Mourning in the Cracks and Crevices

As a parent, mourning becomes a completely different experience. I come from a large Mexican family. When I say large, I actually mean gargantuan, colossal, massive. My mother makes up one of 13 living siblings, and between them and their spouses, there were scores of grandchildren made, and from us grandchildren there have been even more great grandchildren. I cannot speak for all Latino families, but I can speak for mine when I say we mourn demonstratively, sometimes loudly, sometimes dramatically, and preferably together. We really love to be together.

When I was 9, my white paternal grandmother died and the house was quiet and I was told not to cry from well meaning comforters. When I was 10, my Mexican maternal grandfather died and to this day I remember the wailing of 50+ people that could be heard half a block away from the front door. I have always favored how my Latino family mourns. I believe in crying a lot. Loudly. Shaking. Then remembering a good memory, laughing hysterically, eating a piece of chicken and a tortilla with chilé— and then crying again. Staying in bed, with the duvet up to your chin, listening to sad songs, with a box of tissue and a hot cup of coffee within reach, and turning up the volume and crying when it gets to the really sad part of the song.

But mourning while parenting cannot look like this, because you have to mourn in the cracks and crevices of your day. It looks like getting the news your cousin died, falling into a pile on the floor, and then your child asks you to wipe their bottom. It looks like recalling the memory of when your cousin tried to get gum out of your hair when you were 8 and she ended up going through every item in the pantry (peanut butter, mayo, oil— even garlic powder…) at midnight and you smelled like barf, causing you to laugh… and then just as you well up with tears, a child needs a snack. It looks like you escaping to a corner of the kitchen to cry quietly, and then 2 of your children begin to fight and the ability to patiently diffuse their argument turns into yelling and sending everyone out of the room because you are just feeling too much to do what you need to. As a foster parent it looks like overseeing that visit for a child and their parents and trying to act positive and create small talk when your heart is breaking thinking about your cousin’s children who are now without a mother— forever.

There is no feeling every bit of the feels that you need to feel. There is no spending the entire weekend bawling your face off. There are no hours long, kid-free car rides in the middle of the day. There are only those little slivers of quiet between all of the other people who need you. And so, the way I mourn has had to shift. It has had to change. My expectation of a satisfying cry looks less like hours of red faced, ugly crying and more like looking at a picture and shedding a few silent tears while rocking a baby. It looks more like telling your children about the person so dear to you who died and letting them see you cry a little while you make dinner. It means getting misty eyed while pushing your child on the swing and acknowledging the hitch in your throat, and then taking a deep breath. It looks more like saving the breakdown til you’re in the shower and everyone is tucked in for the night.

And while it may not be as demonstrative as my mourning from child-free days. It doesn’t make it any less real. Any less mournful. Any less tragic. Any less terrible. Any less sad. It’s just different.

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(I have purposely not shared anything about the passing of my cousin in public for several reasons, one is her family’s privacy, secondly is I do not personally want pity or condolences, rather prayers for her children and family left behind. Thirdly, I never, ever, EVER want clicks at the expense of someone else’s tragedy. I am sharing this expressly with the hope that I can offer perspective to others who may be mourning while parenting and having a hard time making that shift).

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