Early Grief

One day you wake up and, like any other day, you assume that all the things you believe to be true will remain that way

That is until you get the knock at the door. Maybe it’s a phone call. Maybe it’s a doctor saying that there is nothing more that they can do. Or, like me, you walk into a nightmare scene of flashing lights and uniforms only to be told ” I’m sorry, ma’am. He’s inside and he’s deceased.”

However you get the news, that is when it happens. Something I like to call “The Pause”.

Time stops. The world stops spinning. You stop breathing. You can’t think a single thought. You can’t really hear. You stop seeing what is happening around you. This is the last moment of your “other” life. This is the moment that the version of you from before you were told the news, dies.

Then, you fall. Reality rips wide open and you fall into the abyss. This isn’t like the books and movies like to make it seem. You don’t fall into some fiery hellscape of endless suffering. You don’t fall into complete darkness where there is no sense of direction. It is much more insidious than that. You see, the abyss looks EXACTLY like the world you knew. The only difference is that it FEELS like a fiery hellscape and endless, directionless darkness. The thing is, you’re the only one that notices the difference.

It is disorienting, the abyss. The food looks the same but it tastes like ashes in your mouth. People look the same but they make no sense anymore. Music that you once loved now feels like razors flaying you wide open. Movies and shows that you once enjoyed become annoying, at best. They become tortuous at worst. Sleep is impossible. Nothing seems real but it is all familiar. People go about their lives as if the whole world hadn’t just imploded.

You spend much of your time wanting to scream and some of it actually screaming. How is it that everything is the same but nothing is the same, at the same time? How can people just smile like that? How can they act like the ground didn’t just swallow up reality? Can’t they feel that agony you are feeling? It is obvious that they can’t. You wonder if you have lost your mind.

Maybe you sit in silence, unable to form coherent thought. Maybe you curl into a ball and scream until your throat bleeds. Maybe you cry so hard that you vomit. Maybe you scream like a banshee and break everything in sight. Maybe you do all of these. You are neither alive nor dead. You are in limbo. The limbo of early grief.

People don’t know how to talk to you so they don’t. The very air around you is heavy and suffocating for those who can’t feel the torture. They don’t understand why you are acting this way. It can’t really, be that bad. Can it? They dont want to entertain the idea that what is happening to you could ever happen to them so they look away.

Nothing is ever the same again. All grief changes you. Traumatic, out of order, unexpected and violent death does even more. Nothing ever feels the same as it did that moment just before you got the news. You will forever carry the scars and the knowledge that the worst can, and sometimes does, happen. You know pain that most cannot and will never have to understand. You learn how strong you are. You learn what really matters in this life.

Early grief is a tortuous hell. If you are there, just breathe. Hold on to something. Drink more water. Eat if you can. Sleep when you can. The hell you are in won’t always be so consuming. You will never really leave it completely behind but, in some strange way, you will start to make sense of it. There are lessons here. Expensive, painful lessons. Important lessons. Don’t give up. You will be able to breathe again someday. Someday, you will be alive again.

It will never be “better”. I am not the kind of person to give false hope. The pain stays. Sorry to be the bearer of more bad news. The pain stays but you get stronger. You learn to carry it differently. It won’t always feel so heavy. There will be days, years into this journey, where it will hit you like a tidal wave and it will knock you on your ass. You won’t be able to breathe. You will be taken straight back to the early days. You will wonder why the hell you are back there again. Don’t worry. You have done days like that before. You know how to get through them. They don’t last as long, over time.

I think, eventually, you leave the abyss. I also think that the abyss never really leaves you. You carry a piece of that hell with you for the rest of your life. You will never be what or who you were before so don’t waste your precious time and energy trying to be. Find who you are now. The person with the scars and the wounds and the lessons and the hell inside them . The person who is stronger than they ever imagined they could be or ever wanted to have to be. There are some gifts, even in hell. Try to hold on to them.


I am struck so often about how beautiful and painful life can be at the same time. Emotions are very rarely mutually exclusive. It is funny how you can be going through an unbelievably difficult time while, at the same time, making extraordinary connections and beautiful memories. I often think about the saying that says, “Nothing lasts forever”. How very true. Nothing good lasts forever. Nothing bad lasts forever. Life is a constant ebb and flow.

It is so important to look for the good, even when life is hard. I am in month 21 of being a widow. I am heading into the hardest time of the year for me. I was diagnosed with breast cancer 2 weeks ago. In a few days, I will be having surgery to remove the cancer. Once I heal from surgery, I will start radiation treatment. The worst of it will be happening right around the second anniversary of Bob’s death. Life is hard right now, to say the least. Way more hard than anyone deserves.

I am angry. I am angry at Bob because he chose all of this for me. The anecdotal evidence shows that grief causes major illness by tanking our immune system. So, the grief and the pain and the cancer and the struggle are all because he chose to end his pain. I would love to say that at least he isn’t struggling anymore but that is not really how I feel right now. Right now, I am furious at him for choosing this for me. He left me more pain and struggle than he could have ever imagined. He was selfish. He told me he loved me more than anything but then he chose this for me. UGH.

At the same time, there are wonderful things happening in my life. I have made some absolutely amazing friends. I have reconnected with old friends. I have more love and support in my life than ever before. I feel more emotionally and mentally stable and healthy than I ever have. The therapy I have been doing is definitely working. My relationships with others and with myself are proof of that. I am handling the news of having breast cancer better than I would have in the past. I feel more happy and grounded and loved than I ever have despite the current shit storm in my life.

I fully expect the next few months to be extremely painful, both emotionally and physically. I fully expect that I am going to struggle. I know that there are going to be really hard days. I also know I will laugh. I know I will find things to be grateful for. I know that I will continue to nurture my relationships. I know that I will survive this current storm and that I will come out the other side stronger and better for what I learn.

I am not excited about more struggles. Being told you have cancer is scary. The anniversary of his death is so painful. Life can hurt like hell. It can throw way too much at you at once. Thankfully there is always beauty and grace and love and laughter to be found even in the worst storms if you are willing to acknowledge them. It is okay to scream and cry over what you are going through one minute and find something to laugh about the next.

Life is messy. Nothing is permanent. You never know when the next plot twist is going to hit. Find happiness and beauty where you can. Know that even the worst days end. Things won’t be awful forever. There is almost always good and bad, all twisted together. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that they are mutually exclusive. Grab hold of the good with both hands. Be present. Be grateful. Let yourself feel what you need to. Breathe. Take it moment by moment. Love more than is reasonable. Life is hard for all of us. We don’t get out of this unscathed. Appreciate the good. It is always there, even on the worst days.


I have changed in many ways since Bob died. Some good. Some not so much. But every part of me has undergone some sort of transformation.

The one I’m noticing today is that now when I’m hurt, instead of being sad, I get angry. I mean throat-punchy, stabby, dark and twisty hate the world kind of anger.

I want to rage. I want to lash out and make people feel the hurt I feel. I want to burn the world down. I used to be scared of this feeling. I used to think there was something wrong with me. Now I know better.

Now I know that Anger is Sad’s bodyguard. I’ve learned that anger is better than the helplessness it’s trying to prevent me from feeling. I’ve learned that anger can spur me to action when sadness would prevent me from action.

I am ANGRY. I’m angry that my husband is dead. I’m angry that he chose this. I’m angry that he chose this for those of us left behind. I’m angry that my family failed me and that I’ve had to do so much of this alone. I’m angry that people still think it’s okay to treat me like they deserve my love without giving any in return. I’m angry that people I trusted and loved turned out to be untrustworthy. I’m angry that this still hurts so much .

I talk about what I’m grateful for often. I say thank you and I put on my happy face so people can be comfortable but I’m angry. I’m hurt and I’m angry often. I’m angry that I don’t have to soft place to land when I need to take my armor off and rest. I’m angry that my brain is so broken from this .

Tonight, I’m feeling my anger. It’s running down my face in burning hot tears. It’s coming out as loud sobs as I sit in the bottom of the shower and hold myself. It’s coming out as needing so badly to have someone hold me and comfort me but instead I am shaking with the anger and pain.

Widowhood is BULLSHIT

Choices and Bravery

Life is…strange.

I mean, really strange. One minute you’re happy, content, minding your own business. The next..BOOM!!! In comes the nuclear bomb and everything is ashes.

Alright, so it isn’t always as dramatic as all that. Sometimes it’s just a job change or a relationship ending but it feels huge and scary. Sometimes we see the curve balls coming. Sometimes they hit us between the eyes.

I would love to say that I have it all figured out. I would love to be able to write a book that exposes all the secrets to life and help everyone be happy. Unfortunately, I don’t believe there is one good answer that works for everyone.

Life is always going to throw curveballs. That’s just a universal truth. We like to think we can control things by making the right choices and doing the right things but (I’m sorry to tell you) we can’t. Not even a little. Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.

I have come to believe that the sooner we learn that life isn’t fair and that we can only control how we respond to the cards we are dealt, the easier it is to navigate this whole existence thing. I mean, seriously. Who is in the drivers seat anyway? That a rhetorical question. Please don’t tell me your version of god is. I’m an atheist.

Do you choose who you fall in love with? Nope. You do choose if you stay in love with them, though. We don’t choose to get ill or have loved ones die or get in a car crash or lose our jobs. We don’t choose pandemics and most of us don’t choose war. We don’t choose the circumstances we are born into or the color of our skin. We don’t choose to have abusive parents or mental illness. Those things happen. All the time.

So, what do we do when life seems to go all sideways and gets overwhelming? What do we do when we find ourselves so uncomfortable with how things are that we are being faced with the notion that we have to change? What do we do when something happens we can’t control? We get brave. That’s what we do.

We listen closely to our hearts and our truth. We try to silence all the people who want to have an opinion about how we should live our lives. We look at all the options. We take a breath….and we choose.

We choose to take that job offer. We choose to leave the job we hate. We choose to take better care of ourselves. We choose to get help. We choose to take a chance on love. We choose to walk away from the things that don’t serve us. We choose to listen to our highest truth, even if it’s terrifying.

Really. That’s the secret. Choice. Your power, your joy, your best life lies in you choosing. Choosing to respond with love when faced with bad behavior. Choosing to love yourself enough to do what’s best for you. Choosing to get help instead of ending your life when you’re struggling. It doesn’t really matter what you’re facing. How you face it is what you can control.

Bravery is a funny thing. People often think of soldiers and first responders when they think of bravery. That is one kind of bravery. But there’s another kind that I think is far too often overlooked and maybe more important. I call it “everyday bravery”. Let me tell you what that means to me.

Everyday bravery means telling the truth even when you’re afraid of the consequences. It means choosing the right things even if they aren’t the easy things. It means getting up and taking a shower and feeding yourself when you would rather just die. It means loving people who maybe haven’t given you much reason to. It means doing the right thing when no one is watching. It means going out and exercising because it’s good for you. It means asking for help if you need it.

Everyday bravery comes in all kinds of forms. Sometimes it’s an act of bravery just to be alive. Life is always throwing something new at us. Sometimes it’s something amazing. Sometimes it’s something devastating.

The bad news? We can’t control it and and we can’t stop it. Nothing lasts forever.

The good news? We get to decide how we choose to face it. Nothing lasts forever .

Be brave, my friends.

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

“Fake it til you make it.”

It’s a statement usually said in a joking, self deprecating manner. For me, since Bob died, it’s become a matter of survival. Some days I’m just not okay. I have no desire to do anything, let alone be here. That’s just the reality of widowhood for a lot of us. I’ve talked to a LOT of widows. Most of us struggle with being “okay”. We struggle with finding reasons to want to be here anymore.

Faking it til I make it is sometimes the only way I get through the day. I pretend I care about exercising and get up and do it. I fake that I care about eating so I force myself. I fake that I have my shit together. I fake a smile for the public when I am screaming on the inside. I pretend the loneliness isn’t killing me.

“Act as if you have the life you want.”

I act as if I feel the way I want to feel in the hopes that I will someday. I try to make choices that take into consideration the future I hope to have, the life I want to have. I find things to appreciate in my life now. I act as if my heart isn’t shattered. I try to trust people again. I act as if I’m not terrified most of the time.

Traumatic grief is not what you think. It’s not black clothes and handkerchiefs and quiet, dignified tears. It’s not wistfully staring out windows with a small smile at the memories. It’s not quiet conversations about them. It’s not a linear process where you slowly get better over time.

It’s waking up sobbing from dreams of them or nightmares. It’s being triggered by random things that cause you to have a panic attack or a sudden bout of inexplicable rage. It’s finding some small piece of your life with them in the back of a drawer and staying in bed for the next 3 days. It’s desperate need for comfort and the fear of letting anyone close to you. It’s having a fog on your brain so heavy that you can’t remember what you’ve done or conversations you’ve had, even if it just happened. Its forgetting appointments and birthdays and suddenly being late to everything when you used to always be early. It’s dissociation so bad that you literally lose hours to days where you have no idea where the time went.

Grief includes the secondary losses. Friends who can’t handle your pain. Family who are too selfish to put you first. The loss of your future you planned. The loss of your identity. The loss of your security. Loss of faith. Loss of support. Loss of income. The grief of the life that you will never see again.

It’s slowly getting rid of their belongings. It’s the day you go to smell their shirt and it doesn’t smell like them anymore. It’s the inability to choke down food because it’s tastes like ash in your mouth. It’s overeating because that’s the only place you find comfort. It’s not sleeping because your mind won’t stop or sleeping all the time because that’s the only way you get a break from it all.

It’s the EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Battle with your own mind and heart. It’s the fight to stay alive and not give up hope.

So when I say I’m having a hard time, put yourself in my shoes. Don’t ask yourself why I’m still struggling. Maybe you could ask yourself how you can help.

I “fake it til I make it” every day.

Grief and Grace

Grief is hard. It’s messy. It never looks the way you think it will. It’s sometimes feeling every emotion at once and sometimes feeling nothing at all. It’s nothing like they show in the movies.

I’ve felt crazy. I mean, lost my whole entire mind, never going to function normally, brain and heart completely broken, never going to be okay again…crazy. Unable to manage my emotions. Unable to sleep. Huge and violent mood swings. Amnesia so bad that I’m missing 4 months of memory after I lost my husband. It’s just black. I was a MESS.

Many days I could barely move. It took me hours to manage a shower if I took one at all. Cleaning my house, walking my dog, laundry or any other “normal” daily tasks became impossible. Drinking water and laying on the couch, staring into space, were all I could manage for months.

During this time, I was struggling to want to stay alive. I believed that I was never going to be okay again. I believed that my life had ended when my Bob’s life ended. I felt like I should be able to handle things better. I was ashamed of how absolutely wrecked I was.

There’s a part of surviving the suicide of your partner that not many people talk about. It takes a huge toll on your self esteem. Even though it’s clearly not true, you feel like they wanted to die rather than be here with you anymore. I felt like I was worthless and unwanted and now I was broken so badly that there was no coming back from it.

This is where I had to start to learn how to give myself grace. One of the definitions of grace is “disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency”. I had to learn to be kind to myself. I had to learn to give myself clemency, which is another word for mercy.

I had to learn to honor where I was at, even when it was crazy messy. Well, ESPECIALLY when I was crazy messy. I had to learn to be kind and merciful to myself on the days where I couldn’t get out of bed. I had to learn to not be ashamed of myself for my tears and my anger. I had to learn to be gentle with myself when I was on my face, screaming from the pain. I had to learn to give myself the love and the grace I would give to someone else who was going through what I was.

I had to constantly remind myself that I would never shame someone for the way they grieved or survived if they lost their partner. So, I could not do it to myself either. It has not been an easy thing to learn to do….To honor whatever I was feeling while not allowing myself to stay mired in the darkness. It’s been quite a journey to learn to allow myself to be where I am at without judgement.

Through this messy roller coaster of an experience, I have learned to love myself. I used my husbands love as an example when I didn’t know how to give myself love and grace. I would ask myself what he would tell me to do or what he would do for me if he was still here. Even in his death, his love saved me. It was his final gift to me…to teach me how to love myself unconditionally like I loved him. Like he loved me.

Grief, no matter what the cause, is difficult at best. It alters our lives and breaks our hearts and takes time to learn to live with. It is a long journey. Sometimes it’s two steps forward and a hundred steps back. It’s definitely not a linear process. It hurts in ways you never imagined possible. It changes almost every aspect of your life and can change almost everything about you when you live through it.

We give others grace when they struggle. We love them even when they aren’t perfect. We excuse messiness when it is warranted. We hold the people we love when their hearts break. We wrap them up and tell them it’s okay to just breathe if that’s all they can do.

We must learn to love ourselves this way, too. Often times, we hold ourselves to a standard that is not only impossible to meet but that we would never hold others to. Why do we expect things from ourselves that we would never ask of others?

Grace can save us. When we get it from others, it’s wonderful and soothing. When we get it from ourselves, it’s life changing and life saving. Give yourself the love you so generously and unconditionally give to others. We cannot truly feel what we need to feel and heal what we need to heal without it.

If you are grieving, be kind to yourself. Where you are is exactly where you need to be. If, today, all you can do it breathe then just breathe. Honor yourself, where you are and what you feel. Be gentle in your words you speak to yourself. Grief is one of the hardest things to go through. Loss changes everything. Yours too.

Give yourself grace. Kindness. Mercy. Forgiveness. Gentleness. Patience. Time. You are healing from your worst day. Treat yourself as you would someone you love. You’ll be amazed at how healing it can be.

Love Is Not Enough

Whoever said love is all we need was a liar. Sorry to rain on anyone’s parade but it simply isn’t true.

Love is not enough when one person loves and the other doesn’t. Love isn’t enough when one person is giving of themselves and the other only takes. Love isn’t enough when one person loves and the other is only there to fill the time or so they don’t have to be lonely.

Love is wonderful and important. However, love alone is not enough to sustain a relationship. Relationships also need trust, respect, honesty, vulnerability, communication, consideration and compromise to survive.

I’ve known so many people who stay in relationships because they love the person they are with but the relationship is missing everything else. They say “but I love them” or “but they say they love me”. They are miserable and lonely and they can’t figure out why.

Love is not enough. It’s not enough to sustain a relationship. No amount of love will ever be enough to make someone change. Love cannot make a person happy if they are not happy inside themselves.

You can love someone more than anything in the world. You can give them everything you have. You can do everything you know to show them how much they mean to you…and they can still choose to treat you badly. You can tell yourself “if I just love them enough they will change”. You would be wrong. You cannot love someone into loving you. You cannot love someone into changing.

People have to want to love you. They have to know how to love. They have to choose you. They have to choose to change. They have to choose respect and communication and compromise and honesty and vulnerability. They have to choose because they want to. No amount of suffering or being a doormat or sacrificing your own needs and wants will change that. No matter what you do or how much you love, a person will only return that love or change their behavior if they want to.

Sometimes we love people who are incapable of loving us back. Sometimes we love someone and we want to save them from themselves and we can’t. People can only save themselves. Sometimes we love and love and love and all it does is damage us. Sometimes, we love other people desperately because we don’t know how to love ourselves.

I know all of this because I’ve done all of it. I thought my love could save my husband. I thought that if I loved him enough, he would choose to get help. I thought if I loved him enough, he would learn to love himself. I thought he would change. I thought he would get better if I put myself last.

He died. Despite the unfathomable depth of my love for him, he took his own life. I loved him more than most people ever are and he still chose to die.

Don’t spend your life throwing your love at people who can’t feel it. Don’t beg people to love you. Don’t beg people to change. If you aren’t being respected and valued and if there isn’t compromise and communication and vulnerability on both sides, it doesn’t matter how much you love them…it’s time to move on.

Love is not enough. Take that love you are throwing at the wrong person and give it to yourself. Walk away. Wait for someone who loves you back without you having to suffer for it. Wait for someone who celebrates you as you are. Wait for someone who freely and happily loved you without you asking for it. Wait for someone who you don’t need to save. Wait for someone you don’t want to change.

Save yourself. Love yourself. Work on yourself. Love your friends. Work on healing whatever is in you that makes you feel unworthy of being loved. Cultivate a life that makes you happy. Become happy and healed on the inside. Then, you won’t settle for begging for whatever scraps of love someone throws at you because you are starving for it. When you love yourself, you will be full. The love others offer you will only be like a wonderful dessert that makes life more enjoyable when you’re already satisfied.

To My Widow Sisters

To every military widow….

I see you. I know how hard this life that you have been handed is. I know we so often feel forgotten once the funeral is over. I know people think we should “move on” or “get over it”. As if that is even possible. Regardless of how your husband died, you served this country too. You paid the worst price for this country. You should all be loved and cared for and your sacrifice should not be forgotten.

I see you when you hear Taps and it takes you back to his funeral, no matter how many years it has been. I see you when you hear the national anthem and your heart swells with pride and breaks at the same time. I see you when you have to face Memorial Day and Veterans Day without your service member. I see you when everyday life becomes overwhelming and all you want is for him to hold you and tell you it will be okay. I see you cry yourself to sleep and then face the world like you slept like a baby.

I am with you. You are in my heart. We are too often forgotten by the masses once the funeral is over. They like to say how much they support our troops and how patriotic they are but they forget about the war widows and their children. I feel your struggle.

Your sacrifice matters. You matter. Your children matter. Your husband matters. I will hold you in my heart. My love to all of you. This is not an easy life we were given. But we are the widows of heroes. We will survive.

The End? Or the Beginning?

People talk about the creation of the world or the universe all the time. Whether it was a Big Bang or the hand of some creator, it’s usually talked about as some moment in the very distant past. A moment and then creation was complete.

People also like to talk about the “end”. Armageddon. The Apocalypse. The sun consuming the planet. Extinction. All of these conversations are about a time in the future.

Funny how death brushing close can make you understand the absurdity of believing that there’s one beginning and one end. Birth and death. Creation and destruction. One of each in any given scenario. Wrong.

The moment I saw the police on my lawn and my husbands car in the driveway, my life ended. The life I had known, the person I had been blew away like ash in the wind. A bomb was dropped into the middle of my existence and burned everything away. I knew he was dead before they told me. Why else would they be there? He wasn’t violent. No one disliked him but himself. He was gone. The end.

I spent months after that day suspended in a sort of purgatory. I wasn’t alive but I wasn’t dead, either. Maybe it was a cocoon. Maybe it was a womb. Whatever it was, I neither existed or didn’t exist. I remember nearly nothing of that time. I just remember darkness and numbness and, occasionally, pain. So much pain.

At some point, the light started creeping in. I started feeling things. I started noticing life again. I started to remember things. I started to move my body and stretch my mind, testing how they worked now. Nothing felt like it had before the end. I was, different now. The world was different now. The Beginning.

You see, there are beginnings and endings happening all the time. Some huge, some small. To not acknowledge all of them is to not recognize the truth of life. Everything ends. Nothing is permanent. New beginnings come from the end of things.

Appreciate what you have while it’s here. It will be gone someday. That’s a certainty. Grieve when things that you once loved end but realize that in every end there is a beginning. All hard times will pass. All good times will pass, too.

Today it’s the end. Tomorrow, the beginning. Then the end again. You can focus on the end if you want….Or you can look for the beginning.