Grieving and Celebrating On Mother's Day


Mother's day is always...interesting. It's never been what I saw on television. From day one. My first mother's day was HARD. Because I knew deep down in my bones that it would be my last with Mami even though her treatments had just begun. It was also difficult because of the issues bubbling up in my relationship. I distinctly remember spending this day with Mami and having as good a time as I could muster but feeling deeply hurt and alone on the inside. It seems that would set the standard for holidays future. Some days are better than others. Today, I have been feeling softer around the edges. At least softer than I expected. I'm always surprised at the depth and power of grief even as the years go by. At how lettuce can send me down memory lane faster than the speed of light.

In the same way that I'm still surprised that Mother's Day Message to Heaven jumps to the top of searches during this month (I really need to work on 2018 graphics for that post).

There are always bittersweet moments. And thus, Mother's Day becomes a microcosm of every day we live. With its ups and downs. Its jubilance and heaviness, all wrapped up into one.

The Frog Princess is with her dad and her Nana. In a short time, I'll open up my arms and smile in my heart because she will be here with me. But in the meantime, I get to sit with my grief and the joy that death brings. Sounds weird, right? Oh but there is joy, dear reader. And I cannot explain it at this point other than to say that loving and being loved and having the honor of sitting with someone as they take their last breath is joy-filling and grief-filling all at once.

And so, here are some words for my beloved Mami who, even as I type this peers over my shoulder to see what I am writing, pride worn in her smile as it always did when breathed the same air I did.

Elena means light. You are the constant light in my life, even now. The beam that guides me through every situation I find myself in. The one who reminds me of her missteps so I can right my own.

Even with all that went on in your life, you didn't falter from living. You taught me how to love. How to hustle and in death, you teach me how to heal. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Thank you for turning me into the cycle breaker, the collector of firsts, and the giver. I'm honing all these things in order for me to be the lighthouse for my Elena in the same way that you were for me.

Mother-daughter relationships are hard. I won't police your feelings or demand you love on yours today simply because I don't have mine. We all learn something from our mothers, no matter what that relationship looks like. Our job is to take what we learned, good or bad, and turn it into magic within ourselves so that we can be a bit more whole than they were and carry that wholeness into the world.

It's okay to not feel undying love for the woman who birthed you. Okay to feel indifferent. Okay to feel a love that makes your heart ache. Okay to feel a hole where that love should be. Just as there's no right way to mother, there's no right way for you to feel at this point. Only you get to decide that. And don't let anyone tell you any different.

Celebrate where you are, hold space where you need it. Happy Mother's Day wherever you and yours might be.

5 Prince Quotes That Give You Life

I was leaving an in-person meeting and jumping on a conference call meeting when someone casually mentioned a rumor. I jumped on the book of faces and asked folks to update me as I'd been away from the interwebs for a few hours. As more and more folks shared the same information, I was still in disbelief and put my disbelief out there for the world to see.

Of course, we now know it is true. I spent the day kinda numb. Focusing on work and calls and the to do list. Cracking jokes about how good this man would look and how he'd give us the judgmental look even from the casket. You know the one I'm talmbout.



My eyes got misty as I drove home with the Frog Princess. Fully understanding that I don't expose her enough to "my music" and "the good ol' days". And of course, as is often the case, something finally broke me.

Denene's post in remembrance of him is what finally did it. She saw him in Atlanta last week. 


It was my first time. It was #Prince's last. No one knew this when he appeared on the Fox Theater stage in Atlanta, his huge Afro magnified, larger than life, on the stage screen. There was a splash of purple. And then there was Prince, bowing and waving and then strutting with his bedazzled walking stick to the piano and the microphone, the only accompaniments to his lush voice. He opened with a song with which we weren't familiar--"When Will We Be Paid," a powerful song about Black struggle, recorded in 1970 by The Staple Singers. Nick and I listened, gape-jawed: Prince, this high-heeled wonder, flamboyant, unapologetically sexual, deliciously mischievous, was demanding reparations. With one hand on the piano keys, the other balled into a fist raised in the air. In this audience of a multitude of races, cultures, backgrounds, sexualities, genders, Prince was making it plain: He is Black as hell. We were here for it. And then, for the next 90 minutes, Prince led us in a meditation of a mesmerizing mix of incredible music: sensuous, sultry, thoughtful, ass-moving hits that struck deep down to the heart. To the soul. That was his way. Three encores later, he gave us what we waited breathlessly for: a slow, beautiful, acoustic version of "Purple Rain." Of course, we sang along with him. From the gut. The entire room, pulsing with emotion for this man, this icon, whose art is forever etched on our hearts. This was my first. This was his last. Unbelievable. Unbelievably grateful. Thank you, Prince, for your art. For your courage. For your diamonds and your pearls. For your love. #Prince4Ever ????

A photo posted by Denene Millner (@mybrownbaby) on

Prince was the one guy on my bucket list. I wanted to see him in concert and I told myself that yes, y'all, I'd be that groupie. Lawd! He could have all the panties in the drawer and then some! 

But words, y'all. The power of the words. 

I am a lover of words. But when someone can use them in a way to torture your soul, kill it, resuscitate it and take it back one more time?! That's transcendent. When someone can play a riff on his guitar that will make your eyeballs instantaneously produce tears while your heart beats as if the rhythm was one? That's a religious experience. And when someone can wear the hell out of whatever it is that he decided would suit his mood or condition and give absolutely zero fux about you or your petty threads? That's ethereal.

That. Is. Prince.

So it's no wonder that there are words from songs that stick out (every time I think about dropping "dearly beloved" into this post, my eyeballs start leaking), pierce our souls, transport us in one keynote to a time and place and bring back all of the emotions of the moment. And of course, Prince left us with lyrics but here are some of my favorite quotes.

Every day I feel is a blessing from God. And I consider it a new beginning. Yeah, everything is beautiful.

Every day I feel is a blessing from God. And I consider it a new beginning. Yeah, everything is beautiful. Prince quotes that give you life.

Despite everything, no one can dictate who you are to other people.

Prince quotes that give you life. Despite everything, no one can dictate who you are to other people.

They say money won't buy you happiness. But it'll pay for the search.

Prince quotes that give you life. They say money won't buy you happiness. But it'll pay for the search.


There are no accidents. And if there are, it's up to us to look at them as something else. And that bravery is what creates new flowers.

Prince quotes that give you life. There are no accidents. And if there are, it's up to us to look at them as something else. And that bravery is what creates new flowers.


A strong spirit transcends rules.

Prince quotes that give you life. A strong spirit transcends rules.

I'd tell you to rest but we all know better. Rock In Peace, beautiful one. Play on playa. Play on in heaven.

On Grief: Five Years Later

I'm slightly pissed off. Mami's anniversary came and went and while I felt soft around the edges, vulnerable and slightly off balance, I managed to keep it together. The wave never hit and I thought "hey, maybe this year it won't."

Twenty fucking days later it does.

Photograph did it. I listen to nothing but Christian music while in the car. Except that lately, I've been wanting to give the kid a feel of something else and have started flipping stations.

Related Post: Denial or Deliverance

Ed Sheeran's song caught me from the first notes on the guitar. I've always loved the song. Tonight, the Frog Princess heard me humming it and asked what I was singing. I pulled up YouTube and saw the video for the very first time. Yeah...that was a bad move. Scenes from childhood. A baby. Through time and space. Captured in home videos.

She told me it was sad. When I asked her what was sad about it, she said that the part where they talked about kissing made her think of me and how I might  not be with her all the time. The cracking began then.

I put her to bed. I worked,  I chatted with one of my girls. I perused my editorial calendar and then something told me to listen one more time. Two. Three...

So you can keep me Inside the pocket of your ripped jeans Holding me closer 'til our eyes meet You won't ever be alone

Then it happened. The cracking so familiar to those of us that have had the great fortune to have loved well.

You can fit me Inside the necklace you got when you were sixteen Next to your heartbeat where I should be Keep it deep within your soul

It took 20 days for the swell of tears bubble up. It's always there. Don't get me wrong. It's always around. But they'd gone on strike all these days. Refusing to appear thus giving me a false sense of security.

Mami & MeWe keep this love in a photograph We made these memories for ourselves Where our eyes are never closing Hearts are never broken And time's forever frozen still

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And they won't stop. Because this is grief. The words are lovely in so many ways. Probably about a long lost love. But so applicable to all the love in the world.


Loving can heal, loving can mend your soul And it's the only thing that I know, know I swear it will get easier, Remember that with every piece of you Hm, and it's the only thing we take with us when we die

Maybe it was the "photograph" part. That had me looking back at this picture:


And this one...

Mami & Me 6

And this one as well...

Mami & Me 4

When I'm away, I will remember how you kissed me Under the lamppost back on Sixth street Hearing you whisper through the phone, "Wait for me to come home."

My child has been heard saying that she can't wait to see her abuela in heaven. I wish I could bring her abuela down for just one day. Well, maybe one day for her and one day for me. I want the photographs. The memories. The solidarity I felt. The one that told me what I saw was what I got. The words. The no nonsense, no bullshit type of real. The real that has given me the uncanny ability to see through the lack of authenticity in so many (and the ones that she clearly pointed out when she thought I wasn't on my game). Without hate. Without anger. Just as a matter-of-fact. I miss that.

The advice. The arguing our points, each one determined that we were correct. I miss the love. Because no one ABSOFUCKINGLUTELY no one will ever love me like she did. 

Five years later the verdict is heart is still broken and my eyes are very capable of offering tears in place of the words that will not pour out of it. I miss her. And no amount of time will ever change that.


Joyful Grief


Grief has taught me to allow myself time and space. But I don't always listen. Mami & Me 3When I don't, it is made on my behalf and memories flood my soul and I see images through the filter of time and love...5 years ago, I was waiting on my sister to come home as I counted my mother's breaths. I was still nursing and I recall Elena trying to play her tapping game with Mami. Except she didn't yell in the mock pain that made Elena giggle. I remember Robiaun on the phone asking me to give her a kiss on her behalf. I remember putting my head on my father's lap and closing my eyes.

Related Post: Denial or Deliverance

I recall time slowed down as we attempted to pack as much of it as we could hold in our hands.

I remember the feel of her hand inside my own. The great shoulder pain I experienced afterward and realizing I'd spent most of the night propped up on my elbow lying next to her.

Most of all, I remember feeling incredibly blessed and humbled to have spent a night in vigil.

Oh and who remembers the delirious party planning Mami was doing?! That was the best!

Related Post: The Eulogy I Never Gave

If you don't know that there is a certain joy in death, come sit by me and I'll tell you a story. Joy is tied to dignity, to peace and to love. In the end, it is all that we have and all that we take.

If you don't know that there is a certain joy in death, come sit by me and I'll tell you a story. Joy is tied to dignity, to peace and to love. In the end, it is all that we have and all that we take. - Sili


Related Book: Not So Merry & Bright: 10 Tips On How To Cope With Grief During the Holidays

Not So Merry & Bright: Grief During the Holidays

Tiny pumpkin breads. That was my trigger this week. I baked a batch of them and it took me down memory lane. I recall my girlfriend bringing a little loaf of pumpkin bread to my mom and I on that last "good" stay at the hospital. She loved it, as did I. It was December. The stay where they told us the tumor had started growing again and there was nothing that could be done. The time when I had to hold my Mami's hand and tell her there was nothing that could be done. My dad couldn't even come into the room because he was so broken up. Because I'd always managed her care, the doctors left it to me to break the news. How do you tell the woman who gave you life that she's losing hers?

The holidays hold extra heartache for me because it stands in dark contrast in my eyes. That last Christmas, unable to really spend the quality time I wanted to with her. And then all those other Christmases because this was her favorite time of the year. I'm up and down during the holidays.

In talking to friends and family that have experienced loss, they tell me the same thing. So, I try to hold space for them during this time. Because we always feel like we should cover up our emotions so that others can have a good time. Those conversations, that grief, is what led to this:


A little e-book that I hope will help those experiencing grief during the holidays and beyond as they walk with their loss. It is my prayer that we can all make it through the season appreciating, cherishing and understanding one another. In spite the pain we might experience because we're missing someone in our lives.

The book is called Not So Merry & Bright: 10 Tips On How to Cope with Grief During the Holidays and is now available. I hope it serves you.


What Dreams May Come: On Depression & Suicide

I tried my best to stay off social media this weekend. And off my email. The result? Lots of emails to go through and lots of news missed. Primarily the death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO. I have little words for this right now and will speak more of it later because in truth, all that's going to come out right now is something akin to why in the fuck can't we stop our babies from being killed?! Robin-Williams_Quote

But, Robin Williams caught my attention tonight. As I watched Jeopardy, I saw something on Facebook and didn't believe it. Then, they broke Jeopardy to break the news.


It caught my attention because he'd been dealing with depression. It caught my attention because I've been there. It caught my attention when I saw Tweets by Terrell Star and his admission of being suicidal. It caught my attention because I still remember that Suicide and Depression course taught by the incomparable Dr. Farkash. The course specifically taken to see if I could be found within the pages of the text.

Forget It!

I had almost forgotten. That day. So long ago. A young woman in her very early twenties. With zero coping skills for life and no one around to save her. With someone manipulating her emotions and pushing her further over the edge. I remember her. I no longer see her in the mirror. She's been absorbed in smiles and laughter. In prayers and healing. But tonight, I was forced to remember her. To acknowledge her. To honor her passing. That girl that thought of suicide.

I wrote about depression recently. And yes, my biggest fears were realized when someone I loved used that against me. But I won't stop talking about it.

Because I know so many of us deal with it. And by dealing with it I mean, fold it and tuck it away in our underwear drawer right behind the vibrator. Because BAYBEE! The stigma of depression is more embarrassing than anything else you can talk about. Vibrators included (not that I have any). At least in my community. Is it in yours?

I'm making a plea tonight. See, I know what depression can do. How it can isolate you and bring you into a depth of hopelessness that you can't even describe. I know how it feels. If you are feeling that too, reach out! Leave me a comment, email me, call the suicide helpline: 1-800-273-8255! I don't care who you reach out to but, reach out! Don't let the isolation eat away at you. Don't let the stigma silence you. And if you know someone, don't let the stigma paint you a picture of that person. Reach out. They need you and your understanding.

One of the most moving movies I've ever seen is What Dreams May Come. In the movie, Robin seeks answers after his wife kills herself. I can't help but think of that movie tonight. I send my thoughts and prayers to all of those that have had their loved ones taken due to suicide.

And to all of those that have had their loved ones taken by violence, tragedy and unspeakable atrocities which I know we try to gloss over every day.

I recall Robin in Inside the Actors Studio:

Host: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Robin Williams: There's seating near the front. The concert begins at 5, there will be Mozart, Elvis and one of your choosing.  Or just to hear there's laughter... to hear God go "Two Jews walk into a bar".

I know God has jokes even better than yours. Here's hoping you're laughing your ass off, Robin. Just like we have all these years thanks to you.


Broken On Mother's Day

One day shouldn't mean so much no matter how much society wants it to. It shouldn't. At least not for me.

Broken Heart

My first mother's day was disastrous and I secretly feel set the tone for the rest of my life. I was preoccupied with my mother's illness having been diagnosed and operated on just weeks prior. My relationship was falling apart and I had no one that I could share some of my fears with. When I did voice them, they were brushed away and I was left on my own on a day that I had thought would be a celebration of this new life that brought me so much joy.

That day was pretty unbelievable. I was full of sorrow and though I tried to enjoy what would be my last mother's day with my Mami, it was hard to see past the outcome of all the situations to truly enjoy it. No one was talking about the cancer ravaging my mother's body. About the radiation. About what was to come.

Dealing with the realization that there were about to be 2 major losses in my life was not easy. This week as I've dealt with having to meet my father's new wife, my own grief that resurfaces during holidays and the bubbling up of some deep realizations as to my relationships both big and small, the emotions of that day have inevitably peeked around the corner of the past.

I have tried to be semi-normal this week (normal has never really been my thing). I have attempted to go about business as usual while on an emotional rollercoaster that rivals any that could be found in Six Flags.

But the truth is that I am heartbroken. I am sad and more importantly, I'm not necessarily in the mood to be what is expected of me. I am tired of attempting to behave as the societal norm would like because ultimately that does me no good.

The Sili in the mirror is raw and has just had a tablespoon of salt sprinkled in for good measure. Though I have schoolwork to handle and follow ups to perform, I want nothing more that to crawl under the covers, get hugs and kisses from my girl and let the day run itself out.

I am sure I will return to normal in a couple of days but for now, I am in my shell and only true love and true loyalty are being allowed in. Tomorrow I will wake up and find the blessings and the beauty of the day because, though I am in this state, I never fail to acknowledge all of the good that is in my life and all of the good that is sure to come.

But for right now, I am the first to admit that I am broken and currently searching for some human-sized glue stick...

A Mother's Wishlist


I am filled with shame and disappointment right now. At myself. At the person I have become. When did it happen, exactly? Was it while I was potty training? Or maybe it was all the nursing I did? Is this payback for that? MothersDay_Wishlist

I really don't know how to explain it. But this Mother's Day, I have something on my wishlist that I never thought I'd ask for...

That's a steam mop, y'all! A. STEAM. MOP. Who asks for that?! A MAMI, THAT'S WHO?! It wasn't until I uttered the words (with excitement, mind you): I want a steam mop! That I realized I was a mami.

Next thing you'll know I'll be dropping the kid off in rollers and a housecoat (PS: where does one buy housecoats?).

But Seriously, I Have Good Taste

I have other things on my list that I think make me cool. Certainly that BOMB-A yellow couch from IKEA tops my list. But that's totally a high end item and I'd get that only if I had a sugar daddy or if I'd manage to stop all this "trying to have my own business" craziness and continue my trophy wife job search. Here's my (kinda unfinished) wishlist:

  • Steam mop - I need this because as you know, my nose is very sensitive and sometimes Chico has accidents that I have to go on a search & rescue mission to find. The steam mop would make my OCD feel better when I clean. Also, it will prevent me from passing out every time I go on a sniffing expedition (how come dogs don't pass out when THEY go on sniffing missions?)
  • IKEA couch - it's yellow, it's trendy and modern and it BELONGS in my office. Also, here's a more detailed list of office things I need. By no means is it done but, I figure you guys can get creative with it
  • Wireless router - because the homebase needs to be upgraded lest I drop my signal in the middle of the night
  • A DSLR camera - because my brother told me I had to step up my camera game. No idea which one I'm going to get. If you'd like to pick this up for me, I'll let you decide what you think is best
  • Junot Diaz's latest book for when I have time to read (which is never)
  • Stamps - Yes, I'm totally asking for stamps. Don't judge! I'm in need of around 600 stamps to complete my mailer
  • As a subset of stamps: lickers - I need someone to lick all these remaining envelopes closed!

I have other secret wishes. Like a massage. Maybe a spa day over at the Lake Buena Vista Resort. Time at the beach. All my bills paid for 6 months. And a Ford Escape (did I take it too far with that one?).

I'm up and down this Mother's Day as I suspect I'll be for a long time to come. With ridiculous emotional rollercoaster rides on top of the whole grief thing I'm supposed to pencil in to my calendar, I don't know what I will feel like tomorrow or Sunday. And thus my wishlist changes and I go from attempting to be funny with this crazy list to wanting nothing but to pull the covers over my head Sunday morning and having pizza delivered under there.

Small steps, right? That's what I keep telling myself. I think I'll keep trying to come up with ridiculous items to add to my wishlist. Keep it light, is what I say! Till the heaviness gets to be too much to bear. And then? Well, call on a friend, of course!

Is Mother's Day difficult for you? If so, how do you help yourself along?