Advice from a Seasoned Widow

Everyone experiences the loss of a loved one, and the losses compound as we age. In my 63-year span on earth, I’ve lost my father and mother, and all my grandparents, aunts, and uncles. The entire older generation is gone and now I’m losing my peers, too – cousins and friends, alike. I have felt the pain of every one of those losses throughout the years. But I can honestly say nothing has ever affected me like my husband’s death.

Losing Rick was unlike any other grief I have known. It was like losing a part of myself. Of course, there was tremendous pain when I lost all of those who were dear to me, especially my parents. But Rick and I had intertwined lives. He was the yin to my yang, and when he died, I felt like I was ripped in two. My entire life was upended. And all widows know this feeling. The person who is almost a part of you suddenly disappears and you’re left feeling lost and alone, with no idea how you could possibly survive the pain. But three years later, I’m here to tell you that you will survive – and can even thrive.

Now and then, I am amazed that I am in this place today – happily going about my life as a single woman – even enjoying myself dating other men. I never thought I’d see this day. Life is full of joy and worth living. I’m okay. Oh, I can go back and relive the pain in the snap of my fingers – those awful first days after his death, and the actual scene of his death, as well. I can feel it all over again – almost as if it’s still happening. The pain and despair will never be forgotten. Enduring those early throes of grief was like being in a dark hole. I was filled with anxiety and dread – thinking life was no longer worth living, and not imagining how I could possibly go on. And in the midst of that awful time, I never imagined how I’d make it to today, when all is well, when life has righted itself and I have hope, joy, and a promising future.

So, now, I’d like to encourage those of you in those early stages of grief, those of you who are currently experiencing emotional pain that you never thought possible – you will survive this incredible pain. I – and many other widows – have done it. But there are a few things that I learned on the recovery journey…

Read the advice on the Hope for Widows website.

About the author

Katherine Billings Palmer is a technical writer, poet, and essayist from Garden City, Michigan. She’s won several academic writing awards, including first place in the University of Michigan Dearborn Critical Essay Contest for her work about poet John Donne: “‘The Sun Rising’: A Lover’s Boast.”

In 2017, Katherine’s husband, Rick, died of complications from small cell lung cancer. She wrote a series of poems and essays about her struggles to cope with her grief. I Wanted to Grow Old With You is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

Her latest book, A Widow’s Words: Grief, Reflection, Prose, and Poetry – The First Year was published in January 2019 and is also available on

Katherine is a guest blogger for the Hope for Widows Foundation and writes about her grief journey at


  1. I lost my beloved husband Jim this July to cancer. My story has much in common with yours. I want to thank you for your blog. It lifts me up and let’s me know that I am not alone, that others (you) have had these same emotions and questions.
    I’m slowly reading your blog starting at the beginning as it corresponds to my journey ( 6 months last week) but this was the first post I found & you give me hope that I will survive and perhaps find happiness again even if tempered with grief. Thank you and I’m routing for you.

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