(Inspired by an article written by Mike Sager)

It is better to say you’re okay than not, because people just don’t want to hear the truth about death.

You think about this person over and over again. At dawn. At dusk. At home. At work. You even think about your own death. You don’t want to be dead, not exactly. But if you spontaneously combusted, and it didn’t hurt your family’s feelings, and you never had to feel grief or pain again, you probably wouldn’t mind. Meanwhile, you have to be functional, at least for their sake.

You finally get enough room in the bed, which feels colder because the warmth is gone on his side of it.

You offer a half smile to the friendly staff at the local grocery store, all the while reminding yourself not to pick up his favorite hot links because no one’s going to eat them. You try not to make eye contact or small talk with the checkers, or the man in the parka who’s always stocking the freezer section, or Kathy the baker. How do you pick a good watermelon? You don’t know because he was always the one thumping the fruit.

You get used to the mundane tasks of doing laundry and dishes alone.

You get more room in the closet.

You also get a hospital bill for over $50K and you nearly pass out. It’s his bill, but it’s addressed to you. You realize that it’s time to switch the cell phone service over into your name, under your phone number. It takes you over a week to call the hospital about the bill or transfer the phone account because you don’t want to pull out the death certificate that’s been hidden away for a whole year.

You realize the joke he was always making turned out to be true: What’s yours is yours and what’s his is yours.

You finally get enough room in the bed, which feels colder because the warmth is gone on his side of it.

You understand a little bit better those news stories involving spouses tortured by the agony of grief who die shortly after the other one dies.

You start cooking for one.

You have to decide what to say when people innocently ask how you’re doing. Sometimes little white lies go a long way in saving you from more questions.

You start making a real effort to give yourself more grace, more compassion, more understanding because all of it is so new to you. It doesn’t last.

You cry.

And then you cry some more.

You find that the characters and story lines in movies about widows like Ghost, which you used to watch without a second thought, closely parallel your own life story in certain universal ways. And you wonder if these movies have found you rather than the other way around.

Ditto The Lost Husband, P.S. I Love You, Premonition.

You can’t get that Gladys Knight & The Pips song out of your head: You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me. It’s true, in more ways than you know.

You wonder if maybe the real meaning of life is your sons and granddaughter. You hope they haven’t been too damaged by the shitstorm they’ve just come through. You know it will always be part of their personal tale: When I was thirty-six, twenty-five, and nine, my father/grandfather died. For that you are profoundly sorry. You wanted them to have a perfect life.

Your life becomes a lot lonelier. There is no more joy. And a lot less laughter.

You realize there is no way you can properly exfoliate your own back.

You think about the other things a person can’t do for herself. You wonder what it will be like to grow old alone. Will there be someone to help you when you’ve fallen and you can’t get up? This is now a real consideration.

You quit your job of ten years.

You try not to think about all the money you’ve blown through over a period of nearly four decades, that should have been earmarked for a house, retirement, or emergency, that you’ll never get back. Your life now consists of living off the death benefit insurance that he worked and died for so that you can have some semblance of comfort. You think it’s just like him to take care of you in life and in death.

You wonder where they got the idea for “death benefit” anyway. How does death benefit anybody?

You wonder about the person you’ve morphed into: a whole different person who is unhappy and even more uneasy to live with.

You learn to dread birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries. When these days approach, it’s as if the entire soul-crushing experience of his death happens to you all over again – replayed in super slow motion over the span of 24-hours each occasion. You realize that anxiety really can be crippling and happy times really are gone.

Your life becomes a lot lonelier. There is no more joy. And a lot less laughter.

You discover in successive waves what really happens to the body during intense grief. You experience in telling detail that a heart can literally break into a million little pieces – what research studies call “broken heart syndrome”, which alters the heart muscle the same as a heart attack.

You fear you’ll never be touched again let alone have sex again. Who wants to be single and sexless in their 50s? You want the decades of shared humor and pillow talk, the appreciation of bodies that aged together, and the sexual intimacy that develops over a long period of time. You want him.

You realize you could have fucked hundreds of men over thirty-eight years if you had known your marriage was going to end in sexual bereavement at 54 years old! You think you are a catch. After all, you did have someone love you for most of your life. You think what’s wrong with meeting someone new?

You conclude, despite the helpful advice of friends, that there is no way you could ever post your picture on a dating website.

Faced with the idea of meeting a new person and starting over, you’d rather just get a dog.

You are thankful for every minute you got to spend with your man, and especially for the moments when he really needed you and you were there for him. The loss of his business. The loss of his eyesight. The loss of his CDLs. The loss of his kidneys. But the injustice of losing him to a disease as dreadful as COVID-19 is the deepest loss of all.

You hope you will learn and grow from the hardship. It is clear already that you have blossomed in a number of ways over the past year. You realize there is no person on the face of the planet you would rather be with. You hope that he knows that on the other side.

You want him.

You wish you could tell your story from beginning to end to whomever will listen. It’s one hell of a love story. You wish you could, for one final time, hear his voice or see his face again. You know that will never happen.

When a marriage ends in death, you learn this: Nobody sees things quite the way you do, and nobody cares about you quite the way that person cared about you.

But you can’t help telling yourself: Maybe someday you’ll find someone who will. Maybe.

Let’s keep in touch! If anything resonated with you, please leave a comment below or find me on Instagram @tofrankwithlove


Joyce was born and raised in Oklahoma and is the youngest of sixteen children. She has worked in the education and nonprofit industries for over 15 years. She holds a bachelor's degree in Organizational Leadership.

In the summer of 1983, at the age of sixteen, Joyce met her husband and soulmate Frank and soon after started a family. They were married for over 38 wonderful and adventurous years.

Joyce is a mother to two adult sons, a grandmother to a feisty Leo granddaughter, and a transplant wife and widow after Frank passed away due to COVID-19 complications on August 25, 2021 after receiving a kidney transplant four years earlier. He died exactly one week before her birthday.

Joyce's writings on grief, love, loss, and the beautiful mess in between are an intimate look at life without her husband Frank and how his unexpected and untimely death showed her that nothing in this world lasts forever, even true love, and that life can change in one tragic instant.

You can read more of Joyce’s writings about her beloved Frank on Instagram @tofrankwithlove