(Originally published in Anthology One, Drexel University Writers Room, 2015.)

First, pretend. Keep your mind closed to reality, but open to all whimsy.

Distractions are key.

Be sure to not acknowledge the wilted flower lying in front of you as your mother, with tubes and wires dangling from her body like a marionette who will never dance again.

Tell yourself this was your fault. All those times as a child, when you created nightmarish daydreams about life without her, were leading up to this.

Next, cry. For the first time in your life open up to your father, but be prepared for him to swat you away like a fly, like you are nothing, like you look like her.

After all the roses are thrown, and she is planted in the earth, move out of your childhood home. Your family, now all men (besides yourself), will be of no help to your pain. You are still so young, and she is gone. There is no one left who believes in you as a writer. Not even yourself.

Begin taking long walks through the ruins of New York City. Search for the place she was born, and find that it is no longer standing.

Go to therapy. Use all the drugs and one-night-stands you need to fill the bottomless void, but make sure that you show up every week and do the work in the deepest parts of your gut.

Now, fall in love with the idea of never feeling this grief again, of overcoming it completely, and let that love break your heart for the rest of your life.

Start writing again for the first time in years. Sit on your fire escape, beneath the burning liquor store sign, and plot the future. Dream all the things you know she believed you could be, and then be them.

Under no circumstance listen to your demeaning second voice, the eponymous scoundrel who most often takes form as your father. Smother it with forward motion.

Comfort a friend who loses a mother. The mother, with your exact first and middle namesake and birthday, died on the same day your own mother died. In learning this, walk to the shore and understand there are unexplainable and amazing things that are bigger than you, that are floating you to the place you are meant to be.

Here, you find progress.

Still, you wish you did things differently.

Later, you will see your path for it’s own perfections and your way without her.

But for now, just write it down.

Cynthia Schemmer