Oh how those Facebook memories love to pop up when my life is moving along almost as if things are normal and nothing has changed. Haven’t I always lived alone here in my ranch home? Wasn’t my daily routine always to wake by myself and lie quietly in my bed reading emails and messages on my iPhone? Didn’t I always rise and move through the quiet house to my office to start my daily routine: making a gratitude list, doing my writing practice in my online course, FaceTiming with my best friend, and planning my day before making myself breakfast and sitting alone with my crossword puzzle?

It almost seems as if this has always been my life: living alone, dining with friends, playing with the grandkids, going to canasta night and movies, and, of course, going on a thousand first dates in a seemingly futile search for a compatible partner. This is my life, my routine, and it’s comfortable and enjoyable.

And then, suddenly, up pops that Facebook memory of six years ago at the local business owners’ Christmas party. The video of Rick singing, “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You,” one of his usual karaoke selections. And I think to myself, “There he is, back when life was normal.”

Because this solo life I’m living will never be normal. Never. It’s a fantastic life. It’s a fulfilling life. It’s a fun life. I have love and leisure, good health and financial independence: everything I could ever dream for, except to be back where I was, when life was normal and Rick was by my side.

Every time I see one of those memories or come across a photo of us together, my mind goes there and that phrase comes back to me: “back when life was normal.” I suppose that’s how the term “the new normal” was coined.

But if it’s new, can it ever be normal?

I suppose the positive side of all this is that I’m no longer the grief-stricken widow. I can control the timing of when I’ll allow my mind go back to what once was, and the constant sadness doesn’t interrupt my day. I’m content and happy with everything in my life, surprisingly so. Oh sure, it would be great if one of these past two relationships I attempted had panned out, but once I realized I’m happier here by myself in the evening than I would be with either of them, it makes me take stock of how comfortable I am at this stage of my new existence. I want a man to enhance my already fantastic life, I don’t need one to fulfill it. And I know what it is to have that type of relationship, because that’s what I had with Rick.

But I can’t help thinking that, no matter what my future holds, whether alone or with someone new, those years I shared with Rick will forever be the “normal” times, the way my life was meant to pan out before it was interrupted by his death. It wasn’t a perfect life, but it was the one I thought I’d have until we were old and gray. Now it’s only me getting older and grayer alone, and this isn’t how it was supposed to be.


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.