Anyone who has experienced grief knows that it is a never-ending journey. I am now 15 months into my new life as a widow (a title that I received suddenly and unexpectedly), and I have trouble believing that much time could have passed. Getting through year one happened so much quicker than I could have anticipated, which is to be expected with two young kids to raise and a full-time job.

Once I got through the one-year mark, I felt like I could breathe a little. The milestone had passed. I found that I was more proud than sad that day, because I did it. I made it to a day I had dreaded for so many months.  A day I thought I wouldn’t even be able get out of bed and face. But you know what? I got out of bed and faced the day. And I’m still getting up and out of bed every single day, just like I have every day for the last 15 months. I’m still taking care of the kids, going to work and keeping up with the endless number of chores that continue to come my way. I’m still living and breathing and doing what I can to make memories and find happiness and hope where I can.

Recently I was looking back at pictures on my phone and I was struck by the fact that I’m now marking the anniversary of things that have happened without Seth with us. Anniversary-ing memories that he’s not in. Capturing moments for the second time without him. I spent so much time during the first year looking back at photos and memories of the things we had done on that day one, two, three years prior, mostly to keep seeing his face and his smile and to burn those beautiful memories into my mind. It was comforting to remember how we lived life to the fullest. Something I wasn’t sure we’d ever be able to do after he died.

Now when I look back at photos from this past year, I’ve realized these memories have been made without Seth here to help us make them. Without his beautiful smile flashing back at me in the photo. That realization was a pain deeper than I could have imagined, and it hit me out of nowhere. One would wonder why it took me so long to realize he wouldn’t be in our photos anymore. Isn’t that pretty obvious? But it took me looking back at the memories to realize it.

There is something about grief, or widow brain as we call it, that keeps you from realizing the most basic, simple things until you need to, or until you can handle it. I’ve been told it’s your mind, and I believe God, protecting you from a flood of way too many terrible realizations at once. Rather, your brain only lets you realize things step by step through this journey. If all the realizations of this new life and reality hit you at once, you’d never get up off the floor.

So, the reality I continue to be reminded of is that his face is missing from the pictures and will continue to be missing as we keep making memories. I’ve also found that while I look at these new pictures and feel the aching hollow in my chest, I find so much comfort in the fact that we lived this past year making memories and capturing hundreds of pictures of our smiling faces making fun, even silly, memories. We have been living life the best we can, despite the pain, the heartache, and the waves of grief that continue to rise with each new memory captured without Seth by our side.

I do believe that even though his beautiful face and dazzling smile missing from the pictures, his spirt, his energy and his love is always there, and he is with us helping us to smile and keep making memories. And that he will continue to be with us each and every day, for all of those moments.

While I may not see his face, I’ll know he’s watching over us, and wishing he was here, too.


Dena's life was forever changed on June 25, 2018, when she became suddenly redefined as a widow. A title she never thought she would have, or not have for at least another 40 years or more. Her healthy 43-year-old
husband suddenly and unexpectedly passed away, leaving her shocked, heart shattered and left, at age 41, to raise their precious 5-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter without him. Since gaining this new title, she is continually trying to figure out how to live this new life, and have
leaned into her faith, has focused on being brave, and has taken head on all of the challenges she is now faced with in this new life. Dena is here to share her story as she is living it and to be honest and raw, providing insight into the life of a sudden widow with a full-time career and two young children. Dena learned the importance of what she has gained through living a life well lived with her beloved spouse, and she has been writing what is on her mind and in her heart, everything from the pain of losing a spouse suddenly, to focusing on gratefulness and being brave in this journey. She hopes to give others insight into what this journey looks like and provide thoughts on how she is managing through it all. And hopefully inspire some of her hope sister's along the way.

You can read more and follow me on Instagram @suddenlyredefined or on her Facebook page Suddenly Redefined.