grief journey

For the past few months, life has been pretty good. I have my vision board in place, and lots of activities and plans and dreams for my future that keep me occupied. I’ve been writing up a storm, and was flattered by an invitation to have my Writing Widow blog included in a resource for widows and widowers being developed by some Fordham University students. Summer is almost here and the pool will be officially open this weekend (hopefully), and I love to swim.

It’s been 22 months since Rick died, and in that time, I’ve created a new life alone. It isn’t always easy. Doing the spring yard clean up, getting the pool open, and trying to catch up on home improvements – all while working at my full time job each day and still performing the work Rick used to do for our web business in the evenings – leaves me worn out sometimes. I’m reminded nearly daily how many little things were so much easier when he was here. For example, I spent twenty minutes trying to remove the pool skimmer lid that had stuck like glue to the basket over the winter. My fingers just weren’t strong enough. I finally figured out how to pry it open with a screwdriver, all the while being aware that Rick would have easily reached past me and twisted it off in an instant.

I have to admit, though, other than a few minor setbacks, I’ve come to realize I really like my life now. It’s not what I planned, but it’s a good one, and that is surprising to a woman who thought her life was over at one point. But recently, just when I thought that my life was getting on track, I started to experience several episodes of that deep, dark, awful grief, again. The kind of grief that has me spending hours in bed, convinced that despite my efforts, I will never truly be happy again. Life will never be the same without Rick, so why try?

Is it a coincidence that the night after I joined a Meetup group for singles in my area, I woke up to an entire day of despondency where I felt Rick’s loss very deeply? I know throughout this whole grief journey, it’s often been two steps forward and one step back. I get that. I know I’ll feel those waves and tides of grief at different times for years to come. On this particular day, I had also just survived another holiday weekend and family party where I missed Rick a lot. On top of that,  getting the pool open and cleaning up the yard alone reminds me how much we enjoyed doing those chores together, because our favorite pastime was hanging out in our yard all summer.

As a result, when I started having a few more of these “down” periods, I just assumed it was caused by these life events and triggers. But my counselor, Vaiva, asked me if it’s possible that I was getting uncomfortable with some of the more stressful changes and unknowns ahead of me – like socializing with the singles group, the idea of meeting men, the chance that I’ll find someone to love, again.

And I had to admit, the idea of even considering a new relationship is scary. What if I meet someone new? What if I fall in love again? … and …

What if he dies?

Vaiva’s response was simple.

Of course, he will die. All human beings do. He will die. I will die. There’s no avoiding that.

But she asked me to consider the possibility that these new and very strong grief episodes are actually an unconscious attempt to circumvent the stress and avoid the fear that the possibility of a new relationship brings. Has grief become the place where I can retreat against fear of the unknown? Has grief become my comfort zone?

And, you know, I think perhaps she’s right.

So I sat down and puzzled through my thoughts and fears, and I wrote this poem…

The Comfort Zone

Grief has become my comfort zone

Warm and safe, insular and quiet
The familiar place I’ve spun from death

Nearly two years spent focusing on pain and loss
Until it’s become the norm

Oblivious to the rest of the world
I live in my cocoon of sadness
Painful, yet cozy – a place unto itself
No risks, only memories,
And fantasies of what should have been

Grief is a world that’s become a familiar part of me

An imaginary world I’ve created in my head
Filled with thoughts of happier times,
Sprinkled with a dash of regret and a pinch of loneliness
All formed together into a welcoming, dark place
Where I dwell comfortably in the past

Sadness at his loss has become my companion
A trusted, safe friend I can turn to any time

Leaving grief behind feels a lot like fear
Of living, feeling, hoping,
Of loving again

Grief is a cocoon of safety
Grief is my comfort zone

I checked into this room when my love died
But now I’d like to leave.


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