It Is Never Too Late To Grieve

Judy Lipson is the author of Celebration of Sisters: It Is Never Too Late To Grieve, winner of the Literary Titan’s 2021 Silver Award. The sole survivor of three sisters, Judy founded Celebration of Sisters, an annual ice-skating fundraiser to commemorate the lives and memories of her beloved sisters, Margie and Jane, to benefit Massachusetts General Hospital Eating Disorders Clinical and Research Program. Judy shared her experience of losing two sisters, the life forever changed, as the keynote speaker for The Bereaved Parents National USA 2023 Conference, presented at The Compassionate Friends National Conference, The Open to Hope Cable television, and as a ForGrief speaker. Judy’s passion for figure skating was rewarded by being the recipient of the 2020 Get Up Award by U.S. Figure Skating Association for her resilience on and off the ice. Learn more by visiting her website.

On a warm July day in 2019, I held onto the boards that surround the rink for balance and with trepidation stepped onto the ice. My feet and legs were a bit wobbly, but with a push of the narrow blade, I was off, flying with the breeze in my hair. It took a few laps to warm up, for my knees to soften, for my shoulders to relax, and to secure my footing. Every step a reminder of skating with my sisters, I envisioned Margie wearing her short skating dress, Jane in her short, blonde bob – my circle of comfort, my circling around the rink, circling to my sisters.

There had been a hiatus of ten days since I’d been on the ice, which was a substantial lack of practice for a sixty-two-year-old. I was definitely off my game. As I warmed up, my body shook and I was crying. Puzzled by the reaction, I stroked around until I got my legs back.

When I got home from skating, I settled down on the couch and thought about what had happened. Why did I have such an overwhelming emotional reaction on the ice?

Eight days prior, I was in New York celebrating the birth of my first grandchild, named after my beloved father, Benjamin. Holding the sleeping baby boy for the first time after a long procession of girls, I’d whispered, “Hi, Benji, it’s your Nini.” He opened his eyes and looked directly at me. I melted, an instant and forever love.

The first day I went back to work after Margie and Jane died, I’d experienced the same reaction that I’d had on the ice – shaking and crying. Back then, I’d felt devastating grief. But now, after Benji’s birth, I felt absolute, full-blown joy. Two ends of a spectrum.

The death of my sisters changed me. The birth of my Benji changed me.

It is never too late to grieve. Grief comes in waves.


When I went through the complicated grief program, I was forced to open boxes of memories, literally and figuratively. But something happened to me on the ice in July 2019 – a major shift in my grief. My sadness has transformed.

I broke out the box of photos again, ready to relive precious memories of my sisters. The more I poured over the scattered photos, letters and cards – repeatedly and with great gusto –  the more I clung to Margie and Jane, the prism reflecting so colorfully what it meant to be a sister. The connection remained, despite the horrible fights, darkest challenges, joyous celebrations, and the deepest love, out of which arose the knowledge that a sister would walk through fire and be there for you no matter what. Nothing and no one could replace that relationship. This is what I will always cling to.


Today, with all that I have lost, I am so grateful for all that I have gained. I am incredibly sad that my Margie and Jane are not here to share my beautiful new grandson – and any more grandchildren I might have – with me. But my heart is full with new family, extended family, a new precious life, a new beginning, and a new love.

The truth, revealed after several years of grief work, was that everything was so complex. Grief involved change, which was not easy for individuals in a situation where roles in the family, expectations and patterns of behavior had already been established. There were differences between my need for solitude and my being set aside by my family to manage my grief by myself. I had gone through life feeling alone, lost, lonely, and barely surviving in my grief. Change was not easy, but the support of those involved in the complicated grief study, my daughters, my friends – and ice skating – it was possible. The clear, smooth ice was my blank canvas.

Margie and Jane are now and forever at the forefront of my mind – the circles of comfort are complete. My sisters are gone, but they remain in my life, my legacy, my being. The lost memories haunted me for thirty years. Today, sweet memories come alive. We were fondly known as the three Lipson sisters, and we still are. Always three.

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