grief and future plans

I have a good life and I know it.

I’m healthy. I’m financially secure. I have lots of friends who love me. I have an entire next generation of family members who spoil me with love, grandchildren, and great-nephews. I have a beautiful home and my goofy cat. I love my job, but I’m also looking forward to retiring in a couple of years because I have lots and lots of things I want to do.

I am a fortunate woman. I have goals and aspirations. I have opportunities to travel, and I look forward to adventures. My life is full, and I am loved. Who could complain about my life?


It’s my substitute life.

This is not the life I planned. It’s not what we discussed, Rick and I, over our glasses of wine each evening, sitting out on our deck, talking about our future. We dreamed about our retirement together, our golden years, and how we would enjoy the rest of our lives – together.

Now it’s just me in this wonderful life: my substitute life.

I’ve always enjoyed dark humor, and I don’t know how many times in the past I’ve quoted that sarcastic old joke…

“Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?”

After 15 months of widowhood, I’ve pretty much adapted to my current status. And, sometimes, when I take inventory of where my life is headed, now that I’m on my own, I ask myself, Other than the fact that your husband is dead, how do you like your life?

And the answer is – I have a very, very good life – other than the fact that it’s not the life I wanted.

It’s like working towards this goal for 20 years, whatever that goal may be, and, suddenly, you realize that after all that hoping and planning, the payoff will never come. Like taking years to get a degree only to find out that there are no longer jobs in that field. Or renovating a house for 20 years only to have it burn down once it’s completely remodeled.

Rick and I worked and toiled and planned together for two decades, always looking ahead to that time when we would relax and spend our golden years together, just him and me. And now it’s just me, and those golden years will be spent without him.

It’s not the same. It’s a substitute life.

Our dreams for our future were like a mirage in the desert. That oasis we walked toward for years and years turned out to be sand.

Yes, I know how fortunate I am to have such a good life, so I can have no complaints. But it’s not the life I wanted. It’s not the life I hoped for and worked towards for the last 20-some years.

But, in response to that old joke, when I look back on our life together, I have to admit… Other than that, I loved the play.


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