Yesterday was day two of my stay in Florida – my first trip driving by myself from Michigan, my first vacation without Rick.

I was sitting on the beach alone, watching the sunset and missing him, trying to feel him, thinking only of him.

My friend Traci called from Michigan to check on me. She knew this was going to be difficult for me. I told her about my three-day driving trip. I expressed how surprised I was that I felt no trepidation about driving by myself, but that I had quite a few small meltdowns when the memories hit, when I felt anew that he was truly gone and I’ll be making these solo journeys the rest of my life.

I told her about sensing him with me in the car in Tennessee, after Walking in Memphis came on the radio, that when I started to cry, the passenger seat belt sensor came on. It was my confirmation that he was there. My friend believed me. She agreed that he was there with me.

Traci is one of my biggest fans and supporters. I’ve known her my entire life, since I was four, and she’s always had my back. In fact, when I was so fearful of my first date with the man I met on the internet twenty-two years ago, she was the one who talked me through the day and encouraged me to meet him. I did and I met my soulmate. Rick and I were married a year later.

At the end of our discussion, she posed a question for me to consider. She said it seemed in blog posts and Facebook posts, and in general, I refer to myself as a widow quite a bit. She said you were a whole person; you were you, before you were Rick’s wife. She asked if I was too focused on being his widow.

I’ve been contemplating that question since we talked, and I thought about how the word “widow” itself has evolved in meaning for me.

When Rick first died, I had to make the usual numerous phone calls regarding life insurance, credit cards, pensions, and more. They were difficult to make, and my brain was truly fogged. But I do remember one instance where the person I called asked who I was, how I was related to “the deceased.” I stumbled on the answer. I started to say I was his wife and choked on a sob, corrected myself, and said I was his widow.

I hated saying that. I hated it with a passion. I wanted to scream into the phone, “I am his WIFE! I always will be! I don’t care if he’s not here physically. I’m his wife. I wear his ring. I am connected to him.”

Calling myself his “widow” forced me to acknowledge that he’s dead.

But now, seven months later, I think I’ve started to embrace the term. I am the widow of a wonderful man named Rick Palmer. He existed and being his widow tells the world that he did. I am not a single woman; I am a widow who loved and became one with my husband. I tell this to the world by using that nomenclature.

And more significantly to me, as I told my friend, Rick was half of my life. Yes, I was a whole person when I met him, but I am not a whole person yet. I’m working toward that, but I’m too early in my solo journey – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Although I am working hard to fill my time with my own needs, to discover my own wants again, to live my life alone and create a future for myself, in all honesty, the majority of my day is consumed with thoughts of Rick, with memories of his love and life, and with a yearning to be with him again.

Rick was a huge man literally and figuratively. He was 6 foot 5 inches tall and weighed between 300 and 350 pounds at different times throughout our marriage. He was a tall mass of muscle. He also had a larger than life personality: he loved life with a passion, he had a soul that sought adventure, and he created brilliant writing and designs. He was fun, exuberant, loud, and quirky.

This “larger than life” man left a very large hole in me and in my existence, and it will take a lot of effort and time to fill it.

So, for now, I refer to myself as a widow. I feel like a widow. I am a widow. It’s strange how I’ve come to embrace a term I so dreaded immediately after his death, but now it fits.

Hopefully, with the help of my grief counselor, with work on my part, and with the passage of time, some day in the future, I’ll be myself again and I’ll feel whole. But for now, seven months after his death, I am foremost a woman whose husband died.

I am a widow.

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 Amazon.com.

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


  1. Beautiful..Hugs and i am also a proud widow of a wonderful hard working man. that I Love and miss every second of my life.❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

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