Surviving Loss

Demystifying death, and finding the light.

Love is all around you.

I wrote this as an honest, practical guide to losing a loved one in the spirit in which my mom approached life. I learned the hard way that death is not how it appears in the movies or on TV. And nobody talks about it. Everyone deals with loss in their own ways, but at the time I felt a bit blind-sided. Hence, I wanted to share the experience of losing my mom. Even in sad times, there is a lot of beauty and good too. I’ll walk you through both sides of loss, and the bright sides of what I’ve learned. Apologies in advance if I make you cry. Scroll past the rainbow if you want to bypass the “sad” cancer stuff, or skip to the bottom below the blue angel for my favorite resources that helped me. I hope they help you too.

A year ago today my mom passed away from ovarian cancer. It was a nearly four year battle that moved quickly at the end. We were “lucky” to even know she had cancer in the first place, as it was discovered during a routine surgery. They changed surgical teams on the spot, and treatment started shortly thereafter. The next few years were a rollercoaster of treatments, watching numbers, and waiting…

My mom was a complete champ through it all. She never cried about it. She saw it as an engineering problem, and was willing to do what was necessary to “fix it”. She hardly complained except to say that the meds or treatment had zapped her energy.

The unpredictable nature of what was going to happen week to week made it hard to travel. When she did have cancer free periods, different projects were taken on — like renovating the basement. A few years in, my mom was trying to get into a special immunotherapy cancer study at the National Institute of Health, so my parents took it as an opportunity to come to Paris for Easter 2017. My mom was walking 10,000 steps a day, and loving every minute. She was able to connect with old friends too from her time working abroad in Geneva, as with a childhood friend with a place in France. It was the perfect swan song.

When my parents returned to Virginia, they learned that my mom failed to qualify for the special study. The reason? “Insufficient cancerous material.” During the biopsy they were not able to find anything substantial enough to be able to track, which was required to include her in the study. In hindsight, my dad saw it in the doctor’s face that this is not the news she had been hoping for. But that’s the challenge of a cancer like ovarian (or pancreatic) — it’s more like a blob than a tumor, hence harder to target. (The more I read about immunotherapy, the more I realize that truly is the future of cancer treatment.)

The thing about cancer — or any serious ailment — is that it’s not only a lot for the patient to go through, but for the family as well. Thankfully, my parents—in retirement—had the time to go to the endless appointments. These often involved additional shots to adjust the levels of herwhite blood cell count, or whatever the issue of the week presented. It was always something, and that was just our new normal.

My dad and brother were the true champs as first round care givers. I was the moral support on the other side of the pond. My mom was the queen of WhatsApp and emoji messages, and she particularly enjoyed having a living being who was awake on the other end when the chemo side effects kept her up at night.

Without the special study, treatments got a bit more experimental. By the time we found out the cancer hadspread, I think it was something I’d already figured out. Turns out designers can think a lot like doctors when it comes to putting two and two together. I’ve always struggled with being in limbo, preferring to know the truth, even if it isn’t what we wanted to hear.

Most “cancer reports” my parents would send me were via text. The time difference made me feel the agony of every second they didn’t reply. For the final report, this was on a phone call. It started like any other normal catch up call. Then my mom in a completely unwavering, not particularly emotional way, says in her matter of fact voice, that the cancer had spread. We had a nice chat. The weight of what she was telling me hadn’t fully sunk in. Even though I always knew it was a possibility, you’re never ready for any of this. I told her, “Mom, we’re just so lucky to have had you for this long.”

I already had a trip stateside planned in the next few weeks. When I asked, “How long?” my folks said 6 months. I figured my life would be back and forth across the ocean for the near future. I moved my flight up slightly, and detoured to Virginia. I could have moved it up even more. I kept asking questions, but the urgency didn’t seem to be there.

In the meantime, I surrounded myself with friends. I wanted to curl up in a ball and hide, but I knew that’s not what my mom would want. It happened to be a time with dear old friends passing through Paris. I tried to be normal, and enjoy the little moments, even when I knew things were no longer “normal.” I made sure to post to Instagram Stories, one of the ways my mom enjoyed traveling vicariously through my life, and see Paris. (Social media does have up sides.)

In the end, from final diagnosis day to death, it was 10 days, of which I had four. To anyone reading this, it must sound jarring. Believe me it was, but at the same time I don’t know that I could have taken 6 months of the whiplash rollercoaster. As we were living it we didn’t completely realize the speed at which it was happening.

I reached out to friends (or they reached out to me) who had been through the cancer gauntlet with loved ones. I knew a friend who had lost his father to cancer while living on the opposite side of the country would know what it was like, so I asked him for advice. He gave the best advice. My favorite was to lay next to your mom like you’re a kid a again and spend as much time as you can with her. His advice was written as if I had six months, but it was a good life lesson not to wait.

When I was home, I did as much as I could to be with her. I found a copy of WonderWoman online to help show her what a warrior she was. She was always such a champion for women and girls, so it seemed fitting, and a story that’s often not told.

No one tells you how exhausting it is to be a caregiver. My dad and brother had taken on most of the load. The day before I arrived they had purchased a wheelchair to help get her around to the final doctors appointments. Towards the end, it took three of us to make anything happen.

By this time she could barely keep food down. My brother and I alternated making ice chips for her to suck on. Ironically, using the mashed potato masher to smash them was very therapeutic. The goal with the final doctor’s appointments was to make her has comfortable as possible. After one she did feel well enough that my dad and brother picked up her favorite: New England Clam Chowder. She didn’t eat much, but it made her very happy. In life and death, it’s really about the simple things.

Fortunately, my dad had the foresight to contact hospice after the initial notification that we were coming to the end. They do an excellent job of managing expectations and the process in terms of what to expect. Still, I can’t emphasize enought that the end came faster than anyone anticipated. Every day we’d touch base, and every day, we kept moving the day forward for when we expected to need hospice.

Hospice specializes in end of life care. All official medical visits have to be completed in order for hospice to take over. In other words, there would be no medical miracles at this point, just nurses making the patient as comfortable as possible. They’re the most amazing people on earth if you ask me.

My mom’s situation was suitable for home care, rather being in a hospital. After a couple hours of forms and legalities with representatives of hospice that came to the house, my dad had everything set. The next morning the bed was delivered. We decided to have it set up in the living room. This was not only practical from a logistical standpoint, but it also would be nice for my mom. She would be set up with a view of the backyard and her garden, which she loved.

By this time, my dad had already called all the relatives. Two were on their way. He encouraged two more to try to get on the earlier flight.

The night before hospice arrived my mom asked to be moved to the couch where she was more comfortable. I “slept” next to her all night in case she needed anything. But all I can remember was the jarring rhythm of the oxygen machine (something she’d had for a month), which made me anxious, and making sure she was still breathing. The combo of jetlag, lack of sleep, and lack of eating was getting to me. I wasn’t not eating by lack of appetite. Just every time I sat down to stuff food in my mouth, I got called to help. Self-care is the first to go for caregivers, but I knew not eating was only going to make the emotions go wild. I did my best.

With each passing hour mom had less energy and was hardly talking. By morning she was awake. As we were waiting for the bed to be delivered was the first time she gave any hints of pain setting in. During a medical situation several years ago, we did learn that she had a super human level of pain threshold. But in life in general, she was not one to complain.

She and I sat on the couch together. I tried to use my own deep breaths to help control her breathing and keep her relaxed. The night before, my dad, brother and I had each given her permission to go in our own ways, should she need to. But she was holding out for the family to arrive, as many do.

Shortly after the hospital bed was set up in the living room, the hospice nurse arrived. She cleaned my mom with such care, and got her comfortable in the bed. She dressed her in one of my dad’s under shirts — mom looked so sweet and peaceful. At that point the nurse was able to make calls to the doctor, and administer morphine as needed. There was a swab to help keep her lips wet, again to make her more comfortable.

My mom had starting planning her funeral four years prior. Considering where she wanted to be buried, the music, who would oversee it. This all started shortly before she was even diagnosed with cancer. One of the benefits of religion is that it’s something that can help you prepare for what’s next.

Throughout the final days, members of the clergy from my parent’s church would stop by to check on her, and say a prayer. One came after the extended family arrived, and pulled us all in a circle around my mom, holding hands. Mom was hardly talking by that point, but we were all there. The thing about watching someone die, is that you get to a point where you don’t want them to hurt anymore. There’s no other route back, you just want them to be at peace.

That being said, in the next scene I lost it. The extended family was sitting in the living room. You get to a point where there are moments of normal conversation. Still, there is a lot of waiting. A few hours later, I was feeling confused. I didn’t know how this dying thing worked. Tears streaming down my face, I was like “I don’t know what to do. Am I just supposed to sit here and watch her die?”. My aunt, a nurse herself, pointed out how honored she felt to be there with my mom. It was true, not everyone has this privilege of being able to say goodbye. Still, I said, this is not how it is on TV or in the movies.

The hospice nurse had changed shifts by this time, and the night nurse had arrived by this time. My aunts had chatted with her and learned that she got into doing this after her husband passed away of pancreatic cancer. Seriously, these nurses are super human, truly wonderful people. It was probably around 7pm by this time. My aunts could see I was exhausted and suggested I go to bed. The nurse told me she can usually tell when the person is about to go through how their breathing changes. She told me when that happens to come quick. I was too tired to do anything else but sleep.

I like to think it was my mom who understood the importance of a good night’s sleep. At some point during the early evening, the relatives had returned to their hotels. I woke up a little after 5am to the sound of rain. I thought to myself, mom will be happy that it rained for her garden. Shortly thereafter there was a loud knock on my bedroom door (and my father’s) from the hospice nurse. “I think she’s going soon. Hurry!”.

I did. Like lightening. I didn’t know what I’d say because one never truly expects to find themselves in this situation. I told her about the rain and her garden, I told her how amazing she was, how much I was like her in so many ways I only had realized in those final days. That moment lasted longer than I expected, and I rambled. It was no Oscar performance, but I said everything I needed to say (and quite frankly didn’t expect to have that moment at all). Although she was leaving us, I know she heard me. In her own rest, she had mustered up the energy to open her eyes and stare straight at me as I held her hand (later the nurse told me how rare that was). She listened to every word as I went on. And then she was gone.

It’s weird to say there was a sense of peace and relief afterwards, but there was. She was no longer in pain, and she was so peaceful. And a few minutes later, I was having a lovely conversation with the nurse in the living room, just like my mom would have, in the way she would chat with anyone. Yes, there was a body there, but a weight had been lifted. Death carries so many emotions.

Double rainbow my dad and I spotted after leaving one of my parent’s favorite restaurants they frequented.

As sad and awful as death is, it’s also inevitable. After my grandparents passed away — in their mid-90s — I learned that funerals may be sad, but they’re also a beautiful way to bring together the people you care about most. Sure, reunions are more fun on better terms, but it’s still special to have so many people from different chapters of your life in one place.

Obituaries may seem like an afterthought or formality of death, but my dad taught me the power of writing a kick ass one. He’s someone who reads the obituaries daily, and all too often recognizes names of people he knows. Funerals have become part of his social calendar, but again, they are a place he can reconnect with people. He spearheaded my mom’s obituary the day she passed. What first read like a résumé, the rest of the extended family provided feedback to make her more human. The end result was a portrait of a woman that even made us step back. I had friends I haven’t seen in years write me saying how impressive she was. That obituary also led to an unlikely and wonderful re-connection for my dad. But that’s a story for another day. In short, it’s all a reminder that you never know who you may touch, or inspire.

My dad and I also had a weird phenomenon happen where we knew my mom was amazing, but we also realized that we didn’t fully understand how truly extraordinary she was until she was gone. From those who told us stories at her memorial, wrote sympathy notes, sent flowers, or donated to one of my mom’s favorite causes, we were completely blown away. Judging from the reactions of the people managing the donations at the charitable causes, they were impressed by her too! Some of the people she most touched were people we didn’t even know — like the interns she had mentored at work. It was all a humbling reminder that sometimes the most extraordinary people may be disguised as the ordinary people around you, not seeking to scream from mountains or promote their accolades. Don’t underestimate the quiet ones.

While my dad took on the obituary, I decided to volunteer to speak at the service. The “quiet one” growing up this is never anything anyone, let alone I could have imagined myself doing. In her last week my mom had made a comment to me about how much confidence I have (after having listened to me on a podcast recently). That was the best gift she could have given me. Writing my words came out easier than I expected. I practiced and edited all week. Still despite lots of practice (but only one previous audience member—my neighbor) the moment I got up there, I felt the emotion. One of my friends had once again shared the wise words, reminding me that it’s OK to be emotional. Which was good, because I had to pause on several occasions as I didn’t expect the opening lines to hit me so hard. What I said was all positive, but the situation was real. Months later another old friend told me that my words were what made it all real that day, in a service that was otherwise a celebration. It had the other benefit of making any other presentation I give in life much easier to handle!

The journey would have been so much harder without the support of friends, particularly the ones who had been through it before. I let myself be vulnerable and asked questions. We had heartwarming exchanges, and I hope it made them reflect positively too regarding their loved one. I also found it re/connected me to people I didn’t expect.

One of the people I reconnected with was my neighbor whose children — now grown — I had babysat for when I was in high school. She was going to be out of town for the memorial service but had me over for coffee one morning the week my mom passed away. She told me about her experiences with death and how her mother — in her late 90s — was not ready to go. She shared a book with me called Final Gifts, which she said helped her a lot at the end. It’s meant to be read before someone goes, but there was something about who my mom was that helped me figure out some of these recommendations on my own. Even after the fact, it helped bring me peace to read it. One of my favorite takeaways is that instead of reaching out to someone who is in one of these situations and offering help, suggest something you can do for them. It’s less overwhelming that way.

Not in the book, my neighbor also told me to always look for signs. After her mother’s death, it was ladybugs, and she recounted many hard to believe situations where ladybugs (one time hundreds) appeared. I started to see signs too. For me, signs showed up in the form of secret notes, manifesting journals, Australian terriers (our childhood dog), and rainbows.

In cleaning out my mom’s sock drawer, I found two letters — one for me, and one for my brother — that she had mailed to us in 1995. Surely we thought it was weird at the time, but to rediscover them in 2017 was amazing. They read almost as if they could have been written in present day (when in reality I had been in middle school in Boise, Idaho). The letters had traveled with her through our move. Perhaps it was my reward for going through her clothes. For many this can be an emotional task, but for me it was oddly unemotional. I found a few things I wanted to keep, but my mom and I were not the same size, and it felt like an honor to give her clothes to people in need. I think my mom was excellent at helping me frame life in a way that mattered.

The next note came on the back of small card. I had bought a dress in NYC on my way back to Paris (retail therapy, as I was on the original flight I had booked). The dress had African roots, and I talked about my mom’s travels in Africa with the shopkeeper. I had a delightful (yet emotional) exchange with this complete stranger. I didn’t notice it until a week later, back in Paris, I saw a card on my bedroom floor. It took me a minute to figure out what it was, and I didn’t recognize the handwriting. The shopkeeper had written me the most thoughtful note on the back of the store business card. We always want instant gratification, but I felt the delay in many of these events is really what made them special. I still love the dress I bought that day, and the birds on it remind me of the bird feeders my mom always kept outside our kitchen window.

When you lose someone, there are so many questions that you never thought to ask. That’s one of the hardest parts. I wish I had asked my mom more about her time studying abroad. She may have told me more at some point, but like any kid I am guilty of having tuned out at times, or I just forgot. But I found myself asking the universe, “I wonder if she had a travel journal from her time abroad.” It turns out she did, and it was in the most unlikely place: in a wicker basket under our entryway table. It wasn’t very juicy, but I still learned a lot, including the fact that she took a boat across the ocean to get there. Some questions you never even know to ask! On return visits home (one which happened to already be planned for her birthday a month later), I asked myself similar questions, and ended up finding the journal from her safari in Africa (complete with pressed flowers still in tact!) and notes from her time working in Geneva. Yep, I was more like her than I ever realized.

The “up side” to my mom being diagnosed with cancer is that all along I was able to use it to rethink my own priorities and how I was handling my time. While many opportunities were coming my way, I was finally learning the power of saying no. I’ve learned life is a full time job, and I need to build in down time and time to recharge. (I’ve written about burnout, and how working more should not be used as a status symbol.)

As a freelancer, I’m fortunate to have flexibility with my schedule. For some that may mean lack of stability, but for me it allows me to keep my sanity. The summer before mom’s cancer spread, I negotiated a freelance contract for 3–4 days of work per week. I did this in order to give my brain time to process everything I was working on, but it turned out it had other benefits too. After my mom passed away, I was so thankful for that cushion I had given myself. To be honest, I don’t think I could have worked if I had to. By the 4th or 5th day in a cycle, all I had the energy for was a nap.

I’d never considered bereavement as a company “perk” until going through this, but I could never imagine having to go back to work one week later. There’s so much to process during these times that the employee will do better work if they have time to heal. And unfortunately, time is the only thing that can truly heal the heart. And while I’ve shared my experiences here, everyone has their own way of handling things. Several people have reminded me: be kind to yourself and listen to what your body tells you.

Two and a half weeks after my mom passed away, I filmed my first course on communicating your ideas through storytelling and design, for a new endeavor I had started two months prior. I had felt bad delaying the initial filming at the last minute after hearing the news, but it meant so much that the team understood. I was moving at a slower pace and had already done the work. There was no pressure put on me, but I wanted to do it on the new date that had been penciled in. To be honest, that was the first day on a long road I started to feel “normal” and myself again. I’d had plenty of “normal” moments up until that point, but not a normal day. This was my first of what turned into twelve video shoots, and while most of the people there didn’t know what had happened, the support I had that day meant so much, and carried on through my work. Now, not only is that course still one of the courses I’m most proud of, but something really cool happened after publishing it. (I can’t post about that just yet!). I can also thank my mom for giving me the strength to get through it (video shoots are hard). Hell yeah!

This entire experience was also a good reminder to put in the work when you can, because you never know what can happen in life. The effort I had put in that summer helped take the pressure off when I “needed” a break. Having a job/project that I loved working on was also essential to the healing process. I honestly couldn’t imagine going through all this and having to show up at a job I hated everyday. Healing takes time. I let myself be sad when I needed to be sad, but I also used my up times to dive into a subject matter that I loved.

The internet has also been a place of comfort in a strange way. About a week after losing my mom, I saw an internet friend tweet about a 100 day challenge he was hosting online. It was free, and all you had to do to participate was to submit your own goal. Mine: write about my mom for 100 days. Not only did I fill out three notebooks with the challenge, I reached out to the organizer directly to explain my challange. Fast forward, we met when I was passing through London, and I now consider him a friend.

I wanted to write stories and reminders of my mom, and also record the emotions I was feeling. I remember one of my first reactions days after hearing my mom had “six months” was the fear that I’d start losing memories. This could be a way to help me record them. I casually thought it could be cool if I published something, but my goal was just to write down anything I could think of, much of it rambles or stream of consciousness thought. What I wrote didn’t have to be good, I just had to write. I think it played another key role in my healing. To this day I think about the phrases and key sayings she’d use and think of her. “It is what it is.” While the formal challenge came with the bonus of weekly reminder, the reality was reminders or not, I recommend giving yourself 100 days to do something. 100 days was another milestone in feeling “normal”.

Throughout this all, I never described what I felt as grief. I preferred the word loss. I was sad, but so thankful for having my mom in my life. Perhaps it was the positive (in a real way) nature of my mom, but the emotion I felt more than anything was gratitude. Everyone deals with death differently.

For the past year I’ve been wearing her jewelry. Around my neck I wear “my ring” (my mom wore stacked wedding rings, and each one celebrated a different event; the one I wear was a gift from my dad after I was born), one of two sets of her earrings (never thought I’d wear pearls!), a collection of 4 of her bracelets, and a ring I remember her wearing when I was a kid. The one goal my mom had when I arrived home was to go through her jewelry. It’s the one thing we didn’t get to, but if that’s the “most important thing” we didn’t get to, I think I can live with it.

I keep a favorite picture of her by my bed. I’m standing by the side of the pool (~age 4) and she’s in the water holding my hand. I feel like it represents us well, as she was always there for me, and supporting me. She was my biggest cheerleader. Most nights I talk to her and tell her about my day. I don’t make it a guilt thing where I have to do it, but it also helps me highlight the key parts of my day as I think out loud. Quite frankly, I benefit from it too.

I keep in touch with people from her — and my—past. Now I’ve turned to drinking wine with my neighbor when I’m home in Alexandria, or having breakfast with my mom’s water aerobics instructor. I find that we all need to grieve, and telling stories and catching up is one of the best ways to do that.

I recently read Daniel Pink’s When: the scientific secrets of perfect timing that mentions dates like these (the anniversary of my mom’s passing) — not unlike the New Year — are a good way to hit reset. From the beginning I’ve wanted to write about this. Not to make people uncomfortable, but in order to start to have a more open conversation around illness and death. I’ve had lots of ideas for things I’ve wanted to write in the past six months, but in a way, this piece was always hanging over my head. I thought I’d publish it at the six month mark, but it didn’t come out like the way it flowed today. In some respect, I’m sure it’s part of my own healing process, and how I’m moving on, or at least forward.

From the beginning it’s been a subject I’ve been open to talking about, but I think as a society we’re afraid to talk about death and ask questions. It also doesn’t help when my physiological reaction to this day can bring tears at the most unexpected times, further confusing the person on the asking end. You learn to gauge yourself. (Yet 98% of the time, I’m fine). There were many times I was appreciative of the kind words of others, but in that moment I knew I couldn’t fully express that without losing it. One friend who had lost her father had told me you have a certain invincibility after losing someone. I quickly learned that when I told the story — not much different from what I wrote above — in the weeks following my mom’s death, I’d have myself and my friends in tears in restaurants. You lose shame. That invincibility, my friend warned me, would also wear off at some point. Perhaps that’s some of my motivation of publishing this today—one year later—so I don’t chicken out.

To be honest, I didn’t know what I was going to do to “honor” today. Honoring an extraordinary woman is no easy task. Part of me felt guilty for not being home to be with my dad and brother, but at the time of booking my trips, I didn’t think about September 2nd asbeing a sacred day. So I asked the internet what I should do, and I got wonderful responses from friends and strangers alike based on their own experiences. Many of the responses included: doing something that the person had loved to do, doing something you loved together, eating their favorite food, listening to their favorite song, spending time with yourself. One of my favorite reminders has been to do something that would make your mom happy, because moms are happiest when you’re happy. I also realized how special it was that I got to spend the past two weeks in Maine and Boston, two places that were near and dear to my mom. It was planned that way due to convenience and scheduling, but sometimes I’m OK if there are other forces at work.

So how did I spend my day? I went to a water aerobics class (I actually went several times throughout the year just because I knew it was something my mom would do). I cut up strawberries and put powered sugar on them, just like she would when I was a kid. I drank the same flavor of tea she and I drank her last week (a gift from a lovely friend who had sent me home with it for my mom).

It was a beautiful day in Paris today, much like the weather the day of her memorial. But a strange thing happened today as I walked to coffee, and later, home. I was surrounded by hearts. There’s a street artist who writes “in love” with hearts growing like vines. I’d seen the work before, but today it took new meaning, and I was seeing them in places I’d never seen before, and saw them several times within the course of an hour. I tend to wander random streets and try to take different routes every time I walk, making the phenomenon even more bizarre to keep spotting them. I as I started to make the connection, out of the corner of my eye noticed the door of a shop with LOVE written in giant letters down the door on the other side of the street. There even was heart street art on my street! And as I walked towards the door of my apartment a girl walked by me wearing a white t-shirt with a red embroidered heart that was filled in.

One friend told me that she thinks that the absent are still present with us. I believe it. My mom helps guide me every day. Sure, sometimes it can make me sad, but more often I feel grateful. She may not be here in a traditional sense, but she sure continues to pique my curiosity in so many ways.

Angel from mom’s childhood bedroom. The house is still in the family. I sat in the room last week watching Masterpiece Theater with my aunt and uncle, which my mom would have loved.

Here are some resources for you that helped me after I lost my mom. The first two were gifted to me from friends, which was a much appreciated gesture. I tend to share this list with people any time I learn that someone close to them is gravely ill. I find them all to be beautiful stories, and not particularly sad.

  • Final Gifts: understanding the special awareness, deeds, and communication of the dying by hospice nurses Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley pulls from their own experiences with patients. Rather than fighting, often the dying want to make sure those near to them are ready, but we don’t always know how to look for those signs.
  • Option B was written by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg (author of Lean In) after her husband unexpectedly passed away while on a vacation. She teamed up with Wharton professor of psychology, Adam Grant to write Option B which is all about how to move forward when Plan A is no longer an option. There is also an entire online community at optionb.org devoted to helping people build resilience in the face of adversity. Through following their Facebook page, I learned that sometimes holidays are hard for people who have lost loved ones.
  • Being Mortal by doctor Atul Gawande addresses end of life care, particularly as our parents get older. It’s a master class in building empathy for others and thinking about care through fresh eyes.
  • Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelmann is admittedly one I have not read, but came recommended to me by a friend who lost her mother when she was young, as it addresses the legacy of loss.
  • What a death doula does to help you deal with death is a beautiful video produced by Refinery 29, featuring Alua Arthur of Going with Grace. Like my mom’s funeral planning, in helps make dying less daunting, and even lighthearted.

Anne Ditmeyer is a designer, educator, explorer, and entrepreneur based in Paris, France. Normally she writes about more light hearted subjects.