The Eighth Spring



We’re three-quarters of the way through April in the Midwest, but it’s the calendar’s spring. Winter clings on. I woke yesterday morning to the sound of ice being scraped off a car.

For me, it’s a serious spring. A sad spring. A green-brown-white, dry-moist, aromatic season of birth and death.

The first spring without my mother in it.

The spring proceeding the completion of my memoir in which spring plays a title role.

It’s my epilogue spring.

Mothers leave the world first. That’s the design. It’s expected. I knew grief before but this is something different. The earth feels a little less steady under my feet.

Our mothers are our origin stories: We enter the world together. We walk this world together. If we’re lucky, like I was, we even enjoy one another’s company along the way. Mothers and their children are bound together forever, no matter what their relationship.

However, life keeps moving so I am learning how to trudge on through the grief. Some things help. Conversations with close friends, especially ones who have lost their mothers. Texts from my daughters. Sharing memories and reflections about my mom with my brother. Dinner and a movie at home with my husband. Sixties and seventies rock oldies. A good Netflix series. A walk. Taking photos.

What’s anchoring me most, however, is taking this amusement park ride of feelings to the page.

There, grief is welcome. As it is on the canvas, potter’s wheel, sewing machine, ivory keys, strings or microphone. Where it’s safe. Turning our feelings into something that can help us heal. To make art from chaos. So that our pain might offer us some meaning. Maybe a gift to someone else.

One Hundred Words on Grief

Your world may feel upside down, but you are getting a crash course in New Normal.

You aren’t alone in your grief, but no two people feel it the same way.

Grief wants to be in charge – and sometimes is – but it comes and goes.

You can successfully push grief aside, but it will show up later in some unexpected form.

Grief offers experience with end-of-life issues but demands that you think about yours.

You become aware of how fast time goes, but also of its preciousness.

Grief can bring intense sorrow, but intense joy can be experienced within it.

Memoir update: I thought it was a journey just getting the words onto the page. Turns out, finding representation for a book is like crossing the border to another country. The process is slow. Far slower than journalistic deadlines or literary publishing. It demands patience, which I’m not very good at. I promise to keep you posted.


Photo by Ellen Blum Barish. Copyright 2018.


13 thoughts on “The Eighth Spring

  1. your 100 words are a distillation to hold onto. for those griefs not yet come, the ones we know will come, and we will need something to clutch as we search to find our way….

    sending love. and a dose of patience for that memoir in the making, and just the right literary agent who will come…..

  2. Oh, Ellen! I’m not a writer, but I thank you for putting into words the hole in the universe the loss of a mother makes. My other’s been gone for 2 springs now, and it gets less raw, but not less sad. Thank you and your art for making it the sadness beautiful.

    1. I’m so sorry, Christine. Even two years in, It’s fresh for you, too. That some words I wrote touched a chord in you, moving you to write some words of your own means everything to me. Thank you for reaching out.

  3. Ellen I’m not a writer but wanted to tell you that I understand your grief . It never goes away but it becomes easier to manage with time. She will never be forgotten . Love ya Drora

  4. Loss of my mother has for me very little downsize… I laugh when I think of her quirks, (we all have them) I admire her when I think of her power, her executive capability, how she was way in front of the civil rights movement… I love how she cared for people, loved her children and was able to laugh at herself with craziness like being hours early for planes, trains and important events. No my memories give me joy – she lived a full life until the end… I will follow her example…

  5. Ellen, this is beautiful and resonates with my experience when I lost my mother 16 years ago. Grief doesn’t take charge very often any more. More often I talk to her in my head or hear her voice telling me something wise/funny/silly. She is still a presence in my life.

    1. Love hearing that, Carol. I suspect our mothers will always be a presence in our life in a multitude of forms. Thank you for reaching out to say so.

  6. I forwarded this to my friend who recently lost her daughter. Even though her loss did not occur “in the natural order” as you stated, I thought of her, as I believe the mother-daughter relationship is the primary focus. I hope she finds these words as meaningful as I did. Thanks Ellen.

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