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, April 15, 2010


Why is it that just as I have acknowledged, felt, reached a new sense of contentment in my life -- a contentment I have found within myself, ALL ALONE, while planting peas in my garden, or successfully completing a home renovation project, or writing, or not being concerned about whether or not I stay at home on a Saturday night or a Friday night, or a Sunday night,

Why, just as I feel this sweet peace of a contentment with less, with all that I do have, I am then plunged into a deep well of sorrow, a sorrow that skims the cream of my contentment and sits there floating across everything? At any moment, the spark of Ken's premature death can take the picture of my peaceful, quiet forest of solitude and start a little fire raging at the edge of it, curling the corners until it's all just nothing but grey ash and emptiness all over again.

This week I went to Ukrainian village to visit the grand, three story, 1890 redstone apartment building that you bought about 100 years after it was built, about three years before we met, a courageous, urban-pioneering moment in your life as a single, social worker in his 30s. Little did you know that the risk you took back then would become a key foundation of support for your young family living alone without you.

Now I dream of restoring it, piece by piece, this building that has come to sit in a relatively new historic district of Chicago owned now by me who never would have taken the risk that you did. There is peeling paint on crumbling stone, rickety steps in need of replacement, soft brick in need of tuckpointing so the moisture cannot do its damage. I can restore and build upon your dream. I can take something in danger of becoming run down and renew it. You started this. I can keep it moving forward. I am growing stronger though I can still cave in from the devastation of your disappearance.

You were so proud of the building you bought and you loved watching the neighborhood transform around you from dangerous to impossibly hip. Today young people live in the building just like we did....they meet, they move in together, eventually some of them marry. Today I went over to the building to meet with a tree trimmer named Sy. He's going to remove a dead maple tree and trim the dawn redwood that you planted about 20 years ago, and the locust tree that has become simply huge. After Sy left, I met with a young woman who will become a new tenant in May. She's about to begin her job as a medical resident at Rush, and she's moving in with her boyfriend for the first time. She told me they're talking about a ring.

A dead tree will come down. A young woman will begin her career and a new love right here in our building where we were married. I'm thinking renewal. Tomorrow I'm meeting with an architect who knows the area, knows our building, and appreciates restoration work.

I never imagined I'd be doing any of this. Like our building, I've been worn down by what life has rained upon me. But I'm coming back. I'm taking the building with me. We're going to get better. I wish I believed you could see me now. But when I asked you if I should work on restoring the building, I told myself that you said, "go for it."


Take 5 minutes and write about restoration. Or if you'd rather, write about what's been destroyed.


Mary said...


TamaraH said...

What a way with words you have, Jill...It takes my breath away! I, too, have a structure that my husband left me. He assumed I would sell it if something ever happened to him, but I have nothing but wonderful memories of us together here and don't want to leave. The home he had built in 2000, and carefully micro-managed, is now a place that I treasure, where I raise my boy. I feel my job now is to find the perfect artwork and lighting and back yard embellishments to continue to make this a home Brian would be proud to call his own. As I sit at the edge of the creek with Asher, I know Brian is looking down on us and smiling.

Anonymous said...

I love this, especially the way you ended it. I talk to my husband all the time, even though I don't believe he can hear me...

Abigail said...

The phoenix rises from the ashes...

Beautiful post.

Katie said...

I like the way you end your posts with assignments. I think grief made me smaller, somehow and my need for peace is much greater. Please keep writing! Warm regards, Cathy

bam said...

jill, i just read through a few posts, and it is simply gorgeous writing....even more powerful humanity.....your words are so precisely powerfully put down. i love the forest fire, the curling up at the edges, the building, the new love in the edifice where you were married....this is a gift, even to those of us whose grief has never been what yours is....thank you for this...bam