…as a Widow.

The view from the Lanai, Maui, 2019

First things first, I highly recommend this! As someone who absolutely loves to travel, the first vacation I took post loss was incredibly healing.

I went with a good friend of mine, and our daughters, so I wasn’t alone. But it was the first time I had been somewhere as a single woman in more years than I can count.

It was just shy of two years since I had made the transition from Wife to Widowed, and even though I was still healing, I was very excited.

We were traveling to Maui, which was special for a variety of reasons.

My late husband Bret and I had been there with our daughter just seven months before he died. It was both wonderful and terrible, as things often were with Bret.

He vowed that we would return and he would make things right.

Even though the circumstances were completely different than what we both would have thought, he wasn’t wrong.

We had initially traveled to Maui in the summer of 2017 for a Writer’s Workshop. Bret avidly supported my writing endeavors, so when the situation was presented, he booked three plane tickets and made all of the other arrangements.

It was as magical as I dreamed it would be, and I learned a lot about honing my craft, as well.

But sadly, it ended with anger, drama and strife.

After things had calmed some, he broke down saying “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” We both shed silent tears in the back of the taxi as the sun set gently into the Pacific.

The long flight back to Maui, 23 months later provided me some much needed reflection time.

As is normal for me, I decided to document these feelings in hopes that my words might aid my own continued healing, but may also help someone else on a similar path.

Here are some of these thoughts and feelings, as originally penned on May 1, 2019:

I’m on a plane headed for Maui. It’s only my second time visiting our 50th state but it feels like some kind of poignant homecoming.

I compare my intense emotions to Sarah Connor’s in the film, The Terminator (one of the greatest love stories of our time, I don’t care what anyone says. Change my mind.)

Even though Sarah and Kyle were only together just the once, they loved each other wildly, through space and time.

I feel that way about Maui.

I am going home, in a sense.

I expect to cry, some. Okay, a lot.

No, I do not have family here. I do not live here. And again, it’s only my second time visiting.

But I do so for some pretty serious closure of sorts.

Well, that and Maui is freaking awesome…

But mostly the closure thing. And maybe even for a mild sense of ceremony and ritual. A ritual that will honor the dead.

My late husband Bret, more specifically.

In my luggage is a plastic container that once contained shredded parmesan cheese.

It now contains two plastic Ziplock baggies, that host small amounts of Bret’s ashes. (His big toes, I joke. Yes, I am guilty of dark humor.)

One bag is for our 11 year old daughter. One is for me.

We will find places that Bret speaks to us through the wind or the surf, and we will sprinkle accordingly.

Bret was with us on our last (first) trip here, which was actually our last “big” family vacation before he chose to end his life some seven months later.

That trip was equal parts magical and nightmarish, which basically described my life with him. (Although I prefer to focus on all the magic we shared in our near twelve years together.)

Our 2017 trip to the island was basically a microcosm of our entire relationship, and maybe even his whole life.

He regretted, deeply, the way our beautiful Hawaiian vacation ended…with him flipping out the way he was prone to do, and abandoning us just hours before our flight home.

We finally located him in a bar at the resort, with a mere half hour to spare before our shuttle arrived to take us back to the airport.

He cried and said with angst that I can still feel cutting through my vital organs to this day, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” I cried with him. I told him I was with him through thick and thin and we could figure everything out together, just as we always had.

We came home with plans to visit again in the not so distant future, but that time never came.

Until this time, I suppose.

He is with me now, albeit in a much different way. He has kept his promise to come back here with us on another trip. Only this time, a piece of him will remain forever, or until the breeze gathers his sand-like ashes and blows them to wherever he’s meant to drift away to next.

Like Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese, who loved through all of space and time, in just a few small hours, I learned that Maui held my heart in a similar fashion.

And the intensity that was shared between the two of them, a bond that actually changed the entire fate of the planet, was the same intensity that fueled my brief time with Bret. We created galaxies together.

Maybe it’s hyperbole.

Maybe it’s not…

Hollywood makes films about this kind of thing.

I got to live it.

So, I sit on this six hour flight, knowing that I am going home, in a sense. But even more so, I am bringing my Beloved home. His essence will linger long after I’ve returned to the mainland to continue my life as a relatively young widow who’s still trying to find her way.

I just hope that wherever he is, he can feel this, and that he can experience the magic his demons robbed him of, the last time.

We all deserve peace, even if only in death.

So far, in all of my travels and all of my time among the living, I have found Maui to be the most peaceful place I have ever been.

I know he would agree.

He cut his time short. But there’s still some left in me. How much, none of us really ever know.

But I have to make it count.

Because I am living now for him, as well, and all of the amazing things he wanted to do but didn’t get to. And ashes or no, I will always take a piece of him wherever I go. And still will, even when I, myself, am ash.

Until then, my Hawaiian reef safe sunscreen is also in my luggage and I hope to laugh through all my tears while I dip my toes blissfully in the waters of Kaanapali beach, thankful that he was ever even part of my life at all.

I already feel him with me…

I haven’t been on another trip since, but have continued processing this and all the various other times that Bret’s darkness sabotaged things for us.

Travel is good, journaling is wonderful, but time truly has been the one medicine that has healed me the most.

If you haven’t been, I highly recommend visiting Maui. I hope to visit again someday, myself.

(Photo : L. Munk – Pohailani, Maui 2019)






Layla Beth Munk is a blogger & author who was thrust into this widowhood journey abruptly and tragically on February 11, 2018. Her husband of 12 years had ended his pain once and for all. She soon made the decision that she would not let his final decision define the rest of her life or their daughter’s life, so with her sense of humor at the helm, she started writing about her newfound station in life. Grief waves still get to her, and probably always will, but with the help of her fellow widows as well as friends and family, she has been able to realize her dream of becoming a published author! Layla is so grateful to Hope For Widows Foundation for providing this level of support to her, and so many others! Layla has two amazing children, one who is grown and one who is almost grown. She lives in eastern Oregon and has a wellness & beauty background. Layla enjoys writing poetry, watching anime, and homeschooling her daughter.

Her blog can be found at laylabethmunk.medium.com and her debut novella, 24 Hours in Vegas, is available on Amazon.