• Jaime Pollard-Smith


I am a word person.

How and why we use them matters to me.

They weigh on my heart and mind.

I can retrace my past through phases of attachment to certain words. In the period directly following my mom’s death (a phrase that still sounds surreal), my word was OPEN. I was broken open, but I embraced that wide, expansive, emotional and physical openness. The opposite - closed and shut down -- terrified me.

Now, perhaps in line with the seasons, COZY has become my new word. Yes, I look for warmth as the weather turns colder, but more than that, I seek comfort.

In The Empath’s Survival Guide, Dr. Judith Orloff explains,“There is no membrane that separates us [empaths] from the world.” Grief and loss have further exposed my hyper-sensitive heart to cold, hard reality. A quest for cozy is my current line of defense.

Cozy represents my efforts at self care. I am learning to self-soothe at age 38. This was a gift I always wanted for my children as infants. “They need to learn to put themselves to sleep and self-soothe. I can’t always be there for them.” I read all the books, but now I understand the meaning of that statement.

I have spent hours sifting through thrift stores gathering homemade coziness - crocheted warmth, scarves and afghans for all my loved ones. I have hunkered down under heaping mounds of yarn while hugging a ceramic mug of steaming coffee. Evenings have been spent curled up in front of my fireplace. Mittens, robes, blankets and fleece engulf my body. Nothing is exposed to the outer world. I am protected yet softened.

Grief returns us to a childlike state. Scared. Uncertain. Unprepared. Alone.

When I left the hospital after giving birth to my first child, I felt panic upon arriving home. The nurses who had taken care of me and my brand new, tiny human were gone. Who would take care of me? Of us?

It would have to be me.

Losing my mom has felt like this shock on a larger scale. I can ask the same question. Who will take care of me? The silence holds my answer.

Oh, it will have to be me.

It is the ultimate sting. Not that I do not have a support system or incredible friends and family who lift me up on a daily basis, but this is the new normal. I will need to self-soothe.

Most likely, a month from now I will reflect on cozy as being “so last phase.” It will expire and be replaced by the next collection of letters. However, it seems to be an appropriate word during this holiday season. I prefer it to cold, isolated or exposed. For now, I will wrap up tight in layers of coziness and allow my crafted comfort to soothe and protect me as I make new memories with the ones I love.

A note of gratitude…

My life needs to serve as a perpetual thank you note. If there is one thing I have learned, it is that people are kind. I hope to offer in return even a fraction of the comfort I have received from friends and community members. I never intended to become an Alzheimer’s or grief writer, just as I didn’t want to be pigeon holed as a CrossFit or mommy blogger. For now, I can only write what I know. I aim to pay attention and tell about it. Seasons of life will change, but I want to thank you for reading and offering your patience and kindness. We are all in this together.

Wishing you a happy and cozy holiday season!

#Grief #empath #holidays

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