Saturday, October 11, 2014

An Open Letter to Melissa Rivers

Dear Melissa,

It’s been over a month since your mom passed away, and I still miss her. I miss watching celebrity guests appear on Fashion Police, the same ones Joan had just mercilessly teased a week earlier, now sitting next to her trying to catch their breath from laughing so hard. I miss watching guests coming out of her closet on In Bed with Joan, getting cozy and sharing life stories on her floral comforter. Most of all, I miss watching the two of you bickering and mocking one another, supporting each other and just plain driving each other crazy, on Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best.  Her fierce loyalty and devotion to you and your son was apparent in every scene. And watching your mom drive you crazy felt like home to me.

We’ve never met, but you and your mom have served as inspirations to me. Your mom never minced words about the painful things she had been through in her lifetime. But she survived. And she not only survived, she lived. Through it all, she was unfalteringly unapologetic, honest and real.

About one year ago, I lost my mom suddenly too. My mom was a little like your mom. She never appeared on Carson, never hosted her own show, and never even had the opportunity to get into bed with Ray J. But like your mom, she used humor to battle the difficult times in her life. My mom’s greatest life lesson to me was to laugh in the face of pain. She wasn’t always great at following her own advice, but she always got me to laugh at my own mishegas. And I think that at the core of your mom’s humor, and what made everyone love her so damn much, was that she made fun of herself more than anyone else. As Joan once said, “Never be afraid to laugh at yourself, after all, you could be missing out on the joke of the century”.

When you lose a parent, you want the whole world to stop and acknowledge it. And when Joan Rivers passed away, it felt like the whole world did stop for a moment. Your mom was a comedic treasure. A groundbreaking legend. But she was also a walking reminder to everyone who has gone through unrelenting hardships that you need to just keep going. For your family, your friends, your colleagues. For yourself.

Melissa, you are also an inspiration. I loved seeing you on television a couple of weeks ago honoring your mother on Fashion Police. Before I lost my own mom, I probably would have assumed that everyone needs to stay in bed crying for months, waiting for time to heal them and then finally face the world once more. But that’s not really how it works, is it? There is no timetable for when you will finally heal from your grief. The scary truth that I must accept is that I probably never will. I think your mom would agree and that’s why she lived her life to the fullest and simply laughed alongside the pain. Laughed at the pain. As your mom said, “I think anyone who’s perfectly happy isn’t particularly funny.”

Grief is a tricky thing to manage. For me, almost a year after losing my mom, it is always there, lurking behind every moment of every day. But something I learned from your mom is that pain and laughter can co-exist. It’s ok to laugh. No apologies.

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