grief triggers

I was floating in the pool last weekend when it happened. I was soaking up the sun in my inflatable chair reflecting on my new and somewhat unbelievable life now. I’m dating four men. I’m out dancing at singles events. I’m enjoying weekends away. I’m spending time with grandchildren, hanging out with friends, enjoying life to the fullest. I feel younger than I have in years, and life is an adventure.

I’ll admit, there are times when my “new” life is too much to contemplate and I feel disoriented. I just want the world to stop spinning so I can get off and go back to my old world. Sometimes in the midst of everything being okay, I just need to be back there with Rick and relive the times we shared.

And other times, in the middle of feeling good about life, I want to bury myself in my grief again. The wellspring of emotions is still very deep. And when the grief hits, it hits hard.

Taylor Swift has a new song out. A song that’s simple and plain and elegant. “Soon You’ll Get Better” is about her mother’s cancer diagnosis, but I didn’t know the story behind it when the first words she sang piped through my waterproof bluetooth earbuds. I was floating in the pool, marveling at how fun and satisfying my life is now, just after the second anniversary of Rick’s death. It was a long hard climb leaving the hours of grief and sadness behind, yet I continue to delude myself that I’ve made it past the major grief episodes, that I’m in complete control now. As this song taught me, I’m still not totally in control – and probably never will be.

The buttons of my coat were tangled in my hair
In doctor’s-office-lighting, I didn’t tell you I was scared
That was the first time we were there…

And I say to you
Ooh-ah, soon you’ll get better
Ooh-ah, soon you’ll get better
Ooh-ah, you’ll get better soon
‘Cause you have to

The song devastated me. I was back in the doctor’s office in an instant. And the fear crept back into my soul. I was staring at this man and thinking, will he? will he get better?

I know delusion when I see it in the mirror
You like the nicer nurses, you make the best of a bad deal
I just pretend it isn’t real

I looked into those deluded eyes in the mirror every morning for ten months. Every morning when I combed my hair and brushed my teeth. When all that was on my mind was that this life is going to end. My marriage was going to be over. My perfect world was crumbling and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Soon, my love was going to be gone. I watched the man I loved so dearly suffer and die while valiantly making jokes with the nicer nurses and making the best of a bad deal. And yes, I tried to delude myself, but I knew. And I put on my happy face, and I tried to paint a rosy future for both of us. And I kept telling him soon you’ll get better. But he didn’t.

Listening to that song brought it all back within a few lyrics and the pain was devastating.

So I got out of my pool and went into my house, and climbed into my bed. I pulled the covers up close – almost over my face. Then I played the song over and over and over. I got my heart ripped out. The memories came back and I let them wash over me. I felt it all again, all of it. And eventually the pain subsided, and I was back in control.

And the world started to turn again. And I got back on. I guess this is healing. Getting up every day as the world turns – as the future comes into the present. I guess this is what it’s always been like for the millions of people who have mourned the passing of their loved ones throughout time. We all have to continue to live despite wanting to bury ourselves in grief. We have to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving.

And if you’re a widow like me and you want another relationship, you move on and meet new men, and you try to have a future.

But every now and then you just want the world to stop and you want to jump off and return to that old world, the world you never wanted to end. And the love you hoped would never die.

This won’t go back to normal, if it ever was
It’s been years of hoping, and I keep saying it because
‘Cause I have to
Ooh-ah, you’ll get better
Ooh-ah, soon you’ll get better
Ooh-ah, you’ll get better soon

‘Cause I have to.


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