grief journeyAt 66, I look back on my life as a series of eras: periods of varying lengths of time that were significant in some way or another. The innocent years of childhood. My turbulent and foolish teens. The wonder and joys of being a young single mother. The excitement and life-changing years I spent pursuing my degree. Followed by the years when I was finally able to begin a new writing career. And of course, the romantic, exhilarating, and love-filled era when I met Rick and lived as his wife.

After Rick died, and life changed quite suddenly, I plunged headlong into a new era called, “widowhood.” I was forced to adapt to life alone. I sought grief counseling and my very talented therapist carefully guided me into and through this new, unwanted, difficult era of my life. She allowed me to move at my own pace into the uncharted territory of widowhood, encouraging me to work through the grief, and not to avoid it.

And that was a difficult era, to say the least. Losing a spouse means everything in your life changes in an instant. First, you’re alone, when you used to be so much a part of this man that you almost felt like a hybrid person. You ate, drank, and slept with him beside you and his sudden absence was terrible and overwhelming. Then, there’s all the processing and organizing and record changes – followed by organizing and purging his possessions (or keeping them, because the mere thought of casting off his favorite shirt, or his phone, or his other mementoes is too heartbreaking to contemplate). His name comes off joint accounts, insurance policies, his car, his credit cards. Yet, sometimes, even years later, something always crops up that you’ve forgotten. There’s always something to remind you that he was here. He existed. And now he is gone.

Absolutely everything is affected: habits, finances, schedules, dining experiences. Bedtimes are alone; there are no hugs, cuddles, and caresses. The house is quiet and empty. The car maintenance and chores and shopping and cooking and home improvement projects are all yours. The important decisions you need to make are no longer balanced with your spouse’s opinion. You make them alone – and all while engulfed in a cloud of grief, confusion, and despair.

And besides coping with the upsets of your present, your plans for a future together have disappeared in an instant.

Life stops, restarts, and is all yours to navigate – alone.

But, soon, a few years had passed. And I had created a new life for myself out of the ashes. I’ve survived both the novice widow and experienced widow stages. I’ve survived the pain, created new goals, and adapted to the changes that resulted from the huge cavity that was created upon Rick’s death. I’m a pro at living alone and navigating life on my own. It’s all so normal now, I almost forget that I was so much a part of this other person.

And I realize that I no longer identify as Rick Palmer’s widow. Nor, for that matter, am I my son’s mother. Or my parents’ child. Those eras are over. So here I am, in the “just me” era. And you know what? I’m a little excited about it. But I’m also extremely sad.

As much as I wanted to crawl out of the pit of despair that I fell into as a result of Rick’s death, as much as I strove to process the grief from his loss and make a new life for myself, as liberating as this new feeling is – I also feared this day. I feared that someday Rick would not be the first thing I thought of when I awoke, the last thought before I slept, the constant presence in my mind, his memory a huge part of my life. As painful as it was, I wanted to keep him a central part of me and my life as he was for the twenty years we were married. But I can’t.

Time moves so quickly that my life with Rick was more than a half decade ago. Our time together is fading far into the past. I’m thankful that I’ve survived the grief and made a new life for myself. But watching that era fade further and further into my history reminds me that he has, indeed, become part of another era of my life. Sure, I’m excited to discover what will happen in this new era ahead. But watching my life with Rick fade so far into the past is as bittersweet as I knew it would 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