I went on a date last Saturday night…it was my first date with a new man I met in an online dating app. After two years of first dates, the only thing I know for sure is that you never know what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised to find he was a nice guy: interesting, intelligent, fun to talk to. We were at a bar and grill, chatting over drinks. About one hour into the evening, every so often, he reached across the table and put his hand on mine. That’s nice, I thought. I think that’s a sign that he likes me.

But then, in the midst of our pleasant chatter, my mind flew back 25 years to another first date, when another interesting, intelligent, fun man reached across the table and put his very large hand on mine.

No no no no no. Not now. I’m having fun. I’m moving on. I’m living again. Please don’t remind me of all I’ve lost now. Let me enjoy this moment.

I’m not sure if the man noticed that I zoned out for a couple of seconds. If he did, he gave no indication. Four years after Rick’s death, I’m well practiced at the art of deception when it comes to faking it through moments like this. I marshaled my thoughts back to the present and the conversation went on. After another hour of getting to know each other, we left the restaurant. He held my hand as he walked me to the car, and he kissed me good night in the parking lot.

Just like Rick did on our first date all those years ago.

But this isn’t Rick. Rick is gone and I’m making a new life. And after all this time, you’d think the flashbacks to those glorious memories would take a rest. So stop it brain! Let me live in the present. Let me enjoy the moment.

Once again, I regained control of my thoughts. I thanked my date for a pleasant evening, hopped in the car, and immediately called my BFF to tell him about the date and the man and how it all went. No time to dwell on what was. I can’t bring Rick back, and I have more life to live.

The next morning, I thought about all that…how the smallest things can elicit memories of the tiniest moments. And that the memories still suddenly and painfully intrude when I least expect them. Even memories from 25 years ago, from the night we met. But there are so many significant memories that fill my heart and my mind, is it any wonder? I actually love those fleeting glimpses into my past. I enjoy reliving all those special times. Just not when I’m with another man!

I missed romance, and I’m happy that I feel alive again, that I’m open to a new relationship, but I also can’t help remembering way back when… to those first dates when I met and fell in love with Rick. I’m working hard to keep the thoughts at bay when I’m with someone new.

How do I find a balance? I guess I just do what I’ve been doing in general since he died. When a memory intrudes – as lovely and bittersweet as it might be – I’ll push it aside and tell myself I’ll savor it later, when I’m alone again. And then I’ll be sure to take that time later. I’ll curl up in my bed, lay my head on the large pillow next to me – the pillow that I sometimes pretend is him. And then, when it’s safe, I’ll let my thoughts wander back through time and relive those special first dates from long ago.


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 Amazon.com.