I wrote drafts for this blog at the end of February and beginning of March, but nothing I wrote then is relevant now. The world has changed completely. I am on high alert. 

I am supposed to be telecommuting, teaching online, but I can’t concentrate for very long on work. I can’t make myself read for any stretch of time. I can’t think. I’m on autopilot, cooking, cleaning, weeding my flowerbeds, checking the news. 

My brain is reacting to this pandemic in some ways like it did after I lost Todd. That makes sense, since recent events are traumatic, too. No matter how much I clean or cook or do anything, any sense of security is gone. Again.

Maybe the stress from the pandemic is affecting you similarly. And, on top of the fear and anxiety, the additional social distancing and isolation make the absence of your loved one all the more intense.

I find myself talking to Todd more often, imagining what he’d say, how he’d react, wavering between relief he’s not here to become a victim of the virus and longing for his reassurances. The other night, I kissed his picture, the one on my bedside table, and said out loud, “I don’t have time to grieve anymore right now,” then wiped my teary eyes, walked to the laundry room and folded towels.

Where in the world did that come from–I don’t have time to grieve right now? I have more free time than I’ve had since I was a kid. 

But, I don’t really. I bat away random memories that surface because I don’t have the emotional energy to spare on them. My brain tells me to keep moving, accomplish little tasks, plug along, find small things to smile about (there’s a robin sitting in my new maple tree outside of my kitchen window), call my parents every day, and don’t let the pain overtake me because I just might drown in it. 

The pain is not only his absence but new grief in losing security again and in anticipatory grief as I fear losing my loved ones, my coworkers, my students. (If you haven’t read this article, an interview with David Kessler, you should; it explains what many people are feeling right now.) 

I wish I had an inner spring of wisdom to share to help get you (and me) through this. 

I wish I could write a clever “Top Ten Tips to Cope” list for you. It might go something like this:

  1. wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds
  2. try to get enough sleep
  3. use your phone and computer to reach out to others
  4. tell your loved ones every single day that you love them
  5. don’t overload on the news
  6. eat nutritious foods
  7. soak up some sunshine if you’re able
  8. accomplish small tasks
  9. find joy and wonder around you every single day
  10. remember that we are widow-strong, we have been tested once before and are resilient, and, as long as you are reading this, we are not alone.




Sue Leathers is an English teacher and mother. She had a huge crush on her husband Todd Kleffman, a journalist, when she was in high school, and she'd save his columns and stories. Decades later, she and Todd found each other through Facebook. He was the love of her life, her high school crush, and she was his biggest fan. She lost Todd in October 2017 to a heart attack. She has found solace in Hope for Widows and in writing of her own journey, and hopes to help other widows by sharing her experiences here.

Sue can be found on Instagram: @susanjanie