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do we recover?

Welcome to the January 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Recovering from the Holidays This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about how their families get back to normal after the holidays are over. ***

God, we laughed.  We laughed until we couldn’t hold onto our chopsticks.  We sat at a corner table in an otherwise empty, stained-linoleum Chinese dive, clearly kept in business solely by take-out orders for stoned local youth.  We no longer cared what we ate; the food tasted, like all food did to us then, like nothing.  Just a chore of mastication and swallowing.  The laughter tasted strange in our mouths, and tickled our nostrils like bile.  

How strange, to taste anything at all.  We laughed and laughed and found wet spots in our underwear when we finally went home.  We bent over, gasping for air, as if neither of us had taken a full breath since our baby had died a few weeks before.

Our wise friend had herded us toward the unoccupied restaurant, knowing that we were not really ready for being in public and as likely as not to skip meals.  And then she started talking, telling us these stories that she’d never told us in the years of our friendship, stories that if I tried to tell them now would probably not make any sense.  But at that time, they made perfect, hilarious sense, and they broke us.  Our loss had broken us so deeply, and we had patched ourselves together with grief, and then she came and broke us again, with laughter. 

Perhaps the drafty, bleak restaurant helped, for we were not comfortable.  The food was greasy and bland; we were not sated.  We were not, despite our laughter, happy.  For happiness would have been too far down a path we did not know if we could travel without denying our daughter, our love for her, expressed through our sadness.  But we could, we discovered, laugh.  And it made us breathe, and it felt sort of okay, if terrifying.  Would we slowly return to something resembling “normal?”  Could we do so without leaving behind our daughter? 

We did, and we didn’t.  She is part of my every day, and I no longer carry the grief in the same large way.  It is small, like a finger.  Part of every action, yet not often noted.  So, did I recover? 

recover (v.)

    c.1300, "to regain consciousness," from Anglo-Fr. rekeverer (late 13c.), O.Fr. recovrer, from L. recuperare "to recover" (see recuperation). Meaning "to regain health or strength" is from early 14c.; sense of "to get (anything) back" is first attested mid-14c. Related: Recovered; recovering.  (from the Online Etymology Dictionary)

I did regain consciousness, if a changed one.  I regained health and strength (although I still find a wet spot if I laugh too hard).  I did not get her back.  I never will.  But I did get myself back, a new self.  Not necessarily better.  But here.

This holiday season has been, for me, overshadowed by my memories of that time, a long, full twelve years ago, but brought back into sharp focus by the horrific shooting in Newtown.  My youngest is in first grade now, and we live in a wouldn’t-happen-here small town, just like them.  Those families who will never recover, at least in some ways, from this holiday without their children.

And of course they are not the only ones.  The families of Trayvon Martin, of Jyoti Singh Pandey, of countless others whose names we do not know.  Children killed by drone strikes, by preventable and treatable diseases, by hunger.  The Newtown children look like my children, so they touch me in a tender place, and allow my heart to open to the pain of their families, and by extension, the pain of the other families whose lives do not resemble mine.  Our disparate hopes and dreams for our children’s happiness, the isolating pain of our losses.

We must not “recover” superficially.  We must not go about our business as if our hearts can truly forget.  Our national grief can focus our national will: several gun control bills have already been introduced, and our legislators will need to know if we care enough to pass them.  Wherever our grief touches us, we can work for change, for better health care services, for social justice, for peace.  If we cover up our hurt, we can pretend these things don’t matter.

Do we recover?  We re-enter the world.  But what we have lost remains lost.  We remain broken.  Our broken-ness can open our hearts, but grief can seal them shut tight and rigid.    May someone come along for each of us who can break us again, with laughter. 


(in memory of Tobin)



Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting this March!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Pinterest Inspiration for Easier Winter Holidays Shannon, writing at Natural Parents Network, shares inspiration for having more relaxed winter holidays from their Handmade Holidays Pinterest board.
  • Seven Recipes for Beans - Post Holiday Cleaning — Destany at They Are All of Me shares her favorite bean recipes that she hopes will help her body recover from overindulging her sweet tooth during the holidays.
  • The Recovery in the Change — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen made changes in her life and attitude throughout 2012 and was pleasantly surprised at how those changes impacted her holiday recovery!
  • Could this question change your life for ever? — To get your new year off on the right footing, Mrs Green of Little Green Blog is challenging us all to love ourselves with commitment and discipline. She asks you to focus on a simple question which might just bring you back in balance...
  • Holiday Recovery — Meegs at A New Day talks about how the holidays can be overwhelming for a toddler, and how she's helping her 3 year old recover.
  • 5 Ways to Detox After the Holidays — Brittany at The Pistachio Project gives a few ways to help you detox and get back on track after the holiday season has passed.
  • 3 Simple Ways to Establishing Rhythm After the Holidays or Any Time — Sheila at A Living Family shares 3 simple ways to reestablish a rhythm of connection and calm in your family after holidays, visitors, travel or any time.
  • Gemstones For Holiday Hangoverss — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama delves into the power of gemstones as an often overlooked means of dealing with the holiday letdown.
  • Getting back to Healthy — Bess at A Warrior Mom talks about the struggle of getting young ones back to eating healthy after several days to weeks of getting more candy and sweets than normal for the holidays and gives some suggestions on how to get them back to eating healthy in the new year.
  • Post Christmas Juice Feast — Sam at Love Parenting explains why she has created a new tradition of juice feasting, and how she includes her toddler when detoxing.
  • The Java Monkey On My Back — Christy at Eco Journey in the Burbs realizes it is time to kick her cup of Joe habit as a first step toward detoxing.
  • Minimalist Holidays — Jorje of Momma Jorje doesn't find much need for recovery after her minimalist version of the holidays.
  • Do something for you — Lauren at Hobo Mama urges you to find a silly and indulgent reward of me-time — and she has hers.
  • do we recover? — Kenna at Million Tiny Things wonders what recovery really means in the context of the tragedies of this past holiday season.
  • 37 Easy Ways to Save Money — Shannon at GrowingSlower is sharing these money-saving tips to help get your budget back on track after the holidays.
  • A Two Year Old's ResolutionsThat Mama Gretchen is putting the holidays behind her with a spin on traditional resolutions — New Year's goals for her two-year-old! Sound crazy? Read on for an explanation!
  • How to Find Balance after the Holidays — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells her favorite ways to start a new year with hope and calmness.
  • Fresh Awakening — For Luschka at Diary of a First Child, the new year has coincided with a return to restful nights. With sleep, she's found new directions in life, but while she can't make too many changes to her life right now, she's inspired and excited about the future.
  • Learning to slow down after a busy Festive Season Stoneageparent describes the joys and lows of this year's festive season, as well as her New Year's resolutions.
  • Detoxing' Your Toddler After the Holidays — Does your family suffer side effects from the holidays? Join Christine from African Babies Don't Cry to learn how she detoxed herself and her toddler off the treats and festivities of the season.
  • Scheduling is OK! — Jaye Anne at Wide Awake, Half Asleep explores the possibilities of the — SCHEDULE!!
  • We're Saving their First Christmas for Next Time — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot takes it easy after moving with her husband and new babies to Scotland.
  • A Vacation from the World — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children retreats with her family at the end of every year in order to recuperate and enjoy one another.
  • On the Road to Recovery — Dionna at Code Name: Mama isn't just recovering from the holidays, she's recovering from a lifestyle.
  • We Never Left the GrindErika Gebhardt compares a typical day pre-holidays and post-holidays.
  • Remembering and Recovering from the Holidays (One day at a time) — Emily at S.A.H.M i AM is recovering from holidays slowly--taking one day at a time--while trying to remember all the sweet moments that passed too quickly.
  • 5 a Day — To get back on track Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy needed a simple system to help her family learn new values.
  • Holiday Detox & Healing: Bieler Broth — Megan at The Boho Mama shares her secret for a gentle, whole-foods-based post-holiday detox: Bieler Broth!
  • I'm Mama Not Supermom — After a year filled with changes Angela at EarthMamas World has to remind herself that she does not have to be supermom while recovering from the holiday chaos.

Tags: Carnival of Natural Parenting, holidays, justice, laughter

Reader Comments


Thank you for sharing this.

— Meegs

Thank you

Whew. I don't know how to respond. I can barely read anything about Newtown. The other day I picked up an article featuring the families who lost loved ones, and I had to stop in the first feature. It began, "I slept with my son every night." I can't imagine having Kieran next to me one night, and then having an empty space there the next. How would you ever fill that emptiness? Thank you, Kenna, for sharing your loss. I know you've touched many readers today.

— Dionna @ Code Name: Mama

loss of a child

Great article. The loss of a child, in whatever way (and some ways are so much more horrific than others), is like nothing else experienced in this life. Through the loss of my child (and again, a different kind of loss) I gained a strength I never knew I had. And quite honestly, wish I had never needed to know...And I am lucky to have those who can help me to break again and again. But the loss of a whatever way. There is nothing like it.

— colleen

I'm in tears, thinking of your loss, of theirs, of my own smaller loss of our first pregnancy to miscarriage. The idea of losing one of my children fills me with repugnance so terrible that my mind immediately pushes away the idea — it can't even consider it. I can see how recovery would be not a going back to what was before, but going forward to someone broken and changed.

— Lauren @ Hobo Mama

Thank you for sharing your story.

— Shannon

gun control petition link

In case you want to add your name now:

— Kenna

My heart was in my mouth the whole way through reading this. Thank you for sharing, it very much puts life and the small daily issues we all face in to perspective.

— Sam at Love Parenting


How wonderful that you had a friend, that friend that knew just the medicine you needed.

We do not recover to who we once were, but to survive into the new you.. thank goodness for that.

— Momma Jorje

In memory

I am so sorry for your loss, experiencing the parenting unimaginable.

I was at work, with my students, when my educational assistant read about Newtown on twitter and shared it with me. I looked out at the 29 amazing beings talking, working, reading and I felt sick. That very week we had started practicing school lockdown procedures (new procedures) so once my students learned of the horrific events (not from me at school) they wanted to talk about what we would do and what it might look like if something happened like that. They wanted to talk about the teacher who hid her students at the expense of her own life. It was all too real, yet unreal for me. I know there are tragedies everyday all over the world, but this one hit me hard because of my profession and my three young daughters.

These were all our children.

— Christy

You write so impactfully. What a tragically beautiful post. Beautiful in it's rawness and sincerity, and the hope it conveys. Thank you so much for sharing.

— Destany

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