From a Member of the Dead Moms Club

Review: The Dead Moms Club: A Memoir About Death, Grief, & Surviving the Mother of All Losses by Kate Spencer

And the fifth and final rule of the Dead Moms Club? You’re totally allowed to side-eye all people who say, ‘At least she’s in a better place now.’ Screw them. Welcome. I’m so sorry you’re here.

Kate Spencer – The Dead Moms Club

As some of you may know if you’ve read my previous blog posts, I lost my mom two years ago. It was incredibly sudden, unexpected, and utterly heartbreaking. Soon after we lost her, a friend who had also recently lost her own mom added me to a Facebook group for daughters grieving their mothers. I didn’t participate in the group much at first, but one day I was seeking some guidance (and you all know I love to read) so I reached out and asked everyone if there were any books that they recommended.

The first two that kept coming up were books that had already been gifted to me by my dear friend and leadership coach, Amanda King, who lost her mom when she was my age. The first was Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss by Hope Edelman. This one is more research based and discusses the commonalities between women who have lost their mothers whether from death, abandonment, or estrangement. The second was I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping, & Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One by Brook Noel & Pamela D. Blair, PhD. This particular book is more of a how-to manual for getting through any type of sudden death of a loved one and provides helpful next steps to the reader.

The third book that kept coming up was The Dead Moms Club by Kate Spencer. When this was first recommended, I’ll admit that I was taken aback by the title. It sounded so harsh. That’s definitely not the club I want to be a part of, but I have no choice, I am a member. I looked it up and the reviews sounded great so I immediately purchased a copy. Once I started reading it, I could not put it down. The author Kate Spencer has the incredible ability to tell her painful story in a way that is all at once heartbreaking, comforting, and hilarious. There is something to be said about comedians writing about difficult topics. Their observance and honesty allow them to be unbelievably relatable to their readers. Kate talks all about helping her mother through her last days as she battled cancer and the aftermath of her death.

When I hear stories of those that have lost a parent to cancer or long-term illness, I feel a strange envious feeling. I feel terrible for being jealous of those circumstances but I so desperately wish I had time to get used to the idea that I could lose my mom before it happened. I had absolutely no warning whatsoever. But the truth is that never can ever prepare you for the loss of your mother. We all thought my mom was perfectly healthy. I just got a phone call in the middle of the night saying that paramedics were at my family’s house trying to revive her. A loss like that felt impossible to process.

I am currently writing this blog post on November 24, 2019. Today is exactly two years after I saw and spoke to my mom for the very last time. My mom was at our local bowling alley where she bowled on a team with my sister, my grandma, my cousin, and our family friend just like every other Friday night. This was the day after Thanksgiving and I went down there to hang out with the family like I always did. We watched them bowl and all laughed together like we always did. Since it was black Friday, my sister, her boyfriend (now fiancé), and one of our best friends decided to go to Target after we were done to do some shopping. After they finished bowling, we all walked my mom and grandma out to their cars like we always did. I hugged my mom and said “Good night, see you later” and she said “I love you, be safe” and we left.

The next day I was busy at home and getting Christmas shopping done so we didn’t talk that day. That night at 1:48AM, I got the call that altered our lives forever. There is no way to prepare for that news. After we were told she was gone at the hospital, I drove to my apartment, packed a bag, and headed to my grandma’s house in the middle of the night to stay with her for the week. I was terrified that the unimaginable loss of her youngest child would be too much to bear and that we’d lose her that same week. After all, I was the one that had to called her to tell her that her baby died. The shock of everything kept me busy. I did every single thing that I could control and that I thought my mom would do in that situation. I planned her vigil, funeral service, burial, and reception. I wrote her obituary for the local paper and her eulogy which I delivered to a full catholic church filled with 400 attendees. I went back to work after only taking a few days off and even went back to my classes after only 2 days to take final exams.

I stayed busy because the overwhelming loss was too much to face and bear. I’m very proud of how her services turned out because they were as beautiful as she deserved and I can rest knowing we honored her properly. But it came with a hefty price. After I began therapy, I learned that I did not get to skip my grief, it was just delayed. And that at some point, I would have to go through those five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Though they may happen out of order, I would eventually have to experience them. But books like The Dead Moms Club help so much.

There are far too many of us in this club. So many of my friends and authors who have also lost their own mothers at a young age like I did, have helped me immensely through their courage and honesty. They inspire me to be vulnerable and open enough to share my own story. I only hope that it helps the next person to experience this terrible tragedy. If you have lost your own mother or a loved one, know that my inbox is ALWAYS open for you. I hope that you have the courage to reach out and ask for help, because that is true strength. Our power rests in our community and seeking help when we need it. Those who share similar experiences have the ability to help give tangible steps to processing tragedy, taking care of yourself, and reaching true happiness and acceptance again. I promise you that is happy to reach a place where you are content with your life and use your tragedy to propel you. We have to honor our loved ones that we have lost by living our best lives. And if you are lucky enough to have a good relationship with your own mother and she is still here, I hope that you cherish it as much as you possibly can, while you still can.

If you have lost your own mother or a loved one, I highly recommend these books to you. You can order them here:

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Who Knew That Oranges Could Be So Life-Changing?

Review: Life Will Be the Death of Me…and You Too! by Chelsea Handler

I discovered comedian Chelsea Handler’s late-night show Chelsea Lately during my senior year of high school. I immediately fell in love with the half hour of comedy filled interviews and panel guests she included every night. One only needed to watch thirty seconds to see that Chelsea’s signature comedy style was insulting and putting down her friends, guests, and fellow celebrities. But as a teenager with little to no life experience at that point, I found this show format hilarious!

Chelsea Lately ended in August of 2014. She left the show at the E Network; then from 2016-2017 she had a different talk show called Chelsea over on Netflix. This was a much more elevated, socially conscious show than her original one on E. On one episode of this show, she interviewed psychiatrist Dan Siegel. Thus, began her journey with therapy.

Chelsea’s book Life Will Be the Death of Me is about her journey through therapy with Dan and how it changed her for life for the better. She talks about being angry about the result of the 2016 presidential election and how she needs to have more empathy for others. What she did not expect to learn was that she had unresolved trauma in her life. Chelsea suffered from the tragic, unexpected loss of her brother as a child and never truly grieved. This has naturally had a profound impact on her and her relationships throughout her life.

Chelsea has been deeply changed by her journey through therapy (though she will tell you that she HATES the word ‘journey’ used this way). While she has retained her sense of humor, it is no longer about belittling others and using their differences as a basis upon which to make jokes. She uses hilarious stories about her recent years to demonstrate what she’s learned about herself. She talks about her love for her dogs, how a moment involving oranges changed everything for her, and even about her trip to Peru to try the hallucinogenic drug ayahuasca.

Chelsea has since gotten more involved and socially conscious. She has begun to use her platform to educate others, mostly regarding the topic of privilege. She always held the belief that she got to where she is in life because she busted her ass and worked for it. What she has come to realize is that she has benefited from white privilege. Race was never something that held her back. She has started to educate others as well with the recent release of her Netflix documentary, Hello, Privilege It’s Me, Chelsea and helping to elect more women in government.

I was naturally drawn to Chelsea’s new book because I’ve always been a big fan and I own almost all of her other books. We have some odd things in common: we’ve both had and lost a dog named Chunk, our birthdays are only a day a part, and we’ve both experienced the traumatic and sudden loss of an immediate family member. When I found out that her new book was about her own experience with therapy at the same time that I was beginning therapy, I knew I had to read it. I first listened to it on audiobook and then immediately purchased the hard copy because it was so relevant to my life.

I too experienced a traumatic loss and had not grieved properly. Though it took Chelsea decades, I was fresh from the traumatic and unexpected death of my mother on Thanksgiving weekend of 2017. I was up past midnight on 11/26/17. I was awake late at night watching The Blind Side after wrapping Christmas gifts at home by myself in my apartment. It was unusual for me to be awake that late. At 1:48AM my phone rang and I saw that it was my sister calling, which was strange. I answered it jokingly “Jessie, it’s almost 2:00AM, what the hell do you want?” She was crying and my first thought was that something must have happened to her dog Robby. I never would’ve guessed what she said: “The paramedics are here trying to revive Mom.” I screamed, jumped up, ran downstairs and jumped in my car and drove over to my parents’ house, and drove us to the hospital where we received the worst news of our lives. That’s how fast our lives changed forever.

I had to call all of our family and wake them up to tell them what had happened. Instead of feeling the intense, unbearable pain of my mom’s death when she was perfectly fine the day before, I sprang into action. I called everyone in my family to deliver the news. I drove to my place in the middle of the night to pack a bag so that I could go stay with my grandmother for the time being to make sure that she was okay after suffering the loss of her youngest child. Planning her funeral, writing the obituary, writing and delivering the eulogy were the easy parts. They kept me busy. This is the hard part: the delayed grief. Every time something good or bad happens I reach for my phone to call my mom and then it hits me that I can’t. When I realized that I had never had the opportunity to properly grieve, I knew I needed to do something. I honestly can’t remember when or how

 I realized that therapy was the answer, but I discovered so many important things about myself when I did. I tried one therapist who did help a lot but I was needing something more. I took a break and eventually ended up with the therapist that I am with now. She has been incredible and has helped me find techniques to not only deal with the PTSD of my mom’s death and my childhood, but she’s helped me develop tools to begin taking care of myself again.

Grief does not go away if you don’t go through it. It sits there and shows up in unexpected ways until you deal with it. It’s a lifelong process but the initial grieving steps must be experienced, whether you go through them immediately after the loss, or you wait like I did.

So many people hold the belief that therapy is for broken people or for the weak. That could not be any further from the truth. Seeking and reaching for help when you need it is the absolute strongest thing that a person can do. Even if you don’t think you’ve suffered from a tragedy or have had a difficult life, there is something to gain from therapy for everyone.

On a side note, my therapist ALSO loves Chelsea Handler’s new book. So, it is therapist approved! If you’re like me and want even more after reading this incredible book, check our Chelsea’s short term podcast by the same title Chelsea Handler: Life Will Be the Death of Me

About the Author

My name is Lea and I am a 29-year-old living in northern California with a lifelong love for books. In college I majored in English literature & sociology with a minor in gender studies. But even with this liberal arts background, I somehow ended up in an unexpected career in the electrical construction industry working with some pretty incredible people. I have been wanting some sort of a creative outlet to help myself heal from some pretty tough life experiences and I have truly missed writing; so here we are! My hope is that my writings will help someone else who has experienced trauma or hardship to feel less alone. Our traumas do not define us, but the lessons they teach us help us to grow. My mom unexpectedly and suddenly passed away on Thanksgiving weekend of 2017. I also had some major unresolved childhood difficulties that have affected me into adulthood resulting in complex PTSD and anxiety. But even through all this, I have found true happiness in gratitude, learning to care for myself, and being excited about the future despite life’s adversities. This is by no means an easy journey, I must admit. But I was able to begin my healing process through reading, therapy, and reaching out. Asking for and seeking help is not admitting weakness; it is showing immense strength and resilience.

Life Meets Literature is where you can find book reviews, recommendations, and how those books have shaped me and helped to heal me. I will be writing about fiction, non-fiction, and even audiobooks. There will be some personal posts mixed in when they are relevant. I also wanted to write about what you want to read about! If there is a book that you want to know more about or a topic you want my perspective on, reach out to me on Instagram or via e-mail. I want to write content that you want to read!

Instagram: @LifeMeetsLiterature

E-mail: LifeMeetsLiterature@gmail.com

Some quick facts about me:

Favorite book – The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Favorite genre – dystopian novels

Degree – BA in Sociology & English Literature with a minor & concentration in Gender Studies from the University of the Pacific 

Favorite Bookstore I’ve discovered so far – Copperfield’s Books in downtown Petaluma