On Romanticizing Loss

I wrote a letter to my mother last night, something I rarely do. Letters to my mother have always been reserved for once a year on January 24th, the day she died. But last night, late and tipsy after an evening spent with girlfriends, I tapped out a letter to my mother.

It wasn’t the usual kind where I cry and tell her all about the last year of my life, another in a string that she has missed. But rather it was the kind of letter in which I just told her about some of the deepest parts of who I am, about the confusion and the wanderlust that well up inside me, about the things I reveal to no one else, ever. About how I think that she might be the only person who ever could have understood these parts of who I am, because I know they are parts of her too.

In the last couple of years since becoming a parent, I’ve had the opportunity (not the right word) to revisit countless fairy tales and Disney movies. There is one reoccurring theme in these stories of bravery and romance and heroism and it is the absence of one or more parents. From The Little Mermaid to Tangled to Barbie Island Princess (shudder), there is always a brave and passionate (and beautiful) young woman on a quest to discover more about herself and the world. She falls in love along the way, faces danger and opposition, and does it all without the presence of a parent.

It seems to give them spunk and will, these strong young, parentless women, and in the end when they reunite with a lost parent or create their own, new families, I always watch with silent tears in my eyes. Sometimes the idea that my parents’ deaths has given me will and determination is a comforting one. And sometimes it simply seems sad.

There have been a hundred times in the last ten years when I have wondered if I would give it all up — all the things that I am, the kind of woman I’ve become, the adventures and missteps and fortunes — to have my parents back again. I never have an answer. It’s a stupid question since it will never be a real choice, but it’s one I return to again and again.

I don’t know what happens when we die. I don’t know if somehow, some way, my mother heard the words I tapped out to her last night. I’d like to think so. I’d like to think that I’ll always be connected to my own daughter in that way too. That I’ll always be able to hear her and return to her. But I’d also like to think that we move on from this place and this pain, that we transcend what it means to miss someone, that we leave behind identities shrouded in such romantic determination.

Whatever the case, I’ll keep pushing forward, always with the hope that I’m headed for a happy ending.



  • eloise connelly
    Posted August 17, 2011 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    Here I am sitting waiting for a train in cold grey melbourne, inspired and grateful for your words. So glad I discovered your blog as it always uplifts me whenever I am engaged in the most mundane activities.

  • Casey
    Posted August 17, 2011 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    Eloise, that’s hilarious because I too used to read this blog while waiting for the train/sitting on the train in the cold Melbourne mornings. Glad to see I’m not alone.

    Claire, I love this post. It is very timely for me and it has really made me think more deeply about how loss can be romanticised, even in my own ways of thinking.

  • Posted August 18, 2011 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    Casey & Eloise, how funny about you guys both reading while waiting for your trains in Australia. That makes me wildly happy. And so glad you both liked the post. xoxo

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