grief journey

I Am Titanium

I was driving along through the park today, belting out one of my favorite tunes from my Amazon music library. I love music, always have. The right song has the ability to bring me to my knees – or to infuse me with the strength to rise to meet any challenge. I have one of those accounts through Amazon where I can listen to virtually any song, any time, and I use my phone and Bluetooth to pair my music with my car speakers, so I can sing along everywhere. Fortunately, I am usually alone in my car, so my off-tune singalongs won’t cause an innocent passenger any hearing damage.

I remember when my son was young, and I was belting out a song. “Who sings this?” Brandon asked me. “Barbra Streisand,” I replied. “WELL, LET HER SING!” he told me. Funny kid.

So, one of my new favorite habits is to drive through the park after breakfast at the diner on Sundays. The morning routine is pleasant, and at this point I’m used to Rick not sitting across from me offering to finish my NYT Sunday puzzle. The waitresses know my order by heart. The busboy has a bet with me each weekend to see if my magical powers to clear out the back room of the diner will work. I usually enter to a packed restaurant because it’s the morning rush, but by the time I leave, there are only a few remaining diners, so he always catches my attention to give me a smile and thumbs up as each table clears out – and it makes me chuckle. The diner employees are like a second family to me now. They were our friends before Rick died, and they know the whole story. In fact, they watched him slowly fade each week and cried along with me when I started coming in alone.

So, most Sundays, I finish my three-egg cheese and onion omelet with a side of crispy crispy bacon, grab my Diet Coke in the to-go cup (this week BOTH my waitresses brought me one at the same time and we had a good laugh). And then, not wanting to face the chores, or the quiet that awaits me at home, I crank up the volume and hit the park for about an hour. I usually stop and watch the ducks on the water, and often feel inspired to write a poem or a blog as I sit soaking in nature while contemplating life.

On the way home today, I was singing along with a variety of upbeat, “I am woman, hear me roar,” type songs. (Not literally Helen Reddy.) I was belting out Noah Guthrie’s cover of David Guetta’s song, “Titanium”:

I’m bulletproof nothing to lose
Fire away, fire away
Ricochet, you take your aim
Fire away, fire away
You shoot me down but I won’t fall, I am titanium
You shoot me down but I won’t fall
I am titanium, I am titanium, I am titanium, I am titanium

I love the melody and I’m sure the song has a meaning unlike what I’ve ascribed to it. It sounds like it’s about a bad relationship and that the singer is saying he can rise above the pain delivered by his mate. But I always adapt songs to what I need them to mean to me. And in this one, I direct my words to life itself: Fire away, life. You took your best shot, and I’m still standing. You can shoot me down, but I won’t fall! I have nothing to lose and I’m rising above this pain. I’ll be okay.

And as I drove around the curves of Hines Park, I sang the song loud and proud: I am ti- taaaa- neee- um! I am ti- taaaa-neee- uuuummmm!

The man I love is dead. I am still here. I have made it through year one, and I’m halfway through year two. I am starting to live again after being shot down again and again and again by grief triggers that aimed for my heart.

And here I am, ready to carve out a new future for myself. Ready to accept that the past cannot be resurrected. Here I am on a Sunday afternoon after completing an enjoyable breakfast and a mildly difficult crossword, having been content with life the way it is now, and even having genuinely enjoyed my morning as I laughed at the jokes of the waitresses and the regular diner patrons. Here I am enjoying an almost sunny Sunday, something I couldn’t have dreamed possible at one time.

And then mid-lyrics, as usually happens, my voice broke, and the tears began to flow. Because I’m really not titanium at all. I’m a flesh and blood woman. And Sundays without Rick are really very lonely. I’m doing my best, but I’m only human, and I’m working as hard as I can to make something of what’s left of my life.

Titanium? No, but I’ll sing the song, I’ll belt out the lyrics, until I’ve convinced myself that I’m that strong, bulletproof survivor, again. I’ll sing it until the memories and the grief triggers start to abate and I’m ready to return to my quiet home and get back to work on my goals and plans for my new life alone.

So I’ll keep driving and I’ll keep singing. And I won’t stop until I feel like I am titanium, again.

Hear the song.

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

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