I see my tween daughter from down the street, long hair flying, giant backpack hoisted, sheathed in my mom’s dark brown hooded winter puffer -- size XS. It always makes me catch my breath for a moment – seeing Z in that jacket.

When we divided Mom’s closet between the three sisters, there was plenty to go around. Our mom loved clothes. My middle sister took the full length fur coat, which was weird but made sort of sense. My youngest sister took the loud blazers and some of the evening wear. I’m the oldest. I took the nightgowns and some purses. We divided the charms on the necklace she wore everyday.

Some of Judi’s more flamboyant pieces I gave right away to Zoe, who was seven at the time, for dress up: like the light pink cardigan with a pink fur collar and rhinestone buttons, white jazz shoes (?) and plenty of high-heeled boots to totter around in when friends came over. 

parenting through grief Mallory Kasdan.jpg

I hung other things in Zoe’s closet gradually as she grew, mostly sweaters and long sleeve t-shirts.  Such happy/sad, private moments I have with myself every time Zoe walks out of her room in something of Judi’s. A lavender cashmere cardigan, a pair of dangling silver earrings, or a purse I had forgotten about that Zoe now sports so proudly.

In June it will be five years.

The nightgowns are what are most important to me, still. I slip on my mom's nightgowns and I feel …  like a mom. Zoe and her brother snuggle with me in our king sized bed, under the covers, propped up on pillows. We watch “This Is Us,” “Gilmore Girls,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” shows with a nostalgia component. I wish I could talk to my mom about these shows, or watch with her. But me and the kids, we’re cozy. I like holding them next to me, in her nightgowns.

Anyone who has lost a person has had to contend with the stillness of things left behind. Recently, though, I feel strongly that given time, these items can have a rich and almost kinetic power. They have waited, patiently, and respectfully, and now they are ready to live again.

My sisters and I can refer to the clothes and know exactly what the other is trying to convey. I wore the red shiny trenchcoat to vote for Hillary in the primary. Youngest will wear a loud blazer, with gold buttons, uncharacteristic of her regular style, to lead a conference. Middle will wear pantyhose under her doctor dresses, which is weird but we get it.

We are all moving forward in our adult lives now without my mom, and we manifest her, every day. My younger sister is an advocate and policy maker for under served communities, just like my mom. My middle sister is an oncologist and forward thinker about alternative cancer care, inspired by our mom’s disease and her shortened life.

mothering after loss mallory kasdan.jpg

I take notice of the memories and the stories, and document how the clothes connect us. Since Zoe is the sole female grandchild, or the one most interested in fashion, she is the one to embody most of these totems, at least for now. She understands this inherently, and it squeezes at my heart that she does. She gets it. 

Zoe shines bright. She can argue like no one I’ve ever seen, except for Judi. Like her grandma, Zoe has charisma. She also has many pairs of size 5, brightly colored, slightly worn flats, which she will be wearing all spring long.


My mom, Judi, died in 2013 from lymphoma. She was 67. In her eulogy, I talked about her well meaning, but occasionally forceful practicality and how it could bump up against my more emotional responses to life.

“Buy a suit” was one of those bits of advice she threw out when I directly asked for her thoughts on what kind of life I should pursue. That phrase came up a few times, at various career and identity crossroads in my 20’s and 30’s.

When I graduated from college with an English Literature degree and a vague concept of careers in publishing and media, Mom took me to Benetton in Pittsburgh, and she bought me a navy blue wool pantsuit. I left shortly afterwards for New York City.

I remember being aware, brand new to it, how the city was a giant theater with actors moving through life in their daily performances. I was struggling to figure out what part I would play. What would I wear in that role? Would I be a television production assistant with a walkie-talkie? Would I work in publishing? Advertising? Radio? Which costume would fit me best?

At 22, I was trying to figure out how to live a creative adjacent life and how that would manifest. Mom wanted to help, but had her own way of working though a puzzle. She could offer her credit card and advice on how to look like the person who was interviewing for a job, but not much more then that. And selfishly, I wanted more.

It used to annoy me that she’d say something so simplistic like “Buy a suit.” I felt frustrated with her inability to understand what I was asking: “I’m afraid of the future. I don’t know how to make things happen. I don’t necessarily know what my strengths are. Can you remind me?”

Now, that she’s gone, of course I get it. Nobody actually knows what they are doing and we all have a limited amount of control. Parents especially, are fudging that confidence. So Mom was trying to teach me to fake it, because that’s what gets you the opportunities: the showing up, feeling good in your suit, and looking people in the eye. The rest is how your treat people, and how you use your perspective and your character to connect with others and learn from them.

My mom was fantastic. She worked as a teacher and reading specialist after marrying my dad at 21 and supporting him while he was in medical school. She stopped working to take care of my sisters and I, and then later, became an advocate for women and children through a local women’s organization. In her mid 50’s, she fulfilled a lifelong dream and went to law school. She worked as a public defender before she got sick.

I see my mom, her friends, and the women of her generation, in Hillary’s suits. Those caftan style jackets, the mandarin collars, those confident jewel tones. I see my mom in Hillary’s incredible steely gaze and in her warmth. In her paradoxes. In her ability to compromise. I see my mom when I watch Hill withstand certain men and their egos and their sexism, and still manage to stay cool.

There have been so many times I’ve wanted Mom’s take on this election. When I voted in the primary, I wore Mom’s raincoat and felt her with me. When I saw Hill accept the nomination in Brooklyn in May, Mom was in the room, giving a fist pump to her pro-feminist/humanist remarks and fabulous white pantsuit. I felt a pang when Hillary hugged her poised and accomplished daughter onstage, proud and beaming in her own navy blue suit.

What you wear is, as RuPaul says, your drag. It’s your stay at home mom drag, your businesswoman drag, or your President of the United States drag.

I’ve given away most of my suits, but I will pull one out next Tuesday in honor of my mom, and I will rock that shit.

why you need to know Amy Shearn: writer, editor, teacher, mom

She's smart, she's hilarious, and man, is she ever a MILK. She's Amy Shearn: novelist, non-fiction writer, editor, teacher, social mediatrix, mother, and the third guest on the MILK Podcast

Amy and I met when my children's book came out last year, and "liked" each other's posts on Facebook a lot before I took her fiction writing class at The Sackett Street Writers Workshop in the spring. 

Then, we liked each other for real. She is inspiring in the amount she manages to get done in a day, and I loved talking to her. Check out our interview here, and if you like it, please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.


The anniversary of my mom’s death is tomorrow. I’m approaching the date with sadness obviously, but nowhere near the numbed out pain I felt saying good-bye 2 years ago. Nor is this moment as hard as waiting for the milestones of that first year to pass.

But I suspect the spring weeks between Mother’s Day – June 6th will always be raw. I will always remember the last time we spoke on the phone, and the stupid cheery orange pashmina I bought her for her birthday on May 24th that I took back several weeks later. The anxious plane ride from NYC to Pittsburgh I took with my younger sister when we knew it was the very end. Celebrating my son’s birthday while sitting shiva.

Though I’m doing fine — trying to be present and feel grateful for my husband and children and other blessings, there is still a major Judi shaped hole in my life. Her loss forced an adjustment and a rebuilding that is ongoing. As Oprah-ish as it sounds, I’ve drawn strength from myself since she died. But erasing her from the picture has had a major impact on how things look and feel in our family.

That context set the stage for my recent epic partaking of “Parenthood.” While recovering from a surgery last month, I surrendered to my bed for a week or so of pure Netflixism. I was secretly thrilled to have the excuse to watch TV all day without feeling guilty – even if I had to sacrifice a body part in order to enjoy that freedom.

I really had no idea of the emotional assault that was “Parenthood,” a familiar seeming primetime NBC drama that looked and smelled like the “Thirty-something” of my youth smushed together with “Friday Night Lights.” Lots of familiar, good-looking television actors and a Bob Dylan theme song to boot. How had I missed this?

Jesus “Parenthood,” you had me at the opening shot of Adam Braverman (NATE FISHER!) taking a jog, and subsequent scenes in the pilot of Max, his son, struggling to be like the other kids while not fitting in at Little League and at school. Duh. I pretty much started crying right there and never once looked back as I went deep into Braverman country.

The show is basically Family Porn. Watching is a form of fantasy, because as difficult the issues they present are (autism, cheating, stay at home dad/mom boredom, black mold, infertility, adoption, PTSD, addiction, cancer, aging parents), everyone faces their problems with so much grace, self-knowledge and skill at solving things in 44 minutes that you can relax and enjoy the emotional ride.

Sure, Sarah is flaky and charming and talks over Adam until Adam reassuringly tells her how it’s going to go down. Crosby is hilarious but screws up again! OMG Julia is so controlling in her pencil skirts. But they talk things out in person and don’t get resentful. They bring each other lattes like that’s a normal thing to do and the lattes don’t get cold in traffic from Berkeley to San Francisco. They get together ALL THE TIME and Camille never seems bitter about all the dishes. The couples have amazing marriages mostly. The siblings don’t seem to judge each other. The children all brush their teeth when asked. Most of the men can fix things (despite the last name they are obviously not Jewish). The women have great hair and nice selections of layered necklaces.

As I obsessively watched the show, condensing 6 seasons into six weeks, it felt like my job. I literally could not stop pressing “Next Episode” and felt like a sneaky junkie at times watching during the day when I should have been doing important things. I cried, on average like 4 times an episode. I laughed when Adam got “The Fever” and felt so frustrated for Kristina because of Max and his Aspberger’s, but was also annoyed that she never seemed to get a babysitter that wasn’t family. I wondered if Kristina was a robot. I wished Mr. Cyr, the high school English teacher had been my boyfriend. I loved the Max/Hank storyline even though it was hard to watch.

Of course I knew it was manipulative to play sad music while someone was going through chemo and I knew it was manipulative to play sad music when someone was being mean to a kid with Asbergers but I cried my heart out anyway. I cried for all of the baseball games my mom wouldn’t attend (not that either of my kids play baseball) and I cried that my relationship with my dad wasn’t as easy as Sarah and Julia’s with Zeek, and that my marriage didn’t feature the same obvious gloss and excellent communication that these couples had.

But I got over it. Because it’s TV and is supposed to elicit these feelings – that’s kind of the whole point. As a viewer you’re supposed to project your deficits onto a fictional family that seriously has it together. It can be cathartic to go on that kind of journey and to binge on something this obvious, but at the end of the day The Bravermans aren’t real and I can’t really hug or squeeze any of them or have them bring me a latte. Whether or not I have similar issues in my own life, they will never be written as concisely or acted as well as these professionals can convey them. The characters can feel real and I can feel connected to their joys and struggles, but at the end of the binge, they are still crafted by a pen and shaped by a director.

I thought I would be devastated when I finished watching last week, but I was satisfied with their treatment of the aging parents storyline and how the finale tied things up with a lovely flash forward montage to a sad song.

No spoilers, but The Bravermans are going to be ok, and so am I. It makes sense why watching this particular show during this period of time felt so compulsively important. I was clearly getting something under my belt before this two-year anniversary tomorrow, trying to make sense of things that don’t make sense once more, processing.

I loved my time with the Bravermans but I’m feeling free now to read books again, do some writing, or hang out with my own perfect/imperfect family.


There is some. Finally. My heart has been constricted for so long that it feels rather foreign to have air around my thoughts. Grief is a lot of work and takes up a great deal of space. But some has been cleared.

This last month was an emotional sprint towards the one-year anniversary of mom’s death. There were still firsts to get through – Mother’s Day, her birthday, and several memorials. Heading towards this finish — which really isn’t a finish of course, but is more like the beginning of a life without, was quite challenging. May was tough – Mother’s Day in particular was almost physically draining, and I only got through it with wine and yoga and cuddling my family. I was so grateful for the friends who have also lost their mothers, who shared how much they missed them, and how difficult Mother’s Day was for them, too. I felt acutely part of a club, this sad but supportive little club of motherless daughters.

I sat through a memorial that a national women’s organization put together in her honor. Her hometown chapter named a children’s playroom at Family Court for her, because she spent much of the time she was president of this organization advocating for children and families. It was a real honor, but not easy to watch a slideshow set to that inspirational/sad Desiree song – the “you gotta be” one. Mom smiling wide at a podium, marching in protests, and meeting government officials on behalf of this organization – seeing these images of was a reminder of her accomplishments, but also how much she had left to do when she died.

Her birthday on May 24th was another rough one, because I was literally reliving that time last year when she was alive, deteriorating, and yet still able to call me after receiving the peonies and bright orange scarf I sent. It made me sad, thinking about those tokens I now have back in my possession, the scarves, the gifts, the clothes and jewelry divided up. So I took some breaths and wore the orange scarf all that week in her honor.

Then I was back in Pittsburgh for the unveiling, which is done within a year after a Jewish death. It’s a simple ceremony at the gravesite, where a Rabbi says some psalms, the immediate mourners say the Kaddish, or mourning prayer, and the face of the gravestone is revealed. And then there it was. Her name on a piece of granite. Her dates. Mother, Wife, Grandmother and Friend. I placed a purple rock on the top of the gravestone for Miles and Zoe, as Jewish custom dictates. It was a perfect June day, just as her funeral had been almost a year before. The sun and the breeze filtered through the trees as we put arms around each other and cried again for mom. And then we had brunch.

That weekend of the unveiling was intense, but when it was over and we returned home to Brooklyn I felt hugely relieved and … spacious. I felt like I possessed this certain kind of acceptance and understanding that had been out of reach until that moment. It’s vague and new age-y but I felt I had arrived at a destination, in my heart. And that I was going to be okay, no matter what swirled around me from that point on. I hadn’t believed it until then.

I feel so much gratitude towards friends and teachers and people who have been with me throughout this difficult year, bestowing kindness and reading my pieces and making chit chat and asking my how I’m doing. It has all been a part of this particular journey I’m now on, and each interaction and intersection of humanity has been a step on the ladder towards it. I was so happy to be able to honor my mom with friends in my home last week, for the final and most personal of all the memorials, to accept people’s kindness and offerings and music and warmth. We had an unforgettable small service and mini concert for Judi from my friends Jamie and Erin, where I was able to accept love and say thank you to my community. And to let mom go a little bit more, but with the reverence she deserved.

It must be the benefit of all of the therapy, the writing, the going inward and the good support I have. Because I feel so much less angry about losing her than I used to. A huge relief! I feel grateful to the people who get how to be and less pissed at the people who don’t. And I truly feel lucky to be the emotional person I am, and not burdened by it because right now it feels like something of a gift.

I will continue to wrestle with missing her. I will still be sad and have to shake my head at some of the continued fall-out from her loss. But I will be ok. I’m not just repeating it, hoping it will stick. I believe it.


She hung her “Judi” key on this hook, lay down in this bed, showered and dried herself with these towels in this bathroom. It’s impossible not to feel her in this place.

Her tics and habits are ground into this apartment, layered like a collage. In this kitchen she insisted on wiping a glass table with a dirty paper towel. At this computer she printed out boarding passes days before she had to. On this beach she devoured her book club books, took walks with her grandchildren and chatted up every yenta from here to Montreal.

Her things are mostly gone from the Florida apartment, parceled out to a daughter or a cousin or thrown away. But a random drawer can still reveal an oversized brown silk button, incased in plastic like a secret. It belonged to a blazer or a sweater that once hung in this closet. A pair of size five flip flops poking out beneath a pile of sand toys, the impression of her bunion-ed feet worn in to the rubber.

Each plastic toy she bought for the kids they loved with a fervor that now seems prescient. The crayon shaped menorah she bought one Hannukah from one of the kosher stores down the street. Sunhats and knickknacks in turquoise, her very favorite color. The “cookies for sale” sign that she and Zoe made the last time we were all here together.

Objects are so curious. Completely static, and yet poignant with meaning. It’s a wonder we’re not all hoarders, trying to hold on to a person.

walk it off

Mom was no good at self-pity. From the time she was diagnosed until the time she died, she faced some overwhelming and deeply frustrating circumstances that most people would not tolerate well, few with the grace she managed. There was the physical discomfort of her illness through all of its soul sucking phases: the itching of her skin, the crappy side effects of each drug and therapy that never seemed to work as the cancer continued to spread. The depression she wouldn’t admit to, and the underlying stress of having a rare chronic disease with no known cure that worsened as it morphed. But though she may have lost a touch of the sunnyness and became perhaps more sarcastic and less patient towards the end, never once did she feel sorry for herself.

When I was growing up, Mom’s and my styles would often clash. I’m a crier, a prober, sometimes a cynic and always an over thinker, and it was challenging to have a mother who didn’t get a lot of that. Things just didn’t affect her emotionally. I’m not saying being who I am always works for me. I have trouble making decisions. I’m sensitive and can take things personally. Mom was the opposite. She would act, feel confident in those actions, and never look back. She had strong convictions, and didn’t second-guess. So she wasted a lot less time dithering and worrying, being anxious. When I reflect on her style of living, doing, and parenting, we are mostly opposites, and it’s even a bit comedic that I would come from her.

But fuck, I’d give anything to be annoyed with her positivity right this minute. To have her tell me to stop complaining about how much I miss her and how hard it is to not her around.

Almost 10 months after her death, there’s this low-grade constant awareness of her lack, and many reminders of how discombobulated things are as my family resets. I get the deep sads more randomly now, but when it comes on, it is still the rawest, achiest, saddest sadness I have ever known. It’s a longing for something I know I won’t get. Out of reach. Off limits. And ugh, I just miss her messages and her texts and her replies and opinions on things so damn much.

I wanted so badly yesterday to send her a picture of Zoe posing in front of the diorama she made as a part of her city planning unit. I want her so much to ichat with Miles while he lounges around our place like a pre-schoolin’ Hugh Heffner in his socks and nothing else. I want to show her the cover of my book or my author photo proofs, just to hear her take on it. I’m dying to talk to her about movies and books. It’s such an uncharted emptiness that I just cannot fill.

I heard this 20ish/30ish girl the other day at the coffee place on the phone. She was talking to her mom in a really sour and insouciant way – she sounded like a teenager with a bad attitude. Who knows what her mom was saying to her on the other line. Who knows their history or their dynamic or what’s come up between them, what their conflicts have been. I’ll never know. But I wanted to shake her. And tell her to buck up. Whatever was going on, she needed to be nice to her mom. It couldn’t be that bad. As Judi would say, walk it off sister.


The grief is morphing. Spreading out. Not lessening exactly, but some of these calcified parts of my heart are opening to something. Softening. I still miss her every hour, every time I strike up a conversation with a stranger or call someone sweetie. Every yoga practice I feel like I’m breathing her in and out. I want to Sykpe with her every time the kids do something Zoe or Mileslike and every time I finish a book or watch a movie or some asshole Republican Senator does something appalling.

But there is a change in the quality of my loss that feels measurable, like the temperature or humidity in a room. Life without her at seven months is still my same life. I think about the same concepts. I loop and worry roughly the same amount that I always have. I find things funny, moving, annoying, fascinating, beautiful, depressing, maybe in that order. Falling asleep and waking up in the morning is easier now. Food is good. And the chaos of the racing mind and impossibly heavy heart I had when she died in June and for that six month period following is dissipating.

Milestones have inevitably come and gone. I went back to my parents’ house for the first time since she died there and began trying to conceive of it as my dad’s place. I sat and drank coffee at the kitchen table and noticed that all of her calendars and date books, reading glasses and theater tickets were no longer a part of the kitchen desk drawer. I tried to get used to not seeing her at her desk in her office or watching Downton Abbey and Scandal on the couch or napping in her room. I had to deal, in such an initial and basic kind of way, with the physical and spiritual changes in my childhood home. I tried out the words: dad’s house.

I went to see her at the cemetery. Weirdly, it was not altogether impactful. Though her final home conceptually, it felt generic being there. Lovely and peaceful, close by where she lived her whole life, but not sad exactly. More vague than anything else. Which has more to do with the I work I need to do in terms of understanding where she is now. Where we all go.

I’ve had to accept how each member of my family is folding her death into their own lives. I’ve come to terms with a change in the narrative: a sad ending to a golden tale of a happy and healthy family doing it right and getting by with luck for so long. What is the next chapter? Knowing is a process, but I’m feeling hopeful.

For my own family of four, they have absorbed much of my pain and allowed me a focus. Lately I’ve been feeling that my mother-ness supercedes my other-ness. It’s the identity that makes me feel most alive and competent right now. Which doesn’t mean that I’m doing it well necessarily. But the way that my kids need me is so primal, so deeply dependent that I feel confusedly comforted by some of the very same tasks that otherwise make me feel like a literal valet/chauffuer/butler.

It must be because I feel so connected to my mom when I’m driving them somewhere, or watching a performance, or researching a camp, or navigating some emotional drama between Zoe and myself or shouting for the eightieth time that Miles must get in the tub. I’m reminded of the beautiful hectic heydey of the Kasdan family and all that we did, and all that mom did for us. It’s a way to bring her in, and to thank her I guess.

My days are getting easier to move through and enjoy even, especially when I’m busy and productive and my household is happy, but its the forever-ness part of this whole business that stings. And answering the questions about the why. That is hard. A spike of pain breaking through the subtle, dull throbbing. When Zoe asks, or I allow myself to ask or just feel sorry for myself because I miss her — when that comes over me, I just let them watch the iPad for hours and just cuddle them and squeeze them and nuzzle their arms and legs and cheeks. It helps.

Lately, Zoe has been sleeping with the Matryoshka doll my mom bought her on a trip to Russia. She holds it tenderly with her orange security blanket, which is funny because the doll is made of wood and is totally not cuddly in any way. This feels symbolic of Judi somehow, she wasn’t cuddly, and she was enigmatic and intricately designed. A multi-layered person within a person within a person within a person, who held my sisters and I inside of her all of her life.

My job now is to embody her, and to never forget the moments and objects and stories and values that made up that life, and to share it.


I’ve been wearing a piece of mom’s clothing most days. Like her stretchy AG teal and black polka dot Petite cords, white drawstring pajama pants with frogs on them (she collected frogs – a seemingly random collection decision with no real story behind it that I can uncover), and crisp white and pink cropped cotton pajamas from the Petites department at Saks. Colorful striped knee-highs. Pashminas. Jeggings. Clothes I would never have chosen, but I find myself weaving into my wardrobe now with a certain amount of urgency.

I look down at my legs, my arms, or my feet shorn in these totally familiar fabrics and patterns and they remind me of her doggedly upbeat approach to life and how she embraced color up until the end. Let’s just say the woman loved her some salmon and turquoise.

Each season, as I gather the clothes the kids have grown out of and figure out the best place to donate them, I don’t usually think of the pants and dresses and shirts with much sentimentality. But if, years later, I see something worn by a friend’s daughter or son I’ve passed them on to, I acutely remember all the moments that Z or M rocked those outfits. I think about when I bought the pieces, how many times I washed them, and all the places we went when Z wore those purple clogs or M that striped blue and white sweater.

And so now these mundane items of mom’s feel precious and crucial. They are mostly comfy clothes, which add a layer of poignancy. Because of her illness, which initially manifested itself as a skin disease, the last few years she would only wear the softest cottons that didn’t irritate her skin. She favored leggings and turtlenecks and soft wrappy sweaters. Her style adjusted to her sickness.

Mom had this amazing attitude that we used to make fun of. She had an obsessive need to see the positive in any situation and to spin every story to a good outcome. She would not tolerate self-pity or delving in the negative. She was not interested in being depressed or anxious. She was able to shrug. A lot. But she always knew who she was. I admired this in her, but never truly understood the amount of strength it took to undertake.

That’s why now, wearing these clothes, these Judi-like pieces she wore next to her skin, imaging her choosing them from a store or later, when shopping wasn’t something she wanted to do, from the internet, sitting at her desk or lying on her bed, feels so important. Like she is trying to encase me in love and show me how to be strong and how to go on without her guidance and be there for those who need me. I am taking her in while she hugs me in lycra and modal cotton.

Wearing her clothes feels like a mantra is making itself known to me. It’s not quite her mantra: “Don’t worry, Be Happy.” Mine is still cloudy, but the words are building from a feeling I get each day when I put on her scarf or her socks or her t-shirt. The words are not obvious, but the fabrics and the memories are there to fold into while the intention makes itself clear.


I haven’t written since mom died, which has been just over 3 months. And that’s mostly because of the fog in my head, which creates confusion and informs me when I have free time to sit at the computer I’m instead supposed to be reading books about stages of grief or else staring into space for hours. Or checking Facebook and email compulsively.

At first it was just surreal when she became very ill, even though we knew the ramping up was imminent. The disease was everywhere. Then we had to make decisions. Watch her body and mind completely surrender. Feel empowered in this one way because we were finally able to DO something for her, which was to give her a dignified death. The action of this experience felt like a reprieve after having so little recourse and only bad news during her illness. We watched her breath leave her body and then she was gone.

Then the funeral and shiva, which together were an overwhelming outpouring. People from every stage of my mom’s life were lined up to offer condolences to me and my sisters and my dad. They needed to see us, to cry with us and for us. And we needed to be there for them to process their own grief. Those days were agonizing, draining, and yet wonderful, as they enabled me to see all my best girlfriends from all over the place in one place, which happened to be the place I had my bat mitzvah.

Once that crazy amalgamation of party, food orgy, reunion, waterfall of support and love was over, we roadtripped home to Brooklyn and attempted the normalcy of ending school and starting summer. I tried to not make people feel awkward about seeing me for the first time and got better at saying the words “I just lost my mom. Yes, cancer. Thank you.”

One surprise was my physical reaction to the loss. My nerves were literally afire in the month following her death. I had pain shooting into my hands and feet. I felt bursts of panic and anxiety. There was that fog, which was punctuated by acute anger and rage. Then, moments of normalcy. Laughing at something I read, feeling cognizant of being entertained by a movie, dealing with poop or sunscreen or waterwings and forgetting for a second. And then deep, throbbing, sadness and loneliness.

The weirdest thing about losing mom is that I had no idea all the mom space my mom filled. She cared about all that bullshit minutae that meanders into my day. She wanted news about percentiles for height and weight and pictures of the kids not looking at the camera. She wanted boring details about their teachers and the precocious things they say and do. All the stuff of life that you don’t know someone is absorbing until that person is gone.

And yet, how lucky I am to have her within me. What a fine and loving life she led. I am aware how much I need her spirit and all the memories I can muster to help me rebuild myself. I only wish I could call or text her to talk to her about it.