grief journey

Chapter Two

My counselor, Vaiva, told me in one of our early sessions that generally it takes about a year per decade of a marriage to work through the grief. It’s obviously not a hard and fast deadline, and everyone grieves differently. She was just letting me know early, that after having a relationship that lasted 20 years, I shouldn’t wonder why I was “still grieving” after a couple of months, or even when a year had finally passed.

I’m also a bit of an impatient person (to put it mildly), and I kept getting disgusted with myself at “how long it was taking” to get back to normal. She kept telling me to be patient, that eventually, I’d see my way through it.

And I definitely got it – a year was not enough. As I recalled, in all of the Victorian novels, society specified a year of mourning – a year wearing “widow’s weeds.” But, I just googled it and found it was two years!

A widow was supposed to wear mourning for two years and was not supposed to enter society for twelve months. No lady or gentleman in mourning was supposed to attend social events while in deep mourning.

Hmm…I “reentered society” after two weeks when I went back to work. So much for following the dictates of society. I actually have never been much of a rule follower.

So, here I am, coming up on the end of month 22. In the past couple of months, Vaiva has been encouraging me to open my mind up to a new relationship. I had to laugh, because I think my eyes have been literally closed to it. My friend, Traci, and I meet nearly every week for happy hour at a local brewhouse, and we sit in the bar section. One day, when we got up to leave, (and after a couple of glasses of wine) I was stunned when I looked around. I told her, “Hey, there are a ton of men here!” Traci rolled her eyes. Yup, she had always noticed that. I think I had tunnel vision until that moment.

So, besides finally opening my eyes in public, after a few months of gentle prodding by my grief counselor, I decided to join a local group for singles age 40-65. They meet every week at different bars and restaurants and it looks like fun group. I haven’t had the nerve (or time) to go, yet – but it’s only been a week since I joined (like I said, I’m an impatient person, so that seemed a lot longer than it was now that I look back).

But once I joined the group, as usual, I started to have some emotional push-back. I realized that as I move towards the possibility of a new relationship, I feel many, many conflicting emotions. This isn’t new, of course, I felt them with every stage – from closing his accounts, to cleaning out his office and clothes, to turning in his car. At each step, I felt that I was making progress towards closure and embracing a new life, yet the progress also triggered overwhelming emotions. So, of course, today, I decided to use poetry to try to label and deal with them all.

Chapter Two

When the sun rises each morning
And I begin to feel hope…

I feel sadness

When I look forward to my future
And the promise of something ahead…

I feel guilt

When I realize my life has been on pause
And know I must resume or die with you…

I feel sorrow

When a new summer begins
And I feel serenity in the sun…

My heart aches

When I think that I may live again
And feel joy, happiness… love…

I feel agonized

As the person that was us, becomes me
When I look forward to my future…

I feel like I’ve betrayed our past

The more alive I feel
The more I hope for a full life
The more you recede into my memory
And I leave pieces of us behind

How can I have a life without you?
How can a man who helped me write the book that was my life
Become just one chapter?

I wanted the story to end with you
But there are many pages still to be written
In chapter two

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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