grief and silence

I miss the sounds of Rick.

I never thought of myself as an “auditory” person. I’ve always been more visual: I love the written word; I love looking at photographs and art. Yes, I’ve always put music on the top of my list of things that I enjoy, but I never realized until Rick died how much I enjoyed “the sounds” of living with him, the comfort of hearing him in another room, going about his tasks.

Our house – my life – is so quiet now, and one of the most difficult and unexpected things I’ve had to cope with in this grieving process is getting used to the quiet, the deafening quiet.

As most couples do, Rick and I often shared odd little details about our lives, our histories, our likes and dislikes. Once, when we were lying in each others arms during one of our favorite Saturday afternoon naps, just chatting about nothing, he told me that as a boy, he used to find comfort listening to his mother talk on the phone in the other room. He said it was soothing to listen to her voice drone on as he lay on his bed reading.

I understood that, and can still conjure up memories of a summer Sunday afternoon as a young girl, up in my bedroom, listening to the background noise of the baseball game on the TV in the living room below. I could hear my dad clatter and clang pans as he cooked our Sunday afternoon dinner (chicken and “stuffings,” as we called them). I recall the sounds of the muted conversations of my mom and dad as they chatted below.

Those were comforting sounds from my youth, but until Rick talked about his, I had never thought to give voice to those elusive memories. He had often expressed his enjoyment at listening to a storm outside our bedroom window, or to the sounds of summer as he lay in bed reading a book, or lay down for a nap – people mowing lawns, kids playing, cars driving by – but again, I hadn’t realized how much I loved those comforting sounds, as well.

Rick was a writer – and I always enjoyed the poetic way he had of describing his childhood memories – or just about anything from his past. He’d obviously paid attention to every detail of his surroundings, and his vivid descriptions brought his memories to life. And, most often, he recounted those stories by describing the sounds, as well as the scenes.

And now that he’s gone, I realize that two decades of “his noises” in our home were very much a part of my life. The absence of those sounds can strike me with agony when I least expect it. So, I’ve come to realize that grieving also encompasses coming to terms with the auditory losses. Not only can love songs, and old photos, and the sight of articles of his clothing or other items he owned trigger grief, the “sounds of silence” in our home can, as well.

Rick was a huge, loud, viable presence in our home, and living with him was not a quiet life.

Sunday mornings, I often awoke to hearing him rattling pots and pans as my father used to, preparing something for the slow cooker, or starting our breakfast. Sunday afternoons, hearing the French door to the yard slam over and over throughout the day, as he went in and out, working on a project in the yard. The lawn mower, the Paul Simon music, the rapid typing as his large fingers clattered over a keyboard in a remarkably fast pace for a “hunt and peck” typist, were all typical daily sounds that are missing from my life now.

I miss the groans he emitted as he arose from his chair or sat down again – or as he loudly clomped up the basement stairs after getting a can of something from the larder. I miss hearing the deep timber of his voice as he called the cat “Dumbhead” when she sat staring into the yard after he’d opened the door for her to go outside for the umpteenth time that day. I miss him calling out for me to find something he was looking for (that was usually in a very obvious place). I miss the sound of him singing along to his favorite songs while he played air guitar, or swearing when something didn’t work correctly on his computer, or mumbling to himself as he tried to fix something. I miss the sound of him banging cupboard doors and dropping things. And – most of all – I miss the sound of him snoring softly next to me in bed at night.

I miss the sounds of life – our life.

Oh, I’m getting used to it, as I am to just about everything that has changed since his death. In the first months after he died, I used to avoid being home most evenings because the silence was so awful, but, after ten months of enduring his absence, I can cope with coming home to the empty house. Fridays working at home, Saturdays and Sundays in the quiet quiet house were severely depressing, but now, it’s just the way it is.

But some afternoons, like today, the silence is palpable, and I’ll sit here in the quiet remembering with fondness how noisy my life with Rick used to be. I’ll close my eyes and search for those auditory memories. I’ll pretend to myself that he’s still in his office typing away, or outside puttering around. And, if I try hard enough, I’ll hear him again – my loud, boisterous, larger-than-life man – and life will be back to normal.


On August 13, 2017, I lost the love of my life. Rick Palmer and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary one month before he died at age 63 of complications from treatments for small cell lung cancer. He was my partner and soulmate, the love I had been looking for and finally found at age 40.

Rick was a talented writer and web designer and, in 2002, we began our own web and print design business. We worked together building the business and enjoyed traveling, writing, and playing together. Our dream was to spend our golden years together doing more of the same, but in the ten months from diagnosis to death, that dream shattered.

After Rick’s death, I quickly realized that the enormity of his loss was too much for me to handle on my own, so I began grief therapy. I also began writing through my grief in a journal of feelings, thoughts, memories, and poetry. As I navigate my new life alone, I share my journey and my efforts towards creating my “new normal” on my personal blog: The Writing Widow. I’m also on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

I recently published two books about my grief journey: my poetry book, I Wanted to Grow Old With You: A Widow's First Year of Grief in Poetry, and compilation of my blog posts A Widow's Words: Grief, Reflection, Prose, and Poetry - The First Year." Both books are available in print and Kindle versions on