By Monica Novak –

When I began writing this weekly column, A Mother’s Thoughts, my intention was to post something new once a week.  Shouldn’t be too difficult, doesn’t have to be long and drawn-out.  I’ll just add it to the list of things to do floating in my head.  But life has a way of dictating my agenda and some weeks, like this one, get away from me.  Suddenly my self-imposed deadline has slipped by…one, two, three, four, five days.  And when this happens, I feel a slight pang of guilt that I’m not doing enough.  And then I have to remind myself of the reason I’ve allowed my lapse: my family comes first, and that includes me.

During the 12-week summer reprieve from the regimented early-morning school schedule, my three girls and I love to sleep in and lounge around in our pajamas all morning (okay, they lounge while I do dishes and laundry and try to get them to pick up their stuff that’s strewn all over the house!).  We spend our afternoons at the pool enjoying the sun with friends or visiting family in Indiana.  Our evenings are spent listening to free outdoor concerts or curling up on the couch for movie night – which in the summer can be any night we want!  Sometimes we take a jaunt into downtown Chicago, most recently to brave the new Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) Skywalk, a glass box that juts out of the top of the building’s Skydeck, allowing you to seemingly “walk on air” 103 stories above Wacker Drive.  Tomorrow is our annual trip to Six Flags Great America where we’ll see which roller coasters the girls are brave enough to go on this year.  And some days it’s just about driving Alex to the mall, Casey to a party, Anna to a friend’s, and Grandma to adult day care.  When I’m lucky enough to have a few moments to myself, I head for my garden for some therapeutic rosebush pruning, or grab a book (like Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence or Don Aslett’s Clutter’s Last Stand) and stretch out on the back deck basking in some peace and quiet.  And today, I’m sitting at my desk writing.

Are you wondering what any of this has to do with grief?  The point I’m trying to make is that sometimes you just have to do what feels good and brings you joy with the people you love (or the people around you).  Sometimes you have to adjust your priorities and tell the to-do list to chill for awhile.  Sometimes you have to remind yourself that the column, and all your other responsibilities, will always be waiting for you, but your time here is not guaranteed.  That’s what “death” and grief taught me.  I’ve had fourteen years to assimilate this new thinking into my life after loss.  If your loss is fresh, you probably aren’t in the basking mode yet, but life will continue to call you to it and it’s up to you to say yes.  Put joy first.  Give yourself permission to do the things you want to do more often than the things you think you should do.  Somehow, the important stuff gets done anyway, and if it doesn’t get done, then it wasn’t that important after all.  So, as my favorite spiritual teacher says, “You might as well go with the flow.  Floating downstream is a lot easier than trying to paddle upstream.”

Editor’s Note – quotations are used around the word death because I do not believe in death in the sense that life ends, only that death is a transition from physical to non-physical.

Monica Novak is the author of The Good Grief Club, the highly-praised memoir about her friendships with six other women that carried them through the ups and downs of grief and motherhood following the loss of their babies in miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death.  She also serves as editor of Open to Hope’s Pregnancy and Infant Loss page.  For more information about her book, and for pregnancy loss and infant death resources, please visit her website at or e-mail her at

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Monica Novak

Monica Novak became a bereaved mother in 1995 with the stillbirth of her daughter Miranda, learning firsthand the devastation of saying goodbye to a much-loved, much-wanted baby before having the chance to say hello. Three weeks later, she began a journey towards healing when she attended her first Share support group meeting. Along the way, she and six other bereaved mothers formed a close bond that carried them through the grief of miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death, as well as the challenges of subsequent pregnancy and infertility. Having been at the opposite ends of grief and joy; despair and hope; indifference and compassion; fear and peace-sometimes simultaneously-she has captured these emotions and the story of her journey in a highly-praised new memoir titled The Good Grief Club. Monica writes and speaks on the subject of pregnancy loss and infant death and is involved with local and national organizations that provide support to families and caregivers. She is a member of the Pregnancy Loss and Infant Death Alliance (PLIDA). Her mission is to bring comfort and hope to bereaved parents worldwide and to educate and promote awareness to the physicians, nurses, clergy, counselors, family, and friends of every mother or father who has or ever will be told that their baby has no heartbeat or that nothing more can be done. The mother of three daughters, Monica lives in the Chicago area with her husband, children, and a rat terrier named Sami. For more information, please visit or e-mail Monica at Monica appeared on the radio show “Healing the Grieving Heart” discussing ”Miscarriage and Infant Loss.” To hear Monica being interviewed on this show by Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley, go to the following link:

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