When I was a kid, I watched the winter holidays shift for my family after my mother died.
And this year, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, I lost an uncle, and not being able to gather with family to mourn him because of COVID-19 restrictions has given me new questions about how to meaningfully honor his life without the usual traditions to direct my grief.
But as the poet Tracy K. Smith reminded me in an interview recently: “We all have our own language for what we’ve lived and what loss feels like.”
Smith, a former U.S. poet laureate and host of the podcast The Slowdown, frequently addresses themes of loss and memory in her work. Her collection of poetry Life on Mars won a Pulitzer Prize, and her memoir Ordinary Light is, in part, a recollection of her mother’s life and death.