A Year Alone–No Quick Fix to Grief


In less than an hour it will be a year since I lost my wife. I have written on this subject many times over the past year. I’ve talked about my love for Diane and her love for me. I’ve talked about how we changed, repaired, and broadened each other with our mutual, unreserved affection and care.

As the anniversary of her passing neared, I found myself sinking again into depression; a depression I had fought hard to rise above since she left me alone. It snuck up on me.

You see, grief abates over time because we instinctively learn coping mechanisms. They let us make it through our daily routine without debilitating sadness. Some are better at it than others.

I wasn’t so good at finding those coping tactics. But after the first six months I began to go through the motions. I was aided in this in no small way, by the idea that Diane is still with me. Obviously not physically. But, there none the less. After all, she never lied to me in the nearly 20 years we were together. Why would I think she lied when she said we’d be together forever?

That has been my secret to getting on with life over the past few months. I talk to her as if she were standing nearby. I say goodnight to her and tell her I love her before I fall asleep. And in the morning when I make grapefruit and latte for breakfast as I have for almost 20 years, I say “Good morning, my love.”

It allowed me to finish a novel I started at the beach on our last escape together. Becky Bright Day.

But in the past few weeks I’ve had a harder time holding on. As the anniversary of her passing neared I started remembering details of her last weeks on Earth. Hard, disturbing, emotional images came to me as I matched the day with her condition then. On this day she stopped going down stairs. On that day she stopped eating prepared food. This day was her last bath. On that date she started the morphine. On this day she stopped responding to my voice.

And, as the day of her passing neared, I knew I would be flooded with all of the trauma following 11:14 pm — All the things I rushed to do before the kids came to say goodbye, before the hospice nurse came and pronounced her, before the mortuary men came and took her away… the last time I would see her.

So, in almost a panic, I fought to fill this time with other imagery. My friend who has the beach house in Bethany, happened to still have it open for the season. It was the beach house Diane and I had stayed in back in September of 2019… back when she had to skip a week of treatment because her blood work numbers were no good… back when I started writing Becky Bright Day because she wanted to laugh.

We spent beautiful days on the beach that September. We ate at a new place every day (except breakfast…we always had breakfast at Bethany Diner). And we lounged in bed and laughed and cuddled and talked about the trip…not the chemo.

So I came back. I ate at the Bethany Diner. They sat me at our old booth without me even having to ask. I took that as a sign and though it was well past lunchtime, I ordered French Toast and bacon… her favorite meal there. I thought if she were there, she could enjoy it vicariously through me.

I drove to the 3Rs beach ramp where we went each day the last time we were there. Someone had placed a pass on the credit card machine. Another sign I thought.

I sat for a while, reading a friend’s book (Selena Jones is an amazing author and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to find that out). It was cold, but I stayed a while. I wore the hat she wore those days. I sat where we sat those days. And when I was too cold to focus on the next page, I came back to the house.

I’d like to say there is a happy ending to this story. There’s not. I want her back and can’t have her. I need her if I’m ever to be happy again, and I won’t be

But, I remembered more joyful things than hurtful things on this most painful anniversary. So, in some small way; mission accomplished.

If anyone asks how long it takes to heal from losing the love of your life, it’s not a year. But, the sweet memories do return slowly.

Be well and show the one you love how much you love them. It will come back to you multiplied.

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