grief journey

Happy Birthday to Me – New Post on the Hope for Widows Blog

So often now, in the midst of happiness, I’ll feel this gloom settle over me. I know right away that it’s not a “random” sadness; it’s definitely Rick-related. I feel those tears just below the surface, a very mild form of the horrible grief I had shortly after losing him, but it builds every day and it starts to intrude upon my happy, carefree single life.

And then the detective work begins. I try to figure out why. Why now? why today? why this week? I’ve discovered that it’s often seasonal. I looked back on some of the poetry I wrote in the first year after Rick’s death and I find many of the poems relate to a new season approaching or a particular month that’s relevant. Spring coming meant remembering all the things we used to do together and how much we loved the impending summer, our favorite time of year. July was our anniversary month. August includes the month of his death one week, and his birthday the next. March was the anniversary of when we met. And then there are the treasured holidays, some meaning more than others.

So what is it right now? Why do I feel the sadness this week? What’s this gloom I sense hanging over me this morning as I rise from my bed? My birthday. My 63rd birthday is approaching. Three years since the last birthday I shared with Rick when we had my big 6-0 celebration…

The party was wonderful. The hall was beautiful. My friends and family were there. The food was great and the wine was flowing. And Rick was having fun. That was the important thing. That was all that was on my mind. My son set up one of those photo booths, and we took wonderful fun pictures. Pictures that I still have and love to look at. Pictures of the era when my husband was still here with me on my birthday.

Turning 60 and having that party was part of the most bittersweet time of my life. Because we both knew he wouldn’t be there for my 61st. We both knew it and we pretended we didn’t. And now, my 63rd birthday is coming up, and as impossible it is for me to believe, it’s been three years since that day. Three long, long painful years since I was standing with my husband‘s arm around me, wearing goofy hats, smiling for a camera.

Read the blog 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

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