grief lessons

I’ve been having issues with impatience lately. I mean, I’ve always been one to want something done ASAP. In my late teens, I remember painting my parents’ living room in one day. The room had needed a new coat of paint for years, but my parents didn’t want to go through the discomfort of having the furniture strewn all over the house for a couple of days during the chaos and mess that results from a painting project.

So I decided to just do it! Remember, I was nineteen years old, and at that age, I had more energy than I knew what to do with. I woke up one morning all prepared. My dad helped me move out some of the furniture and we put the rest in the center of the room under sheets. First, I tackled the ceiling, then the walls, then the second coat on the ceiling a couple of hours later, then the walls and the molding. By late that night, when it was nearly, but not quite dry, we moved all the furniture back. Voila! The whole room was done in a day.

Throughout the majority of my life, I often took a long time to make up my mind about something, but once I came to a decision, I wanted to do it immediately. As I ventured through life, I learned how often things didn’t move to my desired schedule, and I was forced to develop a bit more patience. Soon, I was able to wait in lines that plodded along at a snail’s pace and bide my time on the phone waiting on hold for a representative to solve some problem or other. But, if it’s at all possible, I avoid calling cable companies and any place that requires me to sit on my heels waiting for my turn to press the required buttons to talk to a service rep. I always use online services.

I’m not nineteen anymore. I’m a mature adult who has learned over the years that good things come to those who wait. I usually have a book available to read in my phone’s Kindle app, or some other distraction I can turn to when waiting. As an adult, I finally learned to handle waiting for things that come at a snail’s pace without grinding my teeth as much as I used to.

Until Rick’s death, that is. It seems that changed everything and I’ve reverted to my old ways. When I want something, I want it now. I always seem to be in a hurry to accomplish something. I want a home improvement finished stat, so my house is sale-ready and I’ll be able to choose to stay or move at a whim. I want to see that budget working and I want that 401k to grow now – so I can retire and do anything I want for the next 20+ (hopefully) years. If a new movie comes out, I want to see it opening day. Time is short, let’s do this!

In the ten months from his cancer diagnosis to his death, Rick and I learned that every minute counts. Enjoy today. Do it now. Don’t put off those plans, because you may not be here tomorrow. I feel an almost frenzied need to make the things on my newly created vision board a reality as quickly as possible, because, if not, I might not ever see them take fruition. I could die next week, or next month, or next year and not accomplish my goals or leave a legacy. My novel will sit unpublished. I’ll never get that genealogy book written, and all those years of research will be for naught.

Time is short, my mind keeps telling me. Don’t put things off. Do it now.

All my decisions have now been colored by Rick’s death. I need to do laundry, but my son invites me to come over for dinner? I guess the clothes pile will sit there. I plan to finish those home repairs that I find so important, but my friend invites me to an impromptu afternoon matinee? I just got back from the movie. We had a great time.

I’ve lost the patience I spent years trying to develop. I learned my lesson when the days, weeks, and months sped by during Rick’s prolonged ordeal. And now he’s gone, and he won’t be enjoying those family events, movies, or time spent holding hands and hanging out in the park. His life was cut short, but I’m still here, and I’m going to live, and do, and enjoy as much as I can in the unknown amount of time I have left. I owe it to him. I owe it to myself.

Rick’s death changed me forever. Besides the incredible grief, it was also a slap in the face, a wake up call that pushed me to live my life to the fullest. Watching my husband lose his battle to cancer was a life lesson that has urged me back to my youthful impatient state, once again. When I think back on the things we planned to do “someday” or “when we had time,” I’m filled with sadness. However, thankfully, I can look back on years of life and adventure that bring no regret. We took the trips, we lived in the moment, and I have lots and lots of memories to give me comfort for the rest of my life.

When I kick the bucket, I want my list be checked off, missions accomplished – with the assuredness that I’ve done all I can NOT to waste these precious moments. Losing my husband has given me a valuable change in perspective. Life is short. Do it now. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us. Lesson learned.


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