Have You Heard the Whisper?

Have you ever lost someone that you cared about, and the grief seemed like it was too much to bear? Could you feel your heart breaking away into a million tiny pieces unsure of how or when it might ever be whole again?

Did you ever sit alone and weep or run out into a field and scream?

Have you ever sat in silence and simply let the feeling of loss take over so that you could finally begin to process every morsel of emotion?

Did you feel numb, or angry, or scared?

Have you wondered how, or if, you will get through it?

Well, that was me six years ago when my mom, who was 82, suddenly passed away on my birthday. I remember feeling numb, shocked, lost, angry, and so full of despair that I cried nearly the entire night. Although my husband did his best to console me that night, and for many nights following her death, a chapter in my life had been permanently altered.

And I wasn’t ready for it. Then again, are you ever prepared for it? It was a moment when I wished I could press control-alt-delete to restart.

When I reflect on what it was like to lose my mom, I sometimes wonder how the hell I made it through. I know we were fortunate to have her in our lives for so long, but selfishly it wasn’t long enough, and even though I knew she was in a better place, it still hurt deeply.

Work was an excellent distraction at first because I threw myself into it even more than usual. And my family and friends did their best to support me and my bouts of emotional turmoil. And I had many of them.

Yet something still felt off. I felt disconnected, aloof at times, and sad.

I remember feeling numb, and with that came an uncertainty – even more so than when my husband had cancer. At least with his disease, we had a direction and a treatment plan. We had science and statistics, and a team of doctors, and we had hope.

But when my mom passed, I felt like the hope that had been my light for so long died along with her.

She was, after all, the umbrella in the rain and the shelter from the storm.

Grief had seized my heart, and as much as I tried to pretend I was okay, the truth is that I wasn’t. I know now that my stubbornness and resilience kept me fueled and perhaps even aided my ability to believe I was okay. It’s amazing what you can bury when you are in denial, and how much of a ripple effect can happen.

I couldn’t keep up the charade any longer, however.

Thanks to a subzero winter night in a small town in New England, a long walk listening to mood-music, and a bright shining star against a clear evening sky, I faced my grief as I stood in front of the village church and listened to Beth Hart sing about learning to live.

I felt my mother’s presence, and I heard her voice whisper to me that it would be okay. It was only by acknowledging and accepting my grief that  I was finally able to work through it and begin building new bridges of hope.

It wasn’t easy, and it took time. But in that moment of reconciliation with my feelings, I found a renewed spirit. It is this spirit that enabled me to move past the hurdles, albeit slowly and channel my grief more productively.

My daily workouts became even more critical as I connected the dots on how much it improved my whole being. Suddenly I was more in tune with me, and I began to recognize when I was feeling that angst. Acknowledging it, leaning into it, and using exercise as a medium to help me cope with it provided not only relief, but it also fed my inner yearning to get stronger: physically, mentally, and emotionally.

But something else happened along the way. As I navigated writing this new chapter that didn’t include my mom, somehow, I found my voice. There was still so much inside of me that I was trying to discern and disseminate, and I felt this intense push to share a layer of my story. I had never wanted to peel back a layer as I did during this period. I felt compelled to help someone, anyone who might be going through something similar.

A constant stream of thoughts catapulted by the pain in my heart suddenly escaped from the confines of my mind and through to my fingertips.

Except that one thing stood in my way: I was scared. Who am I kidding?  I was petrified. I had talked myself out of writing it at least a hundred times, and my heart would race when I would think about it. But then one day, when I was feeling particularly down, I sat in front of my trusty old laptop, and I began to write. A constant stream of thoughts catapulted by the pain in my heart suddenly escaped from the confines of my mind and through to my fingertips. And as I typed away, I felt some of my pain flee with it. For so long, I had bottled things up and kept them in my safety deposit box that when I finally began to open up, I could feel my heart begin to mend.

I thought that if I kept it all close at hand, I could control the flow. If I stashed it away, I would forget and just move on. I was wrong, however. It only made it more difficult, and I know now how much it weighed me down. It kept me from being my best self until I was finally able to see for myself. I am sure it was at that moment of putting my heart out there when I understood what my mom meant when she used to say to me, ”what are you going to do?”

I’m as sure today with the sun beating down and warming my skin as I was that cold winter’s night when I made peace with myself that writing repaired my heart and is my forever pathway to healing and helping. I had found a catharsis to help me extract what I had stashed inside. And while my writing continues to evolve, it never fails to harken to that place deep within my heart that knows that words can heal.

My path wasn’t easily identifiable, and it still eludes me from time to time. But I know that despite everything, I am stronger for having traveled it, and I am grateful for those who have been by my side through each step.

This journey continues to teach me that we all have moments in our lives that will test us. Grief was one of mine. I almost failed miserably, but thankfully, from the most painful depths, I was able to create a space to heal – a space where I heard my mother’s whisper and creativity was born.


Laura Mikolaitis
Laura Mikolaitis
Laura credits her writing, which laid dormant for years, to her late mom, who always believed in her. Writing unabashedly from the heart and inspired by millions of moments, three tenets of evergreen advice that her mom always shared with her are her guiding principles. Whether it is poetry, fiction, or a personal essay, her love for the written word feeds her mind, body, and spirit. Laura’s creativity also comes to life in her passion for photography. Her ongoing love affair with the moon, her joy for family and friends, her connection to nature, and being a loving canine mom often become some of her best subjects. Laura has held many roles throughout her professional career, including Brand Manager, Project Manager, and Director of Global Business Development and Sales Operations. In addition, she has a background in consumer-packaged goods, manufacturing, and textiles. Laura currently works in biotechnology for Berkshire Corporation as their Product Marketing Manager. She holds a Master of Science degree in Communications and Information Management from Bay Path University and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from SUNY Oswego. Originally from Northern NY, Laura resides with her husband and canine child in a small town in Massachusetts that captured her heart years ago.

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  1. Isn’t it strange how we hold on to the feelings, as if we are hanging on to them?
    I spent a whole day crying when I heard my mother had passed. It was a pivotal moment in my life too Laura. She was the one who I feel who knew and loved me wholly as no one ever has.
    thank you for sharing this

    • I’ve cried many tears since my mom’s passing, Laurie and I miss her dearly. But she gave me the gift of resilience, and I think of her often especially when I have those feelings of doubt. I feel her presence often, and what I would give for one last conversation with her. Then, I remember, I can still talk to her. She will always be the brightest star on a clear night and the sun that shines throught the clouds. Thanks so much for being here, Laurie.

    • Thank you for reading, Maria. No, one is never quite ready for all it entails. I’ve learned, however, that the way forward is to put one foot in front of the other. My mother gave me the gift of resilience and for that I am forever grateful.

  2. Profound, powerful, moving, honest, and real, Laura. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful, eloquent, heart-opening story of loss, grief, and healing-how writing can absolutely be a pathway (exercise, too!). I share both of those modalities with you. The brave work of allowing grieflove to have its way with you and to come through to a new moment, fresh realizations, and exquisitely wonderful writing. Natalie Goldberg would definitely call this “Writing Down the Bones.” I felt your pain and your release, too.

    • Laura,
      Thank you so much. We do have those modalities in common, don’t we? I am grateful each day for being able to channel whatever it is I’m feeling through one or the other – or both. We experience grief on so many levels, and not just with the loss of a loved one. The past couple of weeks, I’ve felt a sadness and heaviness in my heart. I think the grief associated with losing my job is finally hitting me. While it happened in mid-March, I think I did all I could to redirect my energy but for whatever reason I never let the tears really flow. They are now, and I am slowly beginning the healing process. It was a blessing, honestly, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

      As always, Laura, thanks so much for being you and for your constant inspiration.

  3. For each of us, the death of the mother, of the father, is a significant loss and creates a series of changes both in us as individuals and in the overall structure of the family and the relationship between generations.
    With the death of our parents we lose part of our history, part of ourselves and of our roots: we often lose a confidant, a friend, a counselor, an essential emotional bond, beyond the difficulties that may have been there. It is therefore easy – after the death of a parent – to feel “lost”: suddenly, you can feel like an abandoned child, even if we are adults instead, often with a job, a family and a life of one’s own.
    The death of a parent urges reflection on one’s own mortality and makes it appear closer than we previously perceived. With the death of our parents, the relationship between generations changes: suddenly we find ourselves at the forefront, no longer shielded by those who preceded us. If before we were and could still feel someone’s “son”, “daughter”, with their death we become the oldest generation and this can be, on the one hand a shock, on the other the motivation for an expansion of perspective.

    • Aldo,
      Your perspective and insight is appreciated, and I agree with you. I’ve felt and seen the changes in the family dynamic with my mom gone. In some ways, I’ve picked up the torch on things. It felt so strange in the early days of her passing to visit my dad and not have my mom there. I still feel it from time to time. The house seems emptier yet we’ve made new memories with my dad. Life is a continual journey for sure. The void that they leave when they are gone is not one to fill but rather memories to cherish. I try to remember that my mom is always with me in spirit – and I feel her presence often.

      Thanks so much for being here, Aldo. It is always a pleasure to hear from you.

  4. Hi Laura,
    So very sorry for your precious loss Laura. In my culture it’s a great blessing when someone passes away on their birthday.

    Thank you for this hearttouching share, I call this soul-writing where we dare to go all the way within and whatever comes out, put it in front of of our selves and the world! The whole process of your grief and how you put that into words, it’s very hearttouching. It made me think of how I went trough the process grief when my mom passed away.
    6 years is a lot Laura, what a journey! It also makes this story not only one of grief, while peeling so many layers of your inner world, like becoming so much more in alignment with your Self. It is also a very powerful story, full of bravery and courage. I am so happy for you hearing the whisper of your mother and your awareness of your purpose in this world. Just amazing.
    Thank you for this Laura.

    • Ineke,
      Thank you so much for these beautiful sentiments. Your words are comforting and encouraging. Indeed it is a journey. She was a part of my life for so long that when she passed it turned my world upside down. But I’ve come to realize that even in her passing she left a part of her with me, and for that, I will always be grateful.

      I too am sorry to hear about your mom’s passing. Grief and love – or grieflove – as Laura Staley calls it – can take us on quite a journey. I never imagined it would be such a revelatory process for me, but it’s helped me in ways I cannot begin to describe.

      Thansk for being here, Ineke. It’s great to chat with you.

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