Amy Cohen, author of the memoir “The Late Bloomer’s Revolution” discusses the loss of her mother and shares her thoughts on coping with loss.
Amy Cohen, author of "The Late Bloomer's Revolution"
How Are You Coping With The Loss of a Loved One?
Are you coping with the loss of your mother or father? A grandparent or dear friend? Write and tell us how you are coping with such difficult losses and what words of comfort have helped you endure.
Commitment: Your mother sounded like a truly loving, brilliant woman. How did the death of your mother impact you? What words of comfort and advice do you have for others out there who may have also recently lost their mother? What got you through this?
Amy Cohen: Thank you so much for the lovely words about my mother. I can’t even begin to tell you how much they mean to me.
It’s been so gratifying to introduce her to the world and have people say how much they adore her, because when you lose someone you love, the scariest feeling is that they’ll be forgotten. So again, thank you.
First, I would tell people who’ve lost their mothers how sorry I am.
At times, the pain can be excruciating and unrelenting and it’s so easy to feel utterly and completely alone. So here’s my advice – from someone, who, by the way, fell apart, acted out, couldn’t stop crying once in a crowded bar, ended up getting an eight month facial rash from all the pent-up grief. Trust me, I went through it all.
1. Be nicer and more generous to yourself than you ever thought possible. Whatever makes you feel better – massages, exercising, pizza, that fabulous sweater, a facial -- do it. Also, you might need to figure out what makes you feel better and that’s okay too. Give yourself time. Every year on the anniversary of my Mom’s death, I get myself a little something nice.
2. Let everything and I mean, EVERYTHING, out. Anger, tears, happy memories, express it, because if you don’t, it’s just going to accumulate until you explode (as I did in heaping sobs – on a date– in the crowded bar.) If you’re a crier – cry. It’s so easy to think you shouldn’t cry all the time, but I think of crying as emotionally sweating, a healthy way to release emotional toxins.
3. All grief is different. For some people, grief begins when you lose the person you used to know. For me, as my Mom stopped recognizing who I was, six months before she died, that’s when the real grieving began.
4. Remember that the amount of time you grieve doesn’t equal how much you loved the person. It can be so hard to start living and enjoying again, but joy can be just as much of a tribute to the person you love.
Commitment: It was interesting to read about the trips around the world that you and your Mom took. She was obviously a very supportive, fun-loving mother.
For mothers out there who are reading this interview, what lessons could they learn from your mother about raising children? What did you learn from your mother about life and relationships that you carry with you each day?
Amy: Oh, my gosh, my poor mother. She was very good at believing, no matter how many times I shaved half my head or wore a large African headdress to go clubbing, that I would eventually find myself.
She was also very good at celebrating what no one else did -- for example, when no one picked me in gym class for dodge ball, she’d say, “but you’re an artist!” And when my art teacher didn’t think I was very good, she’d say, “what does she know?” Now I’ve become such a big cheerleader – for my friends, for the hundreds of people who’ve written me letters telling me their stories – it is one of my favorite roles in life. I just adore it.
Commitment: When your mother was dying from an inoperable brain tumor, she advised you to welcome whomever your father became involved with. This was extremely kind and brave of her. How did her request impact you?
Amy: Again, how lucky am I to have had a mother like that? It freed me from feeling like I had to choose between my loyalty to my mother and some new woman. My whole family adores my Dad’s girlfriend, Beverly (Beatrice in the book), but it helped so much that I felt as if by embracing her immediately and making her feel truly welcome, I was doing exactly as my mother wished.
Commitment: I loved reading this book. It was funny, thoughtful, heart breaking at times. You did a wonderful job of sharing your most intimate losses and also triumphs with the reader. My first question is, how were you able to endure so many difficult break-ups along with the loss of your mother?
Your book is not a story of a victim, but the story of a woman who somehow finds herself and triumphs despite many disappointing romantic relationships and the early death of her beloved mother to cancer. What enabled you not to be a victim and to somehow build an interesting, fulfilling life despite these hurts?
Amy: Well, first off, let me say thank you so much. I’m so thrilled you liked the book. I love hearing that! As for not being a victim, I love hearing that too. I always remind myself, “you can mourn the life you wanted or live the life you have.” And that’s exactly what I try to do everyday.
Commitment: You were a writer/producer on "Caroline in the City" and "Spin City" two great shows. Did you enjoy this work? Can you tell us about some of your experiences working on these shows.
Amy: I did. It was hard because on Spin City, my Mom got sick six weeks after I started working on the show, so I was a basket case almost from day one. But I feel really lucky to have worked there, because I was forced to come in every day and remember what was funny about the world.
Commitment: You write a lot in this book about identity--wanting to feel you are worth something and looking for validation. You wrote, "Now I'd lost everything that I thought made me who I was, and what was I left with? I had no idea." How have you come to terms with your identity?
Amy: Identity is such a tricky issue, because I think many of us don’t really understand what that means. I’d always identified myself according to outside things – I was Josh’s girlfriend; a TV writer; my mom’s daughter – and when I lost all those things within one year, I felt like nothing. Bagel. A zero.
It was so much easier to define myself by outside things than look at the real issue, which was, I had so little confidence in myself and truthfully, had no real idea who I was or even who I wanted to be.
So, again, Late Bloomer that I am, I started figuring that out.
I was in therapy at the time and I’d figure out three things at a time I wanted to work on. It seemed more manageable to figure out three at a time. For example, “this year I want to get better at telling people what I really think” or “this year I want to try not to be so critical of myself about work (I’m a ruthless re-writer and reviser).”
I came into my own much later than I would have liked, but I feel so lucky to have figured it out at all, because I know so many women – who go through divorce, whose kids go to college, who lose jobs – go through the same thing. That whole process of wondering, “Who am I? Really?” But I’m living proof it’s never too late to find out.
Commitment: What goals to you have for the next few years, and what hopes do you have for the future?
Amy: I know I might sound like some crunchy girl selling wheat free, dairy free muffins in hemp tote bags, but my biggest goal is to always stay open to the world so that I allow lots of wonderful surprises to come my way. That is truly the basis of every Late Bloomer’s Revolution.
About Amy Cohen: Amy Cohen was a writer/producer on the sitcoms Caroline in the City and Spin City, a dating columnist for the New York Observer, and the dating correspondent for cable TV's New York Central. She is the author of The Late Bloomer's Revolution, published in July 2007 by Hyperion Books. The book was on the New York Times Bestseller list and the movie rights have been sold to Sarah Jessica Parker (It’s so exciting, she can’t believe it either). She has been published in VOGUE, The New York Times, Grazia (U.K.), German Cosmopolitan, and Fitness magazine.
She is also a contributor to the forthcoming anthology, The Secret Currency of Love. She has appeared on The Today Show, The CBS morning show, and ABC news. She lives in New York City with her family, who still has a lot to say about everything. Visit her website at: Website: www.byamycohen.com or