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A grieving mom’s request

What to do and say as my family navigates this loss.

Gracia Lam

It’s been exactly a year since I lost my daughter, and I have some thoughts and requests I want to share. I hope you don’t mind my self-indulgence. Some of you may find them rude or nervy, the meanderings of a grieving mother and friend. If you do, feel free to talk among yourselves, but remember one thing: None of you is going through what I am going through. I don’t wish it on you or on my worst enemy. Trust me — this is as bad as life gets.

There are no appropriate words; nothing you can say will make it better. But your calls, your visits, your invitations all mean a lot to me. They remind me I am still alive and still have a life outside this tragedy.


I cry a lot, and I am OK with that. I’m not embarrassed about it, and you shouldn’t be, either. Don’t suggest I should take medication. I am entitled to my emotions. I need to feel, to grieve. I want to talk about my daughter. I want to say her name and hear her name, and if I cry, it’s OK. Please don’t avoid talking to me about her because you don’t want to upset me. I will cry either alone or in front of you, and I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable or guilty.

If what you tell me is true, that you think of me all the time, please call me or send me an e-mail. Don’t wait for that random grocery-aisle meeting to tell me how much I am on your mind. I appreciate your stored-up words, but I am home alone — often — and really appreciate a friendly check-in, a short phone call, a pop-by visit.

My loss is not contagious. You shouldn’t be scared to be with me. Any discomfort you initially feel should subside if you give it a chance and give me a chance. If you are planning an evening out, a lunch date, a getaway, please make an extra effort to include me. I often feel like a pariah. My intention is not to “bring you down,” and I do my best not to burden anyone with my sadness. Don’t feel awkward inviting me to have some “fun,” and don’t assume I won’t want to join in, so why even bother asking. I may often decline, but it is comforting to be included. Being excluded is killing me.


My grief is not on any timetable. There is no magic in one year’s time. It will take as long as it takes. I will always miss my daughter, and there will always be a hole in my heart. Don’t tell me I am “doing better” or wonder when I will “get over it.” I will never get over it, but I hope someday to build a new normal for myself.

Don’t tell me “she is in a better place” or “God must have really needed her” or “her mission on earth must have been completed.” These conclusions are painful to hear, and while I know you mean well, sometimes saying nothing or giving me a hug is all that is required. As her mother, I will always feel the only better place for my daughter to be is here, now, with me.

If you see my kids, don’t just ask them how I am doing; please ask them how they are doing. They lost their oldest sister, their confidante, their best friend, and need to know that people are concerned about them, too. This loss happened to my whole family — all of us.


I realized this past year, after the last meal was dropped off, the last card arrived, and the official visits were over, everyone’s lives resumed, except for ours. Yes, we go through the motions, smiling, working, shopping, nodding, and telling people we are fine. But deep inside there is that void, that constant ache that will always be there, as it should be, and that is all right with me.

Roberta Levine Waters is an aspiring writer and real estate agent in Framingham. Send comments to connections@globe.com.

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