Sunday, November 3, 2013

Open letter to those who don’t know what to say:

Dear you:
My mother died.  The most important, essential and primal person in my life has died.  She is not coming back, and this private silent grief is not something that can be understood unless you, too, are part of the Adult Orphan Club.  Don’t ask me how I am:  I’m horrible, and it is ridiculous to expect a different answer.  Many of you have not said anything, acted as if nothing happened, handled it badly, or acted as if I should be better now.  Let me let you in on my truth:  I will never be better and I am shaky all the time.

So if you don’t know what to say, don’t say anything:  instead hug me when you see me.  Whisper “I am so sorry” in my ear.  Grasp my hand, leave cookies on my porch, send me flowers, a card, or a text checking in. Come over and help me paint new color on my walls, mulch the garden, sit quietly with me over tea, and most importantly, let me cry if I suddenly need to.  Don’t try to comfort me.  You can’t.  If I talk about her, listen.  Ask about her occasionally, but don’t be upset if I have tears running down my face as I tell you. Mostly, understand when I don’t want to talk, or be around people, even you, at least for now.

In short, there are a lot of ways to tell me that you love me, without having to uncomfortably address my mother’s death.  Say it any way you know how. Trust me, I can hear you.  I will be listening.  But don’t do nothing.

And when I get to where I can emerge, be patient with me. On the day I get married, tell me she would be proud.  When I publish my first book, know that I will set one aside for her, even though it will never be read.  Maybe one day I will have a whole shelf of books that she will never read, yet there they will be.  Daffodils and narcissus will bloom every year and every year I will tell you they are her favorites, and the story of the terra cotta pots.  Nod as if you have never heard me say that before.  I will show you the picture of her on her trike when she was four.  Admire it as if you have never seen it before.  Tell me she was beautiful.

Because she was.


  1. Her beauty lives on, in your words and your smile and your stories. Thank you so much for sharing your precious mother with us!

  2. As a fellow Adult Orphan just this past December, this is EXACTLY perfect. Thank you

    1. you are so welcome, and I am so very sorry that you are a part of this awful club

    2. Same back to you. Here's to finding a new normal
      Much love & blessings to you,
      Laura H

  3. We all become members of the Club sooner or later.

    My goal was to get my book out before my father passed. My mother was already gone. I succeeded, sort of. I got a galley proof into his hands; he was no longer able to read and remember, but he was able to hold it. It's on a shelf of its own now.

    Nothing can make it easier -- not knowing it's imminent, not knowing you've done all that you possibly could, not anything. To this very day (it will be three years come February) I still think of questions about family, and reach for the phone to call Dad and ask him -- and he's been unable to answer those for 5 years and on.

    It doesn't get "all better", but it improves. Whether time heals the wound, or just shrouds and swaddles the memory, it improves nevertheless.

    I AM so sorry.

  4. This is what I needed to read thank you for articulating what I was unable to. I too am a member of the adult orphan club 8 years this coming Monday, Daffodils were my Moms favorites too. She's in many of my dreams and I still long to hold her hand. I would like to add to your list: Please tell me you remember her, you miss her and I remind you of her. There is a Mom size hole in my universe that will never be filled...