About Me

My wonderful husband died when I was 44 years old. Being widowed this young happens to less than 3% of married people. Writing through this loss one word at time helps me understand what I've lost and helps me continue to grow. It is how I have gradually recovered from such a severe loss. Research shows that you can benefit from taking just 15 minutes a day to write out your deepest feelings as a way of healing. On the right side of this blog, you'll see a tag for Exercises to Try. If you need some help knowing how to use writing to help heal yourself, I suggest you start there.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

An Exercise Worth Repeating, Regularly

I believe fervently that writing about one's deepest and most basic feelings is one of the simplest actions you can take to keep your life moving forward, to avoid getting stuck in unhealthy emotional spaces. In fact, that's what this entire blog is about: sharing feelings about loss in words to both move myself forward, and perhaps inspire others to do so as well.

(It's no surprise to me that so many people are out here writing blogs since they've lost their spouse. In fact, I'd wager than those who are writing about their losses on a regular basis are healing up quicker than they might be otherwise.)

Every now and then I'll post one of these blog entries on my Facebook page. I can't help wondering if those who have never had a spouse die young are surprised by the fact that I'm still writing about his death almost five years later. Do they think I'm stuck? Do they think I just can't "get over it"? Well, I believe the exact opposite is true and as I write I move on through different aspects of grief.


Here's a really simple exercise I like to repeat every once in a while to see where I currently stand in relation to my loss. There are a lot of different ways you can lead into this but it starts with a simple prompt like:

Today my loss feels like:


What is most interesting about my loss now is:


What I'd like to say about my grief today is:


What I'd like to say about my grief today is:

--That even though this time of year is the time that complications from Ken's second stem cell transplant were sending him on a steep and scary decline, I actually had a really great Thanksgiving this year that didn't find me dwelling on what I didn't have, or feeling full of sorrow. I felt pretty joyful.

--I am happy again, but in a different way, in a more measured away, in a holding back and careful way.

--It makes me so much more able to wait and see, to feel discomfort, to embrace uncertainty.

--I'm kind of afraid to need someone again the way I needed my husband.

--It sure feels better with a new man in my life.

--I believe that if you can overcome an intense loss, you can overcome just about anything. I feel somewhat invincible. And I find that weird, because I've been so leveled by loss.

--It's so heartbreaking that Ken couldn't be there with us at yesterday's Thanksgiving meal...it's so heartbreaking that he can't do anything with us anymore...and at the same time, he is so present for all of us. You have to figure out how to live with the loss. Why is it so hard when it's such a basic element of what we all must eventually encounter? Why are we so flummoxed by death?


Your turn. You and loss. Today. Write about it. Don't think too hard. Just a few sentences.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ten Widow Peeves (or Thanksgiving is on Thursday and I Feel Like Complaining.)

1. It is none of your business when and who a widow/er dates. When you lose your spouse, you can make your own dating rules, OK? Or maybe you'd prefer to spend the rest of your life alone. That's your choice. I think losing your spouse at a young age is the second worst thing that can happen to a person. (First, if you don't have kids.) Give widowed people some slack. If they can find their way back to happiness, they've worked damn hard to get there.

2. Forget about analyzing and comparing the widow/er's new partner as compared to their dead spouse. The new living guy or gal isn't the dead one. There is no reason why they should be similar so don't be surprised if they are totally different. But if you're still scratching your head, here's the secret answer: they are two different people.

3. I try hard to not judge you when you say how hard it is when your husband is away for a couple of days or even a week on business. I used to feel that way too. But when you do say it to me, behind my fixed pupils my eyes are rolling. I actually can't believe I have acclimated myself to the fact that my husband is never coming home.

4. Why oh why couldn't I have had the perspective on life that was gifted to me by my husband's death when he was still alive?

5. Do you know how much I wish that my son, who lost his dad when he was six, would have one or two men in his life who would take a deep interest in him and provide him with the attention and guidance that only a man can give him?

6. I don't know when or if I'll ever stop grieving the loss of my husband. If that makes you uncomfortable, too bad.

7. I wish it weren't so difficult to accept being happy again. Being happy feels a little bit wrong. It's like Happy-Lite.

8. I hate that my husband died and I always will.

9. Please don't ever tell me my husband died for a reason. I happen to be comforted by the idea of randomness, inevitability, and sheer bad luck.

10. There will be more to lose and I will get better at accepting it every time. What kind of improvement plan is that???

Friday, November 12, 2010

More Grateful, Less Secure

Everything has changed since I lost Ken on January 14, 2006. I lost my husband, my most trusted confidante, a truly wonderful man, the father of our kids. I became a single parent, no longer able to share my concerns for them with someone equally invested in their well-being. I make all the important decisions: I decide and I act when I want to on matters big and small. I learned to sleep alone with a pile of books and newspapers where a loving partner used to be. I started taking care of the grass and home repairs. When squirrels got into the house, I'm the one who had to figure out how to get them out. We set the table for three instead of four. I've driven 2,000 miles as a solo driver with my kids, something I never thought I could do. I've learned, and even worse, my kids have learned way too young that sometimes the very worst thing does happen. Just recently I noticed that sometimes I say the words "my late husband." I guess it's because I'm seeing someone else now and it sounds funny to say "my husband" when I'm clearly with another man. But I think my ability to utter those words also has to do with the fact that it's been almost five years. He's getting farther away, my late husband. He hasn't been my husband for a while now.

Of all the things that have changed for me, the one I'm noticing the most now, is how I seem to have lost the sense of safety and security Ken's existence brought to my life. Ken was a no-risk proposition. His solidity, his humanity, his goodness and his love for me and our kids was unshakably true for me. I had made such a good and important choice; we had chosen well when we chose each other -- and still, and still it ended, and it ended badly with Ken suffering, dying young, leaving us behind with so much left to be done. I had an illusion and the illusion was this: because I had chosen such a great partner, I would be safe. I think many women grow up with this illusion: a man will make me safe.

I don't think I can ever believe that again, and I'm OK with that. There is something strangely freeing to me about embracing this crapshoot of a life with open arms -- as an individual. Heads or tails? Who knows which answer is the right one, or where your life will lead you when you make your next choice? In losing Ken, I've had to grapple with my alone-ness, with my singular responsibility for how I will live the rest of my life, for how I will cope when it gets tough out there, and for realizing that the infinite possibilities of experience we are privileged to have while we are still alive and healthy are enormous gifts. Granted, we don't always know what's inside these gift boxes, but we get to open them, to be surprised, to receive something new. That's something Ken can't do anymore. So I'm lucky, more grateful, more open to happiness -- less safe, less secure. I accept.


When we lose someone, change becomes our predominant environmental condition. But even the changes change over time. Where are you now in relation to the change that has accompanied your loss? Write about change for five minutes. Get to know your current environment.