Tag Archives: talking to the dead

Socially Inept

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, has been talking to dead people for so long that she forgot how to socialize with live ones. She flees back to her garden where even the flowers seem to be laughing at her.I’ve been talking to dead people for so long that I forgot how to socialize with live ones. So at the reception of the latest memorial (memorials being the highlight of my weeks lately), when two men started two separate conversations with me at the same time, I froze and panicked, and fled the scene as soon as I could, not even stopping for a piece of cake. And at home, I went back to weeding the garden, grumbling to my dead daughter about my lack of the simplest social graces, until I sensed some snarky late-blooming bud of a lily laughing at me.

Life’s too short to beat oneself up about being socially inept. Unfortunately, I can’t blame this on my losses and bereavement. So I’m gonna stick to the garden and Photoshop and the safety of my own kitchen for a while, where I can’t embarrass myself. Catch you next week after I’ve recovered. Cheers!


Continuing Bonds

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops her self-portrait over that of her daughter who died in an illustration of continuing bonds.I was ashamed to admit I still talk to my daughter who died. And I was afraid that if I let go of her, or allowed my grief to dissipate even an ounce, we would both be lost. Other than that, seven years out from Marika’s death, I thought I’d figured out this thing called grieving, and was finally, kinda pretty-much (most days) at peace with the way things had turned out. I was okay, except for hanging onto her and feeling like maybe I was defective because I wouldn’t let myself detach.

Then, last week, I learned about continuing bonds, a modern view of grief where therapists encourage preserving but redefining the relationship one has with a loved one who died. Even altered by the absence of the physical presence, connections with the deceased can still grow and continue for the lifetime of the one left behind. The continuing bonds theory contends that staying connected, rather than ending the relationship, helps the bereaved cope with loss and the ensuing changes in one’s life.

For years, to feel closer to Marika, I’ve been talking to her, letting her inspire and guide me, taking up some of the things she did, learning to love what she loved, wearing her scarves and tight jeans, and eating sushi every chance I get. She was a writer and blogger so I became a writer and blogger. She loved Facebook and photography. So…. This was the only way I could survive.

This week’s assignment in photography class was to turn the camera on our-selves to make conceptual self-portraits, ones that express some facet of personal identity. I answered the same questions I pose to my other subjects: What is it like to do what you do? What did you lose? What did you find?

What it’s like to keep on loving Marika’s ghost – It’s comforting. It’s like I’m carrying her, like I did before she was born. Like I always have her close by my side. It makes me stronger. Braver.

I lost the feeling that I had to hide my ongoing attachment to my daughter. I found that our once rocky relationship has matured and mellowed over the past seven years. Marika used to say, “Mom, you’re a wimp.” And now I hear, “Mom, you can do this.”


How do you cope with loss and the accompanying changes in your life? In what other ways can one stay connected to a loved one who died?

Relationships with Deceased Loved Ones Continue, Change, and Grow

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a collage of herself and her daughter's images to represent ongoing relationships with deceased loved ones.My daughter used to tell me “Go fall off a mountain, Mom” and “I hope you drown.” After she died, six years ago, I kept hearing her voice.

Rocky relationships lead to complicated grief. Bonds with your deceased loved one, complex or otherwise, continue unless you intentionally detach yourself. Current grief theories no longer demand an ending point or detachment from the deceased in order for an individual to be considered healthy and well adjusted. Counselors acknowledge that we find ways to redefine our relationships with loved ones after they die, often creating ongoing connections that can last our lifetime. These relationships can evolve and mature, especially if they were of an abusive or dysfunctional nature. They can make you into a stronger, more compassionate person. If you want to witness this, listen to Sherman Alexie’s audiobook version of his new memoir You Don’t have to Say You Love Me, produced by Hachette Audio, 2017. Renowned author, poet, and filmmaker, Alexie struggles to come to terms with his chaotic childhood on the Spokane Indian Reservation with the mother he simultaneously loved and hated.

There are many ways to maintain long term ties with loved ones after death. Some of the ones Alexie employs in his memoir are: talking to his mother, keeping her photos, remembering the ways she influenced his life, imagining her advice or opinions on current issues, living in a way that would make her proud, saving her quilts and other special belongings, allowing himself to experience her presence, doing things she liked to do, writing letters and poems to her, and researching her life to learn what made her the person she was. In the audiobook version, read with great passion by the author, Alexie sings, cries, reads his mother’s words aloud, and speaks for her. She becomes a part of him. “I have a better relationship with my mother – with the memory of my mother. A better relationship with her ghost,” he writes on the box that contains the CDs.

Long after my daughter died I kept talking to her. With time, her harsh words softened and I heard her begin to support me, cheering me on when I was scared, “Go for it, Mom. You can do this.” Each day I carry her with me to whatever new venture the day brings. I’m a bigger, better person because of her.


Do you talk to any ghosts? How do you feel about listening to audiobooks versus reading? Have you listened to or read any great memoirs lately?

My Daughter’s Voice

My Daughter's Voice - MarikaInMoon - Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops her daughter who died of leukemia at age 20, Marika Warden, in front of a full moon.“I have a message for you from your daughter,” I was told twice after my daughter died. “She wants you to know she’s all right,” was the gist of each message. But I was already engaged in conversation with her.

A year after Marika died the messages from family and friends were mixed: get over it; take all the time you need to grieve; let her go; you will never get over this. Talking to mothers whose children died decades ago, I learned that losing a child is not something one gets over. Ever.

“Stay with me,” I begged Marika as I walked her dog and looked up at a full moon. Nighttime in the driveway was the time and place I felt closest to her. Sometimes there was no moon. Sometimes I reached out to her in the middle of the day. After a while she followed me on my hikes in nearby gorges and I heard her voice whenever I passed a sushi stand in my travels.

I had talked to my daughter before she was even born. She would kick me and I’d watch my middle bulge and change shape. When she was a baby she echoed my words. As a toddler she asked a lot of questions. She boldly talked back to me as a young child. It wasn’t until she was a teenager trying to break free of me that our communications broke down. Then, when she was a young adult, during the almost-three years in the wilds of cancer, in and out of hospitals together, we hardly talked. But I’m talking to her now.

She kicks me. And almost daily I hear, “You can do this, mom,” and “Mom, get a life,” and – “Sushi?”