Miss Night's Marbles

Musings, mumbles, marvels, and sometimes mockery, live from kindergarten.

On grief and toothpaste

on 29 December, 2014

When you lose someone you love, but who lives far away, the grief can be bloody lonely.

People say that texting, e-mail, FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram, are not REAL ways of connecting; that when we “hide” behind screens, we are avoiding Real Connections. I live in a big city – 1.2 million people and climbing. And in this whole big beautiful busy city, I am The. Only. Person. missing Lauren. I have great people here: family, friends. They love me, and they take tremendously good care of me, but they did not know Lauren, and so at best, they loved her only in the abstract “I love Amy, and Amy loves Lauren, so I love Lauren” sort of way. This grief is bloody lonely.

So, in THIS situation,  for those of us missing Lauren, the connection through a screen, through typing, flying fingers, is what holds us together, and helps us find one another when we need to know we are not alone. I used to judge people who spent holidays with their phone glued to their hand. And then I spent this Christmas with my phone glued to my hand.

So, this post is for the people at the other end of my screen. For Sutter and Jared. For Ilana. For Becky and Craig. For Ryleigh. For Mike and Matt and Morgan. For Kalli. For MJ. For Sue and for Judy. For Mimi and Kate. For all the people, scattered all over this huge earth, who feel like a light that they relied on to see the world was blown out on December 1st, and who aren’t sure how we find our way without it…

This is how things are for me, right now, today. Things may not be quite the same for you, but maybe they are a little bit similar, and the one thing that is crystal clear to me in this very muddy mess is that Lauren would weep at the thought of any of us believing we were alone in the dark.

Some days, the idea of leaving the house sounds divine, but the process of wash-face-brush-hair-put-on-clothes-including-shoes takes upwards of an hour.

I double and triple check the locks on the doors. And the windows. I don’t walk anywhere after dark alone, and that is a challenge at times, because up here, at this time of year, it dark for 37 hours a day.

I got all proud of myself for not having any physical manifestations of anxiety. And then I realised that I had chewed my chapped lips until they bled.

I don’t really remember things that happened before December 1st.

There is a moment, every morning, not long after waking up, when I think. “Oh God. She is still gone.”

A friend sent me beautiful flowers, and my first impulse was to text Lauren a photo of them, because Lauren loved flowers…

I strongly suspect that I frequently look like hell. My mouth remembers how to smile, but I can feel that it doesn’t reach my eyes or my voice. On a related note, I didn’t know it was possible to FEEL the circles under my eyes.

Some days I feel like I am looking at the world though the wrong end of a telescope, so deep inside myself that finding my way to the surface is a monumental task. Sometimes, the sadness has a physical weight to it. Like my limbs are heavy.  And I don’t always remember to breathe.

Sometimes, I sit on my floor and cry, and I think about each one of us, sitting alone on our floors, in our showers, in our cars, and crying, and all I can think is how MONUMENTALLY FRINKING UNFAIR THIS IS.

I can SEE the moments of light, or rather, i can identify the moments that SHOULD be considered light. But I don’t always (or even often) FEEL them as light.

I have learned that, when a wave of darkness comes, if I just sit with it, if I just FEEL it, it will pass. And if I try to avoid feeling it, I’m more likely to end up crying in Target because I can’t find the right kind of toothpaste.

Speaking of toothpaste, I’ve learned that brushing my teeth always makes me feel better. Not better as in “all the way back to normal,” but better as in “an improvement over 5 minutes ago.” I brush my teeth a lot.



In ballet class, a million years ago, I finally, FINALLY, pulled a perfect double pirouette. A classmate commented “See? It gets easier!” My tiny, beautiful, Turkish ballet teacher, in a tone both sharp and gentle, retorted: “No! Double pirouette is double pirouette. Not easier. Ballet does not get easier!  You get stronger, better. Good girl.”

I’m clinging to that idea right now. That this may not get easier, but that I may get stronger. And when you think about what we know about getting stronger: it does not happen all at once. It happens in such tiny little increments that you don’t even notice it, until, one day, you can do the thing you couldn’t do before.

And, to get stronger, you have to DO THINGS that make you stronger, even when they don’t appear to be making a difference. You have to have faith that you CAN get stronger, eventually.

So, what am I going to do?

I’m going to keep doing the things that I know SHOULD help, and try to have faith that someday soon, they actually WILL help.

I’m going to walk my dog in the sunshine, and look at the world.

I’m going to make a very hot vanilla latte every morning, and drink it while looking out the window.

I’m going to make my bed when I get up, because it is one small way of making order from chaos.

I’m going to drink lots of water, and eat lots of vegetables, and take my vitamins.

I’m going to light candles when the light grows dim in the evenings.

I’m going to keep fresh flowers in my house.

I’m going to check in with my Sutter-girl every day. (This helps most of all, every day, every time.)

I’m going to watch lots of cooking shows, and Gilmore Girls, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, and Law and Order.

I’m going to accept every kindness that is offered to me, graciously and with no apologies.

I’m going to take a hot shower every day.

I’m going to brush my teeth.


Again, the comments are open, but I’m not ready for notes about how my friend is always with me, or how God has a plan, or how He doesn’t give me things I can’t handle. I’m willing to talk about toothpaste, though…


10 Responses to “On grief and toothpaste”

  1. Kristi says:

    Oh, God. My best friend, more than my best friend, my Person and the one who understood me, all of me, and loved me anyway died 3 years ago. And he had no family, few friends, and I’m six states away. Couldn’t go to the funeral. Couldn’t be there when he died. And now I am alone, so fucking alone, and the only one I can think of that would understand how I feel is him and he’s dead and now I don’t know what to do. I’m grateful in a sad, sad way that someone else understands how awful this feels, but I’m so sad for you that you understand. Email if you need to talk to someone else whose world is broken.

  2. Chrissy says:

    Love to you, Amy… Candles still lit.

  3. Jean Smith says:

    The waves of “this cannot be real” wash up on my shores as well. Been channelling a lot of feeling into a quilt I’mmworking on…it’s now my Lauren quilt and it will always be special. But the random thoughts that creep in during the day are hard. If it’s one thing my dad’s death taught me, it’s time really does ease the pain. And I suppose that time will ease this as well. So, I’ll keep quilting, and looking forward to the May gathering, and volunteering for 4th session, and I want you to keep brushing those teeth and taking care of Sutter and Jared, and having that vanilla latte. Onwards.

  4. Much love for you, Amy. Thank you for your beautiful words <3

  5. Mike says:

    Thank you. 🙂

  6. Katie Matthews says:

    Beautiful <3 She lives on through your words and memories, through all of ours. Minty tooth[aste always works best for me, btw 😉

  7. Betsy says:

    Still praying for you and will continue for a long time. You have a gift of words which is extraordinary. I am grateful that you continue to share that gift. You are helping more people than you could ever know. Your loss is dreadful, appalling, and more than any one person can bear alone. You are a gift to me, a perfect stranger…and I believe you are blessing those who share your exact grief. Walking through the valley of the shadow of death is never easy, never. Please continue to take all the time you need and remember to be kind to yourself.

  8. Tammi says:

    Today I spent the evening with my girlfriends husband and their two children. My friend who I new for almost 12 years. One of the First Ladies I met after my daughter was born. Her son only two days younger than my girl. She passed away in October from cancer and I can’t even begin to express the heartache I feel whenever I think about her and the family she has left behind. As I watch her family walk through this journey of grief one moment at a time, I can only pray that God will use me to some how bring a love to them, a comfort to them, or whatever it is they need. As they left our house tonight, her 7 year old girl hugged me over and over again as tight as can be and now I sit here reading your post with tears running down my face. I miss her and I am so sad for them to be without a mom. Grief is hard. The journey is long and rough. But I have to believe we and they will be stronger people because of the path they walked.
    Thank you for your post today. It was just what I needed to read after this evening.

  9. Liane says:

    Hugs. Routines have comfort. Toothpaste is good. I washed my face a lot. I put in nail polish a lot too. Love and hugs, my friend.

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