A Year of Little Deaths

“We each die countless little deaths on our way to the last. We die out of shame as humiliation. We perish from despair. And, of course, we die for love.” 

– Clive Barker 

Art by Andrea Grant

In the spring of 2020, bleary-eyed from my ongoing transformation into a mother, excited for my blossoming career, and questioning what I wanted the relationships around me to look like as I continued to grow my little family… my world fell apart. 

Well, duh, you say. Everyone’s did. The global pandemic that shut down the world. We all experienced, and are still experiencing, a loss of normalcy, of connection, of literal life. So how do we cope when on top of all that, life had the audacity to keep going on?


Daily pandemic walks with my very adorable baby were now routine. She was discovering what flowers were, pointing to them, sniffing colorful petals, quickly shoving them into her mouth when she thought no one was looking, overall having a great time. I,on the other hand, found out my parents were getting a divorce. Not as fun. 

Having your parents go through a divorce is listed as an Adverse Childhood Experience according to trauma experts. These can lead to chronic stress and conflict, which in turn can have negative effects on that child’s health growing up. I know this. This is what I teach, what I do for a living. You would think I had great resources in place to deal with it, even if it was a shock. 

After all, I am an adult. Right? 


I always thought I had the definition of a blessed childhood. My parents were a beat-the-odds type story, together for 32 years after getting married at a young age when (surprise!) they found themselves pregnant with tiny me. They moved to the US when I was a toddler, and my dad worked his way from truck driver to a highly positioned executive at a major company. 

That’s the story. I always glossed over some of the more inauspicious aspects. 

Mom was 16 and Dad 24 when they got married? 

Mom crying in the closet after Dad stormed out of the house? 

Watching what I said, because if it was the wrong thing I’d be given the silent treatment for weeks? 

Don’t think about it too much.

Yes, there were fights and yelling. But all in all, life was so good. We went on vacations, had nice things, went to private school. 

There was a lot of love and a lot of joy. 

Imagine my surprise when I told my husband about some of the fights I witnessed growing up. Each time I told him a new story, he’d tell me how sorry he was that I had to go through that. No, no, no- these aren’t sad stories, I’d think. He’s the weird one here. What kind of family doesn’t yell, what child doesn’t get told they’re worthless? 


This past year I’ve had to learn to let go of all my expectations, big and small. 

That first birthday party I’d been planning in my head for months? I’d pictured the pinata, maybe a picnic with our friends and family at a park or a brewery. Cute pictures, children running around, grown-ups getting slightly buzzed under the sun. But the Zoom call was fine. I focused on making a triple-layer funfetti cake to mark the occasion. I’d never baked a cake before. There had to be something I could control. 

With everything that was happening in the world, I knew I needed to move closer to family. That promotion at work I’d been patiently waiting for after being all but promised it when I started? I watched the job that I dreamed of, that I’d worked my butt off for, be given to someone else, because I didn’t end up applying. 

Almost 3 million women have left the workforce in the last year. Sometimes choosing to take care of family and childcare, sometimes having no other choice available. Imagine the loss of talent of 3 million women not being able to do what they love, what they’ve worked for, what they ached to give to the world. 

I often preach the idea of choosing relationships over control. The world just wanted to make sure I was really doing it. Really letting go of those expectations and choosing love. No sense in not practicing what you preach. 

Weddings, travel, introducing my baby to friends and family. It all looked different. And to top it off I kept learning things about my parent’s relationship that made me feel like my childhood was just crumbling apart behind me. 


How do you grieve when it is all in your head?

When your previous coping rituals are no longer allowed because you could catch a disease that can kill your family, friends, the stranger walking next to you? 

No funerals. No bedside goodbyes. Not even a damn wine night with your girls. ******************************************* 

In 2018 I had two miscarriages. I found solace in a small, Japanese statue named Jizo. You see, I’m a researcher. I felt my body betray me and knew I needed something to help me carry my grief. How could something so small, the size of a lentil, the internet told me, leave such a hole in my heart? I searched for different people’s experiences, support groups, ceremonies, and finally found this little guy. 

In Japan, Jizo statues represent Jizo Bosatu, a deity associated with stillborn, miscarried children, or those who died very young. Jizo helps them cross over. Cemeteries in Japan are often lined with these statues, who are given knit red caps and scarves to up their cuteness level. I loved that idea that something so lovely and sweet, like this tiny bald headed smiling statue, could protect my little ones. That if you didn’t know about his very important job, you’d just smile at him. 

He allowed me to grieve, provided me comfort at a time when I could not understand why my children would be taken from me. He gave me the closure I needed when I felt, for the first time ever, that the aching pain in my body exactly matched the unstoppable pain in my heart. 

The following Dia de los Muertos, and ever since, I put a couple lentils on my altar. ******************************************* 

Where is the statue that will guide me through a lost childhood? 

In a pandemic, where you cannot hug or see people or do what you love, how do you cope? 

For me, it’s been rediscovering writing. Leaning in to my Mexican heritage. Being witchy. Going to therapy and trying to heal my inner child, who apparently, has a lot to shit to process. 

Sometimes it works, but a lot of times it doesn’t. I’m not someone who is great on the phone, on Facetime, by text. I try to be a good friend but really thrive face to face. 

I’ve felt… lonely. I’ve wished more people would check in on me and ask if I was ok after my world fell apart. I’ve been mad that people didn’t understand how hard it was to deal with this while being a new parent. 

I don’t know how to grieve alone, and asking for help is hard.


We need ceremony, ritual, closure. Consistency. Without it, we are lost, as this year has shown. 

How do I grieve when I cannot hug you? What ceremony is there for a year and more of tiny losses of normalcy? Of a huge loss of life? Of the everyday activities of living that we cling to? 

So here’s to the light at the end of the tunnel, and hoping that there actually is light. 

My hope is that we all have a day in the not-so-distant future where we mourn what is no longer here, celebrate what could have been, and create a new life. That we are able to hold space for this immense communal trauma that a global pandemic has made us go through, as well as for the everyday losses that keep going on. 

Let’s cry together, dance together, laugh together. Let’s remember remember remember and never forget. Let’s build new communities, hold the old, and create new life.

Leave a Reply