The year 2020 has been a roller coaster ride.  The U.S. is facing numerous challenges and uncertainties.  All these factors have created great amounts of internal stress.  As a  widow, this uncertain time has magnified my loss.  After John died, I lost my sense of security, confidence, and sense of well-being.  The difficult times have set me back to feeling like that again on multiple occasions.  I miss my best friend.

In my grief, it sometimes seems I take 2 steps forward and 1 step backwards.  Sometimes when I think I have made progress, a trigger or anything really can set me back.  The grief is not quite as raw, but it is still ugly.  June is a rough month for me and my daughter.  John’s birthday falls in June and of course then there is Father’s Day.  This year, Father’s Day seemed especially hard, our fourth Father’s Day without him.  The extreme sadness of Father’s Day is not only that John is not here with us but thinking about all the events and milestones that he is missing and will miss in his daughter’s life.

After a recent event that caused me to become more self-aware, I discovered I was not allowing myself to be happy.  Focusing on what really matters is so important.  I have been dating a great guy since May 2018.  Time is not infinite in this life.  I am nearing the age that John was when he suddenly had a hemorrhagic brain stem stroke.

John and I planned to stay in our house and become empty nesters once our daughter left for college.  Retirement would be in our future down the road.  I never thought for a second that plan would be disrupted by death.  Unfortunately, death stole our future.

I am so happy to say that things are going well with my new love, and I want to move forward with my life with him.  My daughter is aware of my plans, but is not able to imagine a life outside the house she grew up in.  She was brought to our house right after birth and we have never moved.  Not moving is probably rare for most kids.  During the quarantine and beyond, I have started feeling like my house is oppressive.  Being here without John is a constant reminder that he never will live with me while I am on Earth again.  All the memories and wonderful things that happened here are beautiful, but in order to move forward I feel I need to let go of the house.

When my husband first died, someone told me not to make any decisions about moving within the first year.  I was so surprised because in that moment I could not think of living anywhere else other than my home.  It seemed crazy to even think about moving.  I was in a different place in my grief then.  For some widows, staying in their house is the exact right thing for them.  For other widows, there is no option to stay in their house due to the financial situation they are suddenly in.  There is no right way to work through this horrible process of grief.

I am so very fortunate to have a chapter 2 and have found someone to share my life with.  After you have lost a love through death, entering a new relationship is scary due to knowing the pain of loss.  Love is always worthwhile, however.  I am embracing love.




Northern Virginia has been Jennifer Carstens’ home since she was a teenager. She met John when she was working at the D.E.A. Headquarters in Arlington, VA, during the summer when she was in college. Honestly, it was love at first sight for both of them. He had a way about him that made her feel like everything was going to be okay. They were married 4 years later and lived happily for the next 21 years. While their lives were not
flawless, they were close to perfection. Their daughter had just turned 16 when tragedy struck on March
11, 2017. John was healthy and happy, but suffered a massive brain stem hemorrhagic stroke. Much to
their horror, he slipped into a coma, and would never wake again. He was 49-years young. Their daughter
is now 18 and they are still piecing together their ‘new normal.

Jennifer believes he would be proud of the ways they are moving forward. They continue to seek peace and healing through humor, love, and sometimes tears.