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With advice from the Silva, Avila and Fito families

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The Inexplicable Logic of Surviving Grief:

A Guide

Compiled by Salvador Silva

With commentary from the Silva, Avila, and Fito families

Columbia University Press

Dear Reader,

Grief is a terrible and beautiful thing. The hurt means you loved someone, that you really loved someone. I am lucky enough to say I have really loved in my life, but I have also really lost.

I hope that through the commentary of my family who have helped me understand grief, you may understand this grief within yourself, as well.

Though we broke the book into the “seasons” of grief, know that working through your loss is not a logical, linear progression. One day, you may feel the need to isolate. Another, to be angry. Just keep on running the good race and maybe, just maybe, you will make it to a place of sunshine.

Thank you,


This Can’t Be Happening:

Disbelief & Denial

"I didn't want to think of losing her. It was too hard to believe. I wasn't ready. At one point, I believed the Mayo Clinic would take away her cancer. But I knew deep down that we needed to savor our moments together and make tortillas like we always had." -Sal

"When you don't want to talk about something because it hurts, that's OK. Say that. Whoever loves you will understand." -Sam 

"When you can't make it feel real, but you know it is, be patient with yourself. Allow yourself to be scared. Then take the positive actions you can. Find a way to commemorate your loved one--in a painting, in a letter, or with a day of baking their favorite cake." -Vicente

"Some nights, you're going to wake up at 3:14 a.m. and not be able to fall back asleep. Everything that is happening rushes toward you. And you just don't want to go there. Sleep will come, I promise. Think about all the good things about your family. The times you've laughed together. The times you've caught each other doing dumb things. Think good thoughts, and sleep will come." -Sal



Come On, Cruel World:


"I wanted to keep her so bad that I told God I needed her a lot more than He did. Little did I know she would be a part of me forever." -Sal

“Sometimes, nothing feels fair. You think, why me, why me? What is the logic behind this cruel world? I used to think ‘why did my mother have to die in a car crash. Why do car crashes even exist in this world?! Then you have to remind yourself to stop being such a drama queen.” -Sam

"Grief makes you wish yourself back to childhood. It gives you a greedy heart who would do anything to keep your loved one alive forever." -Sal


What If I had…


“You can’t live in regret. You deserve more and it’s not productive. Move on!” -Sam

“If you make a mistake, don’t live in it.” --Vicente Silva

“I still ask myself ‘what if’. ‘What if my mom hadn’t died?’ But a good friend reminded me that we shouldn’t play that game.”-Sam

“Any time you start to blame yourself, feelin’ guilty. Stop that shit. And put it in a journal. You gotta let yourself get those words out and on the page so they’re not eating away at your soul.” -Fito

"Don't feel guilty about who you were yesterday. You can't change that. But what you can change is who you are tomorrow. Work on that. You always have the choice." -Sal


Fine, I’ll #@!* the World:


“You’ll have times when you’re not ready to deal. You’re scared. And you are angry with the situation your circumstances have put you in. Being angry is a season of the grief, too. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling not-like-yourself.” -Sal

“If you’re angry, run. Swearing is an acceptable part of running, too.” -Sal

"I wanted to hit God because He was taking my Mima away. At the time, I was ashamed of my anger. The fact I had anger made me angrier. But it's part of the process." -Sal

“So you’re mad at the world. That’s ok. It’s where you are now, but it won’t be this way forever.” -Sam


Or maybe, I’ll Hide:

Depression and Isolation

“Life can be hard. I know; I have experienced hard. When I was little, I had only one pair of shoes. While swimming, I left my shoes on the beach. And when I returned. They were gone. Someone had stolen them. I walked to school for a week, barefoot. And that’s just the beginning of hardship. The key to dealing is to remember: Dejate querer. Let yourself be loved.”-Mima


“When my mother passed, I felt like I had to be strong for the whole family--for my sons and daughters, for my brothers and sisters, for my mother in memory, even. But suffering in silence doesn’t help you grieve. You have to let yourself lean on those who love you.” -Vicente

"I spent much of my life trying to handle it alone. I only got through it once I started leaning on my friends." -Fito

“You feel like you are just going through the motions. You feel lost. And you are convinced that going through the motions won’t work for you. But sometimes you have to make decisions whether you’re ready to make them or not. Keep going through the motions, keep trying to take positive actions. Then, after a while, you’ll see that you were able to run with life’s inexplicable logic.” -Sal

“Hiding doesn’t work. Not everyone is out to get you. Let those who love you, love you. You can start with a text to your loved ones sharing information about the one you lost.” -Fito

“You’re not alone. You’ve never been alone.” -Sal


Time to Let Go:

Acceptance and Hope

“Life has it’s seasons, and the season of letting go will always come, my child. Like the yellow leaves float gracefully from a tree, you too, will be able to let go.” -Mima

“The heart, yeah, sometimes I don’t get it. But stick by those who make you laugh and smile, by those who love you. That’s how the heart heals.” -Sal

“This is the day. Let the ashes go, send the final letter, sell the last piece of furniture. Allow yourself to be free.” -Sam

“Do things get back to normal? Yeah, things do.  You’ll find your old routines; you’ll get excited again about going to movies and cooking a new tamale recipe. But you’ll feel like something has changed within you. And that’s not a bad thing.” -Sal

“The night will seem dark at times. But there are always joys to remember, people to be grateful for, and laughter to be had. Sometimes, you must whistle in the dark.” -Vicente




She was the keystone to our family dynamics. It was at her house for holidays and Sunday tortilla making where we gathered. Though she has left our eyes, Mima is always in our hearts. We remember her laughter and wise words, which now live on in this collection.


Just like all of you, I am a survivor. I lost my mother to a drug overdose when I was 17. She was my mom, despite her problems; I felt like I failed her. But I learned how to let myself be loved, and now coping is much easier.  While it can still be hard at times, I am grateful every day for my amazing “adopted” family and friends. Now, I spend much of my time writing spoken word poetry as a part of the MFA program at University of Arizona.

Sam Avila

I lost my mother around the same time as our friend, Fito. Even though our relationship was dysfunctional, to say the least, the grief struck hard. But sometimes, you just owe it to yourself to do what needs to be done, to say what needs to be said. You are strong. Never forget that.

Vicente Silva

This year has been hard. From losing my beloved mother, to supporting my son's friends, who I consider my children, through their losses. We have all learned a lot to say the least. But, always, we have joys to be thankful for and laughter to relish. Though he is not a part of this collection, I would like to thank my partner, Marcos, for his constant support in our newly rekindled love.

Sal  (Salvador)  Silva

Haven’t I said enough about myself already? Well, I guess I’ll add that I lost my mom when I was three. And then my senior year of high school I lost my Mima (yes the one who we quote in this book!). It has been a journey, but a helpful one. Perhaps I can say, yes Mima, I am finally a man, now. Thank you to all of those who made this piece possible, and of course, thank you to our readers!