So many of us followed along as, for weeks, Amanda Kloots rallied an expanding community of people all over the world to pray for her husband, Broadway star Nick Cordero, who checked into the hospital for Covid symptoms in March 2020 and quickly spiraled into a health crisis. For 95 days in the earliest weeks of the pandemic — as we confronted our own panic and confusion in the face of shuttered schools and constantly changing guidelines, as we mourned our own losses big and small — we sang along with her. And when she told us that he was gone, we grieved along with this new mom and their baby boy.
If you look at Kloots’ Instagram on an average afternoon, you’ll see a mix of positive thoughts of the day, glamorous outfit selfies, and ridiculously adorable clips of her son Elvis, who will turn 2 this summer. But you’ll also see evidence of the sorrow that the fitness professional and former Radio City Rockette carries with her every day. “I try to lead a very honest life and to be honest with the community that follows me,” she says. Kloots was “not a stranger to sharing” before the tragedy that captured hearts and followers, and she continues to document her life online, with all that entails.
I've learned a lot about grief and loss that I did not ever expect to go through or know this early on in life.
Recently, she received backlash after sharing her vaccine selfie. When I asked her about this over the phone, wondering if she sees any hope for a country where we can’t all see eye to eye on something so basic as science, she was sanguine. “I think it's important when there are hard conversations to really listen — to not react right away, but to listen, to honor whoever is speaking, to listen to their story, to honor their truth,” she says. “I think that we're easy to rush towards judgment. And you have to remember to take a step back for a second ...” That’s easier said than done, she admits. “But in trying to make the world a better place, if we can try to remember those things, I think that's a step forward.”
Elvis was only 10 months old when his dad disappeared into the hospital that spring, and the single mom and sole breadwinner hasn’t missed a beat since — not just because of her optimistic nature or her faith, but because she can’t afford to. She recently accepted a gig as a full time co-host on The Talk ("To end this year with this news, this special gift is unbelievable,” she shared in December. “My angel in heaven is certainly looking out for us."). She’s working on a memoir, co-authored with her sister, with whom she also has a t-shirt line. And, in true buoyant Amanda Kloots fashion, she’s partnering with Instacart this month on their campaign honoring a year of essential workers by spotlighting stories from 59 Instacart shoppers (from each state and Canadian province in which they operate), and thanking each of them with a year of free groceries.
As she told me when we chatted last week, the initiative speaks to Kloots because, she says, it brings to light that “that innate kindness” in people. Below, Kloots on other silver linings, life with her “favorite little guy in the world,” and what she does when the negativity doesn’t deserve a listening ear.
Romper: By sharing your journey so openly, you've become this avatar of our grief in a way — one of many. How does it feel to know that you're helping other people process their own grief and loss?
AK: Well, thank you. I've learned a lot about grief and loss that I did not ever expect to go through or know this early on in life. It is such a process and ongoing roller coaster of emotions. Anybody who reaches out to me about how to go through it or how to support somebody through it, I'm happy to share what I have learned and what has helped me, because I know now how hard it is and how there really are no answers. Unfortunately, no book, no one can tell you the right formula. It's something you just have to go through.
How do you deal with criticism and mean comments; people who accuse you of oversharing? How do you filter that, as a human being?
AK: Yeah, well, there are a couple of ways. You have to look at it as this is one out of 100. It's easy to get locked into that one comment, but when you rephrase it in your mind, it helps. If they really just seem like a nasty person, or the comments are really nasty … I'll just block the person. Because I don't need that negative energy in my life. I don't lead a negative lifestyle. I don't believe in negative comments or negative energy. So I remove that right away from my life.
I don't see a GoFundMe nowadays without supporting it. I don't see somebody who's lost a family member without reaching out. When you are personally affected by something, it really it's a forever part of your heart.
Tell us about Elvis! What's he doing now that just really delights you?
AK: Oh gosh, everything. He's really, he's such a good little boy. He's such a little lover. He is so funny. He makes me laugh all the time. He's just obsessed with “trash trucks!” And pretty much all he talks about is “trash trucks!”, but he's starting to sing with me and play the piano with me. [I’m] just constantly trying to keep music and Nick in his life as much as possible. And I'm sure as he gets older, that'll be even more apparent as he understands everything that happened and who his dad was. But we just have a great time together. We really do. He's my best friend and my favorite little guy in the world.
Is there anything about being a mom that really surprised you compared to how you thought it would be?
AK: Well, I think when you become a mom, there's an innate feeling that comes over you right away of nothing else matters in this world. Providing for him, staying healthy for him, staying safe for him. That's what happened for me. Number one priority is him and I come second. And it wasn't necessarily a surprise, but it's just a feeling that instantly comes over you, which you don't really know until you have that person that can't survive without you.
You can read about it, or understand it in theory. And then when you're experiencing it, it's so vast.
In your t-shirt line, you have a “Hooray For Silver Linings” design. How do you balance that notion of silver linings against our collective — and your very personal — unfathomable loss and grief?
AK: I think through tragedy, you have to find these little silver linings. Big or small, they're there. You have to be willing to see them and be willing to accept them and look at them. Having the time that I had with my family this past year was a huge silver lining, just to name one of them. [And another one is] the innate kindness in people that was really shown this year. Honestly, that innate kindness in people is what we're seeing in these stories of these Instacart shoppers.
Are there any stories that particularly resonate with you?
AK: There's a beautiful story about a single mom in Boise, Idaho … Throughout this pandemic, she's been giving back to others by making weekly stops in a homeless shelter to bring food for those in need. I mean, what a beautiful — I mean, she's a single mom of six kids, and she is spending her time and energy to bring food to homeless people.
Sometimes you feel the most for people in need when you have experienced that need, or that state of being, yourself.
AK: Absolutely. I don't see a GoFundMe nowadays without supporting it. I don't see somebody who's lost a family member without reaching out. When you are personally affected by something, it really it's a forever part of your heart.
I love this idea of celebrating and giving thanks to grocery delivery workers — anyone who works in a grocery store has really been among our most essential heroes this whole pandemic. Who have been some other unsung heroes for you during this time?
AK: Well, my family has been a huge, huge saving grace to me. My sister flew from Paris to be with me over the holidays. My mom and dad stopped their lives and flew to be with me. And then, watching all the incredible doctors and nurses that took care of my husband and seeing what they've done and what they continue to do on a daily basis to protect people and save people's lives… it's incredible.
There seems to be a glimpse of a light at the end of this pandemic tunnel. How are you feeling about emerging into an opened up world?
AK: It's been great to see businesses come back and things feeling slightly more normal for sure. For me personally, it's going to be a slow roll out. We went from zero to 60 with this pandemic, going from living our lives to being completely quarantined. And for me, it won't be zero to 60 going back. It's going to be a slow going back. Honestly, I don't know if I'll ever go back to the grocery store. I mean, trying to grocery shop with a toddler is almost near impossible. So as a single mom, Instacart has saved my life in that way too.
You’ve almost only been a mom in these circumstances, so you have this whole new phase to look ahead to.
AK: Yeah. I got to be a mom for a short amount of time before the pandemic, but yeah. Elvis was still so much a baby that yes, we didn't really get into classes or schools… some might say it was really the perfect time to be a new parent. And I'll look at it that way.
To read stories of the essential workers of Instacart around the nation, and learn more about Beyond the Cart, visit instacart.com/beyondthecart.