Thursday, October 20, 2016

A loss is a loss is a loss

It's been so long. Haven't had the combo of calm and emotion that I like to launch each blog entry, but today I am allowing myself pajamas at  noon.  Silk and dotted with maroon hearts of all sizes.  I think they are silk, discover in a clothing exchange by my eldest daughter. In case you don't know, my youngest daughter lost her second child, Jade Bird Guthrie at 4 days.

I want to be like Maira Kalman, focused delightfully on the ordinary even after she lost her husband and partner Tibor.  If you don't know her, you probably do and don't know.  She did many New Yorker covers, including the famous "Newyorkistpan" one after 911, remember Kvetchnya, Pashmina, and Botoxia?  She has the gift of humor after loss, and a humorous approach to life.
She also illustrated Obama's inauguration for the New York Times.  I first found her in Bill Gersh's house, the children's book Max Makes a Million, about the poet dog whose dream is Paris. And guess what? He sells his book of poems for a million and gets to live that dream. Wonder why I love her?

I recommend her, just Google, she's a vitamin for me, loving the odd and the daily, a man's suit, a paper punch, and hats and hairdos everywhere.  Which brings me to Beti again., the hair stylist.  My mom on her yahrzeit or anniversary of death.  Same date as Robert Winson's so I light two candles.  My mom has been gone 15 years which is difficult to grasp.  This year I was glad she was not here to endure the loss of our grandchild, Jade Bird.  She missed all of my lovely and living grandkids, but we enjoy them for her.  Galen's blond tuft of hair we attributed to her expertise in coloring.

I know it's been six month's since we lost Jade Bird and why I haven't written in this blog.  I wanted to experience the processing of grief.  This week the lovely Mary Beth came by with a card for Jade. Late, she said. But it was perfect, an acknowledgement that this is real and human and endures.

As I was deciding to write this two occurrences occurred...  My g-mail opened up to the week of Jade's death and the  e-mails pouring in and out around it. My heart has been a bit dumbed down due to anti-depressants, one I can't pronounce.  Then just now a bird hit the window about four feet away from me.  I think it is reminding me to write.  Hope, my bereaved daughter, has been writing sporadically and said it needs a warning label.  She goes for it.  I realized that so much of how I am now is better, and I don't feel compelled to tell every stranger on the street, or man emptying trash at the post office, or bank teller what happened to Jade.  But though the outer M & M coating is less crisp and now deeper, maybe a fig Newton, there is still a core of loss.

So, 45 current blog followers (up from the nine I brag about), if it's too much you can unblog me.
My gift to you is Maira Kalman.  Your gift to me is reading this.  I met Tess Gallagher after Raymond Carver died and she was still visiting the grave daily, and having people impatient with her.  Get over it could be the national mantra. She said there is an ecology of grief, a term which stayed with me over 20 years.  She and Donald Hall, and Phyllis Hotch,  and Miriam Sagan and Paul Monette and Isabel Allende and Joan Didion and Mirabai Starr all wrote bravely into the grief.  A baby that didn't make it, but made it for four days is not a teenager or losing a lover.  But a loss is a loss is a loss, and grief will have its wild way with us.


  1. Dear Joan,
    Yes, loss. A core of it. At bad times it has sometimes seen to me that my life was nothing BUT loss! One after another. A very big challenge indeed, to deal with that. The challenge becomes:"What else is there?" How to live in a fully awakened, loving state; that's the best I have come up with so far. I suppose loss has propelled me to really live; find myself, find my direction.
    You are a small,very valuable, part of my life. It is so long since we met,since we have last seen each other, maybe you don't even remember me, but I am glad you are who you are, that you exist. (That means I love you.)|I am so sorry for your loss, as I was when you told us all. I am glad you are a little better. Six months is such a short time. Thank you for sharing. God bless you!
    Adrienne Gomez

  2. How we endure what is unendurable: being honest about its painfulness and getting back to the habits we know help us heal. Gratitude for what we have and even the depth of our loss. Interesting after 5 years, a message comes from beyond and give us a glimpse of how life is woven into one seamless garment after all. A web. I know you know you are loved and beloved. The beautiful soul that was Jade Bird knows it too.

  3. I miss you Joan, there are so few brave,real humans.seasons never stop

  4. Thank you Joan! Many have the wish to tone down the loss of a baby. Even I tried to tell myself that it must be harder for the woman who lost her 20 year old son than it is for me to have lost my twin daughters who only lived 1 day. But you're so right... a loss is a loss.

  5. I've learned that you don't "get over it." You just learn to carry the grief in a smaller pocket as it shrinks down to something you can manage, but it's always there. Somehow that is comforting for me. It means we're human.

  6. Hi Joan, I am also a big fan of Maira Kallman's! I just love her illustrations for The Elements of Style. Recently, I got two copies and took them apart so I could have these pictures around me on the wall with the text... I love the one in my bathroom -- a colorful yet somber diptych, a scene of several persons sitting and standing not talking, the next nearly the same except for the absence of one person, all to illustrate the comma (and unspeakable loss): Here today, gone tomorrow.

  7. I love you and have been eagerly awaiting chances to read your writing about your story of our family story, in whatever timing it comes, looking however perfectly packaged or however messy and not pretty it wants to be. For me writing is the most healing tool I have, and I learned how to heal through writing from you.

  8. today's reading in Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief, Martha Whitmore Hickman, "In the map of the created world, the path to healing does not skirt around the edges of grief but goes right through the middle." Little Jade Bird Guthrie is so missed. We are so human. With love, Dia

  9. much love, dear dear Joan. You are such a tender gift to all of us graced to read what you share.

  10. I've been thinking of you often, Joan. I think that the tender core of loss of deep love doesn't ever harden over. It just goes deeper inside, maybe? At least, that is how it is for me. Grief is not predictable or tameable. It's kind of a wild thing, like love itself. Thank you for writing this. Love to you, Elaine

    1. Not sure what I did wrong with my log in (why it says 'unknown' but this is Elaine Olund--from GR 2014.

    2. Got it. Thanks so much Elaine. Good to know you are out there living your one wild and precious life.


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