Clare Saumell VanderWeele

word wrangler.

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This Is Why I Write

Robert Frost is famous for saying, “a poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness. It is never a thought to begin with.”

I’d argue that, at least for me, most writing begins this way.

My 9 year old self would probably disagree. At 9 I started writing a journal. Correction, a diary. As in, “Dear Diary, today I….…sat next to Simon at school… watched The Simpsons on TV… ate shepherd’s pie for dinner… It’s quite the page turner.

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Shutting the Door I Never Wanted to Open

We’ve all heard the cliché saying, when one door closes another door opens.

It’s optimism at its brightest, and when you’re in the depths of pain, these words almost always come from someone on the outside looking in.

I’m not trying to be callous; I’m generally an optimistic person, and I appreciate these words of hope. But at the same time, they feel a little…one-dimensional.


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Confessions of the World’s Worst Ballerina

I’m still not sure what prompted me to sign up for a ballet class.

I should probably mention that I’m not – and never have been – a dancer.

I can’t even reach my toes.

But it’s something I always wanted to try. Plus, I’ve been making a habit lately of embracing vulnerability. And somehow that includes making a fool out of myself in leggings in a room full of mirrors.

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On Death and Diets

For Lent this year, I gave up diets.

Yeah, I know. That sounds less like sacrifice and more like indulgence.

But here’s the thing: I was secretly obsessed with diets, bouncing on and off various forms of them for at least the last decade. For weeks at a time, I would restrict whole food groups, all under the guise of “healthy eating.”

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To My Son on His 3rd Birthday

You love trains, puzzles, and peanut butter. Your laugh starts deep in your belly and is the most infectious giggle I’ve ever heard. You don’t go a day without singing, even if it’s Jingle Bells in April.

You have my fair hair and your daddy’s round hands. And you still ask for kisses when you fall over.


I dread the day you realize I can’t protect you from the parts of life that are scary and dark. The day when kisses won’t be enough to heal. Continue reading

Why I’m Terrified of Dying

I didn’t expect to be afraid of dying. The terror crept up slowly like the dawn until all of a sudden it was blinding and hung over my day.

When I had planned out my life years ago, it was with youthful ignorance; predictable and familiar.

I did not expect to become a mother who, exhausted and emotional, reaches for cheerios for her kid’s dinner.

I did not expect to be searching for signs of my husband in the soft sleeping face of my son.

I did not expect to be offended by the rows of summer corn, growing tall as if nothing ever happened, as if time had not stopped.

I did not expect the dust to gather on his nightstand.

As the expectations collapsed, I was left with the bitter fear of my own death.
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Let’s Talk About Happiness

When the snow blankets my world, swallowing up the sound and reflecting all the light, I float between the bed sheets, eyes shut, lingering in those last few moments of half sleep.

My fingers entwine with freckled, callused hands; hands that walked me back up the aisle after the “till death do us part,” hands that cradled the tiny head of our newborn son. And for one fragile moment, hanging in the space between wake and sleep, death is defied.

Those last moments of slumber shed away and my eyes stray open. Next to me is the tiny creature I have birthed, not so tiny any more, nearly three years since I first called him by his name. His eyes flick open. He giggles. Need a cuddle, mama? Continue reading

What They Don’t Tell You About Grief

“Grief, as I read somewhere once, is a lazy Susan. One day it is heavy and underwater, and the next day it spins and stops at loud and rageful, and the next day at wounded keening, and the next day numbness, silence.”
~from Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

When I finally came to the realization that I couldn’t do this whole grief thing alone, no matter how stubborn I was, I began to read voraciously. I’m fairly sure I’ve read 99% of all books written about grief.
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The Lesson that Changed My Life

Did anyone else think they’d have life all figured out by the age of 27?

I did.

My shy, pimply 14-year old self thought 27 would be a magical age: I would be happily married, growing a family and publishing my first novel. We’d be living in our first house with a friendly dog and regular dinner parties. I probably would have figured out the meaning to life. Oh, and I’d have great hair (finally).

Instead, a year ago, I turned 27 and realized a harsh reality:

I was a widowed single mother to an only child.

I was burning myself out at work.

I owned a house that was far too big for 1.5 people.

I was sadly in need of finding my high-maintenance dog a new home.

And my hair was falling out with stress.

12 months later, I can honestly say the year of being 27 was the longest, most difficult year of my entire life.

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How Death Brings Us Together

I was utterly terrified to hit the publish button on my last post, The Day Death Ripped My World Apart. In fact, WordPress tells me I made 83 revisions to the post before making it public. Perhaps that’s a clue on just how anxious I was to share my words with the world.

But almost 600 Facebook shares and a couple thousand readers later, I am so glad I did it. The emails, messages, and Facebook comments I received were touching. It blew me away that something I had to say could have such an impact.

I truly hope that anyone facing their own loss will see that they’re not alone, that they can make it through these dark days.

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