grief and new normal

My New Life

I hate that I’m getting used to it.

I hate that I’m used to being single now, that I have new routines, that I’m moving on. I’ve achieved my new normal.

I hate that I’m more “myself” again. I hate that I’m coping better, that I have new goals, fresh ideas for my future.

I hate that it’s getting easier and easier to live without him. I hate that he’s becoming a part of my past, that he is no longer ever present in my mind.

I know I should be happy that I have made it through the first year without him. I should be thrilled that I am no longer shut up in my room grieving hour after hour, day after day. I should be happy that I have a good life, and so many supportive friends and loved ones. I should be relieved and thrilled that I have hope again, that I have plans for a future.

And yes, I am grateful for all of those things, but I didn’t want it to be this way. And I miss him terribly. And I still love him with all my being. And I now understand survivor’s guilt. Because I feel guilty for enjoying anything and everything without him.

I finished my “year-end checklist,” the list of things left unfinished after Rick’s death. I closed his Audible account and cancelled his New York Times subscription. At the end of August, I turned in his lease car and picked up my new car, the one that is in my name only. I finally cancelled his Sprint account after paying all that wasted money for a year. I submitted his death certificate, and they sent me the return envelope to send back his iPhone. Of course, having a man break into my house and steal it out of my backpack wasn’t part of the closure I had planned, but the phone is gone now. So that’s done.

So that’s it. All of those loose ends are tied up. I have achieved closure.

I also decided to order my new couch, the one I found on my own, after Rick died. I didn’t order the couch we picked out together a year before he died. And that part hurts, feels almost disloyal to his memory. But I decided to pick a couch I preferred now, to do this as a symbolic gesture, as another first step in my solo future. It’s part of creating my own space and vowing to move on with my life, whether it’s by choice or not. And I know Rick doesn’t care. In fact, I know, if he’s watching, he’s cheering me on. He’s saying, Gerry buy things that make you happy. Get whatever you want. I can’t be there; move on with your life without me.

And I know the angst I feel over the whole thing is silly, that it’s just a friggin’ couch.

But it still hurts to have to go on without him. It hurts to make new choices that don’t include him. It hurts to leave him behind.

I realize it has to be this way. In August 2017 my husband died, but it wasn’t my time to go. If I continued to be swallowed up by the pain of his death, engulfed in the sorrow of losing him, then I may as well have died, too.

And now I know one of the most difficult parts of year two: realizing that I can live without him, realizing that I have a life and a future without him.

But hating it with every fiber of my being.

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. Thank you for sharing your raw, eloquent, and beautiful writings of a life with grief which is a spectrum of emotional colors. Take care.

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