date night - coping

When Rick was alive, every Thursday night was date night.

Rick was not a big movie fan, but I’m a movie addict. As a testament to his love for me, Rick started going to the movies with me once a week. I liked to go to the movie before dinner, so we could discuss it over drinks and a meal, but my formerly non-moviegoing husband didn’t care either way. Most of our movies tended to be comedies, which were his favorite (especially if it starred Melissa McCarthy or Kate McKinnon), but we also saw lots of action flicks, like Marvel movies, if there were no comedies available that week. Rarely did we see a romance or chick flick, and we never, ever went to any kind of intensely sad drama. Rick liked to escape life when viewing a movie, to come out having laughed his butt off.

Each week, we alternated which of us got to pick the movie, but when it was my turn, I usually picked something I thought he would like, since we were doing the movie thing for me in the first place.

Because of Rick, I know the entire history of the Avengers, and lots and lots of stuff about Marvel comics, in general. I know to look for Stan Lee cameos in Marvel movies. I’ve seen every Avengers movie, plus DC Comics’ Superman and Batman movies. Rick had been an avid comics reader since he was a boy (and loved reading my son’s graphic novels as an adult). As a result, he had a wealth of knowledge that he was happy to impart to me during and after each flick. I have to admit that I’m kind of proud of my superhero knowledge.

A week after Rick died, we held a celebration of life for him at our local park. An old friend and former coworker, who I still met for lunch a couple times a year, approached me and said she noticed in my Facebook posts that Rick and I had gone on date night every Thursday. She asked if I’d like to continue my Thursday nights out with her sometime.

You know how when you first lose your husband, people always say, “If you ever need something, let me know”? But you really don’t know what you need? And as months go on and the fog lifts a little, most of those people are back to their own lives, and you really don’t want to bother them anyway – or still aren’t really sure of what you DO need? Well this friend approached me again a few months later with the same offer. And now, a couple times a month, Tina and I have movie/dinner night – usually on Thursdays, the same as my old date nights with Rick.

I realized early on that Tina fulfilled one of the needs my counselor, Vaiva, talks about. Vaiva says I will never be able to fill the void left by Rick, and I will never be able to replace him, but I can find support and help to fill some of the roles and activities he performed in my life. My friend Tina is my Thursday night movie/dinner date companion, and I always look forward to our outings.

But that brings me back to something that has also changed in my life since Rick’s death.

Years before I met Rick, when I was a 20-something single woman, I worked in retail. I worked most weekends, so my days off were mid-week. Nearly every Thursday afternoon I went to see a matinee – and sometimes two. That’s how much I love movies and always have. Many weeks, I went with my friend Betty from work, a woman who grew to be like a second mother to me, but that’s another story. However, on weeks when she was busy, I went by myself. After I became as single mother, while my son was still an infant, I took him with me (although he didn’t know it). As he grew, I took him to every children’s movie as soon as it was released, and, of course, I introduced him to the Star Wars series and other adventures. He’s a pretty big movie aficionado himself now, and he’s already passed his love of Star Wars on to my 3 ½ year old grandson.

But despite those few years of solo movie going in my twenties, most of my life I’ve enjoyed movies with a friend or loved one, and for at least 15 years of our 20 year marriage, I enjoyed weekly movies with Rick. I’m quite comfortable doing a lot of things by myself now, things that I never used to do alone. Because I didn’t get married until I was 40, I was used to doing many things on my own. For instance, I’ve never had a problem eating alone at a restaurant, because for years when I was at work, I often went to lunch alone. But in the many years it’s been since I was that 20-year-old alone at a matinee, I have never gone to a movie alone. Until now.

One evening, a couple of months after Rick died, I just couldn’t stand being alone in the house anymore, but I also knew I was not fit company for anyone. I was miserable and sad and lonely, but I was only lonely for Rick, so that also negated the idea of calling a friend or family member. I was desperate to get out of the house, to get away from my sadness and despair, so I thought why not go to a movie by myself? There was a movie I’d been wanting to see, so I got in my car and went to the movie alone.

I decided to go full out for my solo night out. I went to the theater with the reclining seats, took a jacket to use as a blanket, ordered nachos with jalapeños (definitely not on my low-carb diet plan), bought one of those giant movie theater diet Cokes, and settled in to watch the movie. At first it felt odd entering the theater alone! It was the latest Star Wars adventure, and I honestly think I was the only 60-year-old woman sitting alone in the entire place. I was surrounded by mostly men, mostly in their 20s to 40s. But soon, I felt like I was in a community of fellow movie lovers, and I was content. And I was also a little surprised, because I hadn’t felt contentment in a long time.

A movie alone has now become a typical thing for me to do. I enjoy it. I guess in a way I’m dating myself. And me, myself, and I are having a fine time doing one of my favorite activities.

This month, Hope for Widows is promoting a widow’s self-care initiative called “Soul Tending September,” and there are some really great tips on their calendar. From taking a walk to drawing, baking, or hugging three people, there are thirty ideas for widows to take part in to remind themselves to relax and be good to themselves. And that made me realize that I’ve got my own little self care ritual, and it involves the latest movie, a comfy middle seat, some nachos, and a big screen. It works for me.

Of course, after the movie, on the ride home, I have another little routine. I’m sure the people in the surrounding cars probably think I’m talking on my hands-free phone. But I’m actually discussing the movie I just watched with my invisible companion, Rick – because deep in my heart, I don’t think I’m really alone on those solo movie dates, after all.


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