The Holidays in Widowland: on the Huffington Post


In the two and a half years since my husband died, I thought I’d feel better about my life without him. But I don’t. Especially during the holiday season when I feel my loss even more piercingly than usual. And having to say that everything’s going great just makes it worse.

As I approach my third holiday season in Widowland I keep thinking “If things aren’t ok, just say so. Putting on an act feels fake, like I have something to be ashamed of.”

But we’re conditioned to think that if we aren’t happy, we must fix it!

If we could only better organize our lives, or change them in just the right way, we wouldn’t be sad, would we? It’s been over two years, and I’m still unhappy a lot of the time, especially when I’m alone at night. I miss George. I miss the warm, nested life we had together.

A few months ago, thinking I wasn’t really recovering from his death, I tried to figure out what’s wrong with me. How to be stronger, more self-assured. How to be happy being alone. I could lie and say that redecorating, regular exercise, joining a bunch of groups and plunging into online dating made a big difference. But ultimately, they didn’t.

Things might look better, but deep down I still felt the same….


Please, read the rest on the Huffington Post.   It’s right here:   On Being a Widow

If this resonates with out, or you know someone who could relate to it, please share.





  • Claire says:

    You knocked it out of the ball park again. I am only 4 months out but get the same attitude from so many friends. They seem to think one loses their soul mate, life partner and spouse do 40 years and just “shakes it off” and “snaps out of it”. I don’t think we ever get over it. Like any amputation we may learn to live c successfully with the loss, even find a approximate replacement, but never ever replace what we lost. Never ever go back to who we were as half of a matched pair.

    I’m so sorry you have to endure this land of the lose. Your writing does give the rest of us out here a lift. Thank you.

    • Debbie says:

      Thank you Claire. I am so sorry for your loss. It’s so recent. My first grief therapist said to me during the first year after George died, “if you decide to get out of bed in the morning, it’s a victory.” I found it helpful.

      I too hate the dismissive attitude of “get on with it.” Your comment is beautiful about the lasting effect of this loss. We are deeply changed. Please do stay in touch. Your comments cheer me.

  • Meredith says:

    Thank you for your words, they indeed resonate with me. I lost my bfn in a car accident April 19 2014. We didn’t have a life together, only a year..but it was a life changing year. The night he died I told him I was too tired to do anything. Tomorrow I said. Chomping at the bit he responded. Two hours later he was dead.

    A very lovely gentleman posted this article of yours on a little blog I have (Meredith et al) in a post about how tiring answering holiday questions are…yes I’m 31, no I’m not married, no I don’t have children, no I’m not in the midst of an amazing professional career. I’m barely holding it together, still in a state of shock and grief…but I’m still standing. For that I deserve a standing ovation, not a look of sadness and pity.

    Keep plodding along and writing about your journey. It speaks to me.

    • Debbie says:

      Meredith, thank you so much for letting me know that my article spoke to you. And I’ve felt the same about trying to explain to people why I often feel tired and not ready to return to a career.

      He died. Cancer Caregiver. I’m sick of explaining myself.

      I agree you deserve a standing ovation. I am so sorry for your loss. I’m going to visit your blog.

  • Bob H says:

    My Wife passed almost 3 years ago and I loved her dearly, for both of us it was our second marriage and we kind of saved each other. I was left with a 5 yr old at 49 with no family even remotely close. I’ve done the dating thing to mask my loss and pretended to be fine in front of my friends and work associates, but, the loss will never be gone. However, I have learned 3 things which gives me the strength to get out of bed everyday, First, I will always love my wife even if I love another, and that’s OK. Second, those holidays, birthdays and specific days in the hospital with my wife that I can’t forget are my memories and only mine. However, they remind me of how fortunate I was to have met this special person. Moreover, “I’M ALLOWED” to feel sad on those days and that’s a good thing. Lastly, I’ve had to try to learn how to be on my own again before I could ever begin to move on, (still work on that one). So, those moments and special days can be a positive expression of the love for that lost person, thus, giving you the other days in the calendar to move forward in your life and be happy again.

    • Debbie says:

      That’s good advice. I think your three lessons are useful. and valuable. I think I’m good with it’s ok to be sad. I’m not so good with being on my own. Friends do help. Thank you for sharing what you’ve learned.

  • Michele says:

    This is my 10th Holiday without my love.
    It’s hard to believe. I wish I could say it gets better, but we know the falseness of those types of statements.
    It gets different. We find new ways to cope.
    I’m very sorry for your loss.
    Thich Nhat Hahn would say “darling, I care about your suffering”
    Knowing it myself, I really do.

    • Debbie says:

      Thank you MIchele. And I’m sorry for yours too.
      I can see that it gets different.
      It may be a little soon for me yet to feel different.
      I am trying coping things with friends and family.
      Take care.

  • Terri says:

    Thank You Debbie for this website. I lost my husband 3 months ago when the El Faro cargo ship went down. I still feel like I cannot go on without him. Friends and family try to help but I have yet to find any comfort. I am sorry for your loss. The only way I see to get through this is one minute at a time. Thanks for sharing.

    • Debbie says:

      I am so sorry for your loss as well Twrri. And thank you for writing me. I too do better dealing with time in smaller increments. Three months after George died I felt I couldn’t keep going on. I started writing, which helped a little. Take care.