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.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Let Your Grief Be Like a Storm

To get the value of a storm we must be out a long time and travel far in it, so that it may penetrate our skin and we be as it were turned inside out to it, and there be no part in us but is wet and weatherbeaten...

Henry David Thoreau

Your grief is not something to be judged or analyzed or compared. It may be understood by few or by no one. No, you are not taking too long, or dwelling on it, or selfish, or ungrateful. It is not your fault. Grief comes and goes. If you are sad now, you will get better. If you are joyful now, you will be sad with grief another time. Grief is as inevitable as snow in winter and rain in spring. It can ruin you. It can restore you.

When your grief comes, let it storm.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Who Will Be There For Me?

A really good friend of mine had a bad bike accident a week ago. It had started raining during the ride. While going down a hill, she started thinking to herself, "I'm going too fast, I'd better do something."

The next thing she remembers is her husband at her side crying while she lay in a hospital bed.

Here's what she said to me while convalescing at home from a head injury:

"You're married to this guy all these years. Something like this happens. I just NEEDED him so much."

That really got me thinking. First, I felt so glad and relieved that she has such a devoted, loving, good husband, especially at a time like this. But I also couldn't help thinking a few other things.

Of course, since this is The Heartbreak Diary where I hope to inspire others to write about their loss, I couldn't help but come up with a new writing prompt for you to try.



After losing my husband too soon, I don't know if I can:

Count on someone to be there for me if I ever become really sick or incapacitated.

Ever again allow myself to need somebody and to believe that they will be there. Because, hey, they might not be!

Trust in more than just today.

Go back to a time where I felt as safe as I did with Ken.

Allow myself to depend on somebody else.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Today My Loss Feels...

I'm repeating myself here but only because I think this is one of the most powerful and healing writing prompts for anyone who has suffered a traumatic loss.


I encourage you to use this writing prompt at least once a month. Spend, ideally, 15 minutes, just writing whatever comes to mind. It's really helpful and it costs about 100 or more dollars less than seeing a therapist. (This is not to say that I don't value therapy, au contraire. My late husband was a damn good therapist and I believe that every adult can benefit from psychotherapy, whether you've suffered a big and untimely loss or not.) Just find yourself a quiet place where you can take 15 minutes to write without any editing or criticism. Sometimes writing the prompt down again if you are stuck can help keep your pen moving along and keep your thoughts flowing. You can even write ridiculous nonsensical words. Just keep writing.


I have been using this writing prompt myself since Ken died five years ago. At first, it would elicit all kinds of sadness, despair, hopelessness and exhaustion. Then, occasionally, glimmers of hope would show up amidst the sadness. Or, repeated themes would emerge. Or I might see an area where I needed and had to ask for help. Sometimes an idea for a new goal or a path toward change presented itself. Lately, there's hope, gratitude, and even new happiness in there. Using this prompt regularly can show that you are making progress, or show that you are stuck, or show that you need help, or show that you are ready to try something new.


Awareness. It's all about awareness: knowing where you stand in the present when you hold yourself up next to the big wall that is the loss of a spouse. Maybe the wall never gets knocked down completely. Maybe you don't want to knock it down completely, leaving some of it as a memorial to the person you lost and to the part of yourself that's been lost. But, probably, most of us don't want a big old wall of loss blocking off the rest of the life we get to live. A little awareness can help keep you moving on through, like a hurdler.

Today is February 10, 2011.


Distant, distant. And present, present. Like fuel that can take me anywhere I want to go. Unbelievable, still, unbelievable. Not so scary anymore. Like its made me so much more aware of my own mortality and of how short life is. That combined with turning 50 this year...it makes me fear the seeds of illness that may be imbedded in my own genetic makeup, cancer, heart disease, ugh. I don't want to be sick. Lately I'm just so incredibly happy to be healthy, and that my kids are healthy. Grateful to be alive. Really, I feel pretty darn satisfied with everything else. I feel, even, lucky. Whoever imagined I could feel lucky again?


Like a new path that will take me somewhere interesting, towards something that matters deeply to me. I've become a children's grief support group facilitator at Willow House in the Chicago area. It is so completely and utterly rewarding to feel that I have something to give to others who have lost a loved one. I am so grateful to write this blog and to hope that I may help someone with my words, in the same way that others who are writing help me.


Like my greatest worry is for my children and how losing their father so young will affect their lives, for the rest of their lives. Will they be wounded in ways that can never be mended? In ways that will makes their lives unhappy? Or will it fuel them in some way toward a good and happy life? I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate that my children lost their father. I hate it so much more than the fact that I lost my husband because I feel like at least I was an adult, but they were just young and innocent children. HATE IT. What if I can't help them? The older they get, the more I worry.


Like it's your turn.


Monday, February 07, 2011


I expect less now. Less of just about everything. I can live in a smaller house, work in a smaller job, have less love, understand that my body will fail me eventually, realize that I cannot control the fate of my children.

I can be happy and at peace with less, especially when there is an absence of crisis. I am almost to the place where I think it's shameful to complain about anything at all when you're simply -- healthy.

Acquiescing to loss feels like a fist tightening inside me squeezing anger inward, releasing spasms of contentment and discontentment simultaneously. I nod my head. I am happy with less. I shake my head, no.

The closer and closer and closer I creep to feeling acclimatized, OK, feeling better, feeling contentment, despite your eternal goneness, there is an accompanying relapse of disbelief. Can this be true? I am happy and without you?

It feels good and wrong to be satisfied this way. It's satisfaction skating on shattered ice. If I fall right through, I won't be surprised.

I wish it was spring, these mountains of snow melted overnight. Just one green shoot is all I need.


What does LESS mean to you? Anyone who's suffered a major loss lives with less. What's it like? Spend 5 minutes writing about LESS.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

How To Love a Dead Husband, Five Years Gone

The purpose of this blog, The Heartbreak Diary, is to encourage people to write about their loss as a part of their recovery plan. Today's exercise asks you to create a brief, bullet-point list of how to love your dead spouse. Depending on your own unique circumstances, the lists will differ from person to person. I'd love to see your list! So quick...without too much thinking...give me fifteen ways to love the one who died.

Here's mine:

1. Think about him often.

2. Tell stories about him to anyone, even strangers.

3. See him in your children and then tell the children what you see.

4. Learn from your relationship, and even if it was an excellent one, as ours was, pledge to do even better the next time, if you're lucky enough to have a next time.

5. Really live your life and try to leave behind self-doubt, guilt, anxiety and fear. Live for him. Live for the life he had cut short. Live in honor of him. Live as well as you can so that you can teach his children that life is great (even when you lose big.)

6. Laugh alot.

7. Honor your good health, mental and physical. Don't take your sound body and mind for granted. Exercise your body, your mind, and your emotions. (One way to exercise your emotions is to write about them.)

8. Remember how he loved you and love yourself that way.

9. Write about him.

10. Listen to music he loved. Read books he loved. Do activities he loved.

11. Honor his values.

12. Love his parents and siblings and other relatives.

13. Try to get something positive out of a loss this huge. Try to live a better life.

14. Love life.

15. Remember your love and let it guide you to better days.