grief void

Filling the Void

I was fine.

I made it through going to our diner for breakfast. I purposely flipped past the song that would make me cry on the way home on this dreary day.

I pulled into our driveway and for one quick second, looked at the beautiful red-orange leaves on the tree outside our bedroom and remembered that we bought this house this same time of year, twelve years ago. It’s a rainy, gloomy day, so, since the thought that flitted through my mind had the potential to bring on tears, I jumped out of the car and hurried into the house.

I bought a new comforter for our bed. The mattress needed flipping, and that wasn’t as easy without you here on the other side of the bed to help, but, nope, that’s just life; that wasn’t any reason to cry. I was having a difficult time getting the bedskirt on without you lifting the mattress so easily, so effortlessly, as you used to do to help out, but, again, no biggie.

After I plumped the new pillows and stood back to survey the pretty bed, I thought, He’ll never sleep in this bed again. Okay, yup, so what else is new? You’ve known that for more than a year now. You’ve had that thought a million times. It’s been examined, processed, closed. Let’s move on.

And on and on my day went. Glimpses of you, thoughts of you, memories and more memories rising to the surface. Nothing new, nothing insurmountable, nothing I can’t tamp down so I can continue on my productive day.

Cleaning, cooking, chores, laundry – that’s what this Sunday is about. Of course you’ll come to mind as I work around our house. Of course, I’ll think of you as I glance out the bedroom window and see that same tree, those same beautiful leaves, from inside. Of course, I would think about what a perfect Sunday afternoon this would have been to lie in bed in your arms. Of course. Okay, yup, time to do another load of laundry.

And then it just happened, out of the blue.

I sat down for one minute and glanced down at my Apple Watch and saw your face smiling up at me, and I lost it. The depth of the sorrow that came over me stunned me. It was like the day you died all over again.

grief void

How, how, how can you be gone? How can it STILL hurt this much?

Your death has left a void that I can’t seem to fill, no matter how hard I try.

No matter how busy I keep myself, no matter how many new plans and goals I devise to keep my eyes forward, to make a life for myself without you.

It’s still there – a yawning chasm, a deep, dark void in my life and in my heart.

I play with my grandkids, visit with family and friends, go to movies and concerts and parties and trivia nights. I read books. I go to work. I work on our business. I redecorate the house, repair things, and buy things, and do hobbies. I work on genealogy and crosswords and jigsaw puzzles. I travel.

And I write. I write out the pain. I write through the pain. I embrace the pain. I feel it, I experience it. I don’t avoid it, but it’s still here and it’s still raw after so long.

I’m trying so hard, honey, but I can’t fill the void that you left.

Year two. I guess I have to try harder.

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. Your words express the chasm Rick left in your life. He was the man that was destined to join paths with you in this life.

    You’ve also helped me feel tha pain I’ve had locked up for nearly seven years.

  2. I felt like someone had been in my head and wrote it all down when i read your “filling the void”. Im only 8 months a widow and thought i was the only one that felt this amount of grief. I know im not but it just feels like that. I write every day to Ivor its my way of talking too him. I do the spontaneous crying alot, comes out of nowhere. I just wanted to say the last words made me smile as he would say that too me when id start a new hobby “ Dont give up Must try harder”. Lovely article. Jackiex

  3. The void and emptiness never truly leaves, we fill it up with “things” to be able to move forward, the pain becomes less raw with time but always aches. Three years into this new life I still long for his smile, the love of my life. To go forward is difficult but we are alive so faith helps us through.

  4. You are so good with words..I didn’t lose a spouse but a precious daughter…I wish those moments had a warning bell…I never know when it will hit and I feel that overwhelming grief that if I don’t fight it it will consume me…yes I must try harder…

  5. Your words mademe thoroughly understand what my Jami goes through everyday. It has been difficult for her to explain the void that she feels at certain times each day and on certain parts of the drive home. We have been dating for two years. I am not a replacement for Rod. Nothing could replace him and I know that. She tried to let her heart love again, but it just couldn’t. I will never love anybody as hard and deep as Jami, but this helps me understand why she had to end things.

  6. I also find myself just writing, endless writing sometimes. It helps but it doesn’t fix the fact that I am alone, yes I have my children, my grandchildren, family and friends, but I still feel alone. I do the same, come up with projects, plans, trips, ideas of going back to school. Nothing fills the void. I miss him, I talked to him, I write to him. Thanks for sharing, it makes me feel somewhat normal in this process.

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