questions have surfaced there. I remember wondering the very same things myself.

How do you come back from this type of thing?

You don't—but you won't always suffocate on your own sorrow. You will become something else. You will grow gills, and you will breathe in an entirely new way.

Someday you'll get as far as suppertime before remembering, at least consciously, that your baby died. You'll be adding butter to rice with one hand and putting an oven mitt on the other, worried that you've burnt the almonds again, and you'll pause and go

Oh. Oh right...

But you won't stop. You'll open the oven door and the timer will ding for the frittata and you'll dish it all out and you'll sit down to eat and realize that it's been one whole day until suppertime without a single thought of what happened to you. All day it was just have to pay the power bill and christ, it's getting cold out and that was a great meeting and these shoes make me blister and what a gorgeous sunset and we're going to see that show this weekend and for that ticket price, it had better be epic.

And then, not until 6:12, as almonds edge precariously close to black:

Oh. Oh right...

You remember. That was me. God, that was us.

But then Wow. What time is it?


It's been all day. I hadn't thought of it once and it's been all day.


Will loss always define you?

Sure. Of course it will. Just as much as everything else you've ever done or experienced defines you. Sickness, love, career, marriage. Everything mashes up together to define you. Every relationship, every pothole, every blessing.

Right now, loss is all there is. It has overwhelmed everything else, as it must. But someday you'll pause for a moment and remember, and you'll wait for your eyes to get all hot and glassy. But they won't. And then, in a split second, all of this:

First, you feel almost ordinary, without guilt. This feels peaceful.

Second, you send love to that lost soul. You decide, regardless of what belief system you use to frame it, that your child is onwards, elsewhere. And this is a letting-go. This is a safe-journey, a wear-your-mittens, a don't-forget-to-eat-a-good-snack. This is the beginning of your active motherhood of that lost soul, for that's what mothers must do. From the very beginning they must let go.

Third, you eat frittata with parmesan reggiano on top, parmesan that cost too much. And buttered rice with toasted almonds. It is delicious. You sip a glass of wine as you ask your husband, the father of the baby you lost together, to make a fire. And you balance a plate on your lap as a billow of companionable smoke tufts into the living room, just as a good movie starts on television.

You remember, but you live. You see yourself in the mirror and see scars that no longer hurt. They are just... there. They catch the light, shimmer a bit where new skin grew back.

And you think alright baby, alright.

Tell us where you're at. Have you had that moment yet? Has ordinary settled upon you again? Are you almost ready to graduate from this community, at least in comparison to how you once needed it before? How do you know it? What would you tell those parents among us who are still raw? If you are that parent and your loss is recent, what do you feel you need to find that moment for yourself?


Author, photographer, founder of Glow. Mother of three boys, one of whom died at six weeks old nine years ago. Nine years ago, I was someone else. Love and sorcery and poetry and terrible luck and wonderful luck.