Multiple Drafts

I’ve started writing more times than I care to count. This pandemic has put a grip on me – every time I start writing something, when I come back to review it, I feel differently. It’s hard, even with fewer obligations, to justify taking the time to sit and write. Are all my closets and drawers neatly organized? No. Have I been preparing elaborate meals for the kids and I? No. Have I watched Tiger King? Well…yes. The memes were driving me crazy, I had to know what it was all about. Have I read any books? No. Have we maintained a routine? Not as much as I’d like, but we are managing to get along just fine so I’m not pushing my luck.

For me, the safer at home mandate came at an interesting time. It was the weekend that would mark a year since we lost Tony. I felt a huge sense of relief in not having to do all the ‘normal’ things those next few days, especially come the 17th when everyone would be sporting their green and celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. Being at home that day and week was, without a doubt, a blessing for the kids and me.

We continued on and switched gears as we got accustomed to working from home and distance learning. If cancer and widowhood has brought me any strengths, it has been to keep my perspective about being safer at home. I guess the last 4.5 years prepared me for the pandemic in more ways than one-

Social Distancing – Throughout radiation and nuclear treatments, we had multiple situations where we had to keep a 6 ft. distance from Tony. And during cold and flu seasons, we always tried our best to be extra vigilant as not to compromise his health. It meant, at times, no hugs or kisses, but we knew it was for the best.

Safer at Home – Once we were home, I was reminded of the three weeks Tony was home from the hospital where I really couldn’t leave the house for more than 15-20 minutes. I relied on at grocery delivery, wearing hoodies so I could keep my phone and earbuds in my front pouch, and appreciating the quiet time together.

Dealing with loss – Many have been quick to identify this feeling so many are experiencing right now, but for a widow, it’s all too familiar. We are all going through a grieving period – loss of human interaction, loss of activities, changes to finances. As a widow, this all feels reminiscent of the past year.

Lack of Control – This is not something I am good at, but have learned to live with. Once again, I have had control taken from me, forcing me to truly live one day at a time, knowing that I can only control and protect myself and my kids.

Up until last week, I was feeling really good about being at home. But then something shifted in me. I guess if I think about it, grief caught up with me. The sadness, the anger, the longing for what isn’t here anymore.

Easter Sunday came. By all accounts, I should have been ‘fine’…this wasn’t our first Easter without Tony. But this year, this holiday, hit me hard. Zooms, FaceTimes, and pictures online of everyone together with just their families. Their intact households. It truly felt like there was a giant hole in my heart.

Vacation. The kids and I were supposed to leave for Mexico on Monday. I was so looking forward to the break, the warm weather, and the time together. And as much as I understood and knew we’d make the best of our time at home, the disappointment and reality of what this pandemic has done to our world set in.

Taxes. As my 2019 tax preparation came back from the accountant this week, another trigger. Looking at the tax return, in black and white, was a stark reminder that everything has changed. Silly as it sounds, knowing that this is the last time those papers will come back with his name on them as ‘head of household’ and also knowing that it all now rests on me moving forward, came down like a ton of bricks.

And now today, with the announcement that the kids will not return to their physical classrooms this school year, more sadness. My son’s elementary years have had some pretty crappy parameters around them. He started 1st grade and within a week, life had changed drastically with Tony’s diagnosis. And now, he won’t even return to his classroom to finish 5th grade.

While I try hard to stay positive, it’s a struggle. Much of what I write and post to social media is so that as I look back, I remember more of the happy than the sad. For me, it’s much easier to share the happy. Sharing the sad, especially when everyone is struggling right now, feels selfish. I don’t want to bring anyone down.

The truth is I do have tremendous worry and anxiety about what this whole pandemic will do to those I love and care about. Those that are at greater risk due to age or other conditions, those that are essential workers, and those whose businesses and livelihoods are at risk by all of this. It’s all scary and unknown. Please know that I’m not trying to make a comparison or say one thing is worse than the other…everyone is entitled to their feelings. But what I am saying is – yes, things are different. They aren’t going back to they way they used to be anymore. Somedays we will be okay with it – there are a lot of silver linings. And other times, we will be sad and upset and angry with all that we are losing or have lost due to the pandemic. It’s okay to sit with all those feelings.

It is going to be painful and hard, but we will make it through it. It doesn’t mean we have to like it. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be ‘okay’ with what life has turned into for my kids and I. I do have hope and promise that as we continue to move forward we will find comfort in who we are now, even when it feels like it’s not possible.

Happy Birthday to Me.

So, it’s my birthday this week. The level of emotions and anxiety leading up to my next trip around the sun have been overwhelming. Tony had always been the one to make a big deal out of my birthday, and often times I was embarrassed and even aggravated by it.

The smile on his face after pulling off my 40th surprise party says it all.

This year, my first without him in 23 years, it is hard to even know how to feel or celebrate. This day…as I have known for the last 49 weeks, would be the last of the lasts with the anniversary of his death coming up in March. If I could have it my way, I would just press the fast forward button and skip over it…I’d probably skip all the way over the next few weeks and cruise right into April. But I have learned all too well that it doesn’t work that way. The only way to handle it is to push through it, as uncomfortable as it feels.

So, here I am. Pushing through. Owning my feelings and floating them out here…

The last year of my life has, without doubt, been the most painful I have ever experienced. In many ways, I feel like this one year has aged me more than the last ten before it. I’ve grown in ways I never imagined or wanted to. While I do miss and mourn who I used to be, every day I get a little more comfortable in who I am becoming.

While some may think it will be easy to say good riddance to the last year, it is quite the opposite.

My 21st Birthday.

And looking ahead, I can’t come to terms with this birthday. Not because of the number that comes with it. I’ve always welcomed being another year older and up until a few years ago, life just seemed to get better and better with each year. Even after Tony’s diagnosis, while scared for the future, I appreciated the laser vision we had on our life and love together. But now, because I have the privilege of being an age that he never reached, it carries a whole new significance. It feels like I am leaving him behind.

I don’t know how I’ll feel when the actual day comes this week. I know I want to handle it with grace and gratitude, but I can’t guarantee I will. I guess it’s just hard to make the day about me without it also being about him.

As for my wishes for the year ahead when I blow out my candles? I have lots of them, big and small. But I can’t share because then they might not come true.



The shadow of grief.

I’ve been at a loss for a long time, no pun intended.

I want to write, to express how I’m doing. It’s why I created this blog. But the truth is, I don’t know how I’m doing. It changes by the moment.

Every time I feel like I want to share, to write, the words can’t stumble out. Or I’ve done a flip flop on what I was feeling when I first thought about sitting down to write.

So tonight, I am pushing myself to just write.

See, I can ride a wave of energy, positivity, and productivity. Where I feel like I’m embracing this new life and all it entails. That I’m good. This month, it lasted for quite a while.

I can tell you all the strides I’ve made, all the things I’ve done that I am proud of, how amazed I am at my children and how they power me through. How much I want for us to be okay. More than okay. To be happy. To live with joy and love in our hearts. I really do mean it.

Or do I?

Then the crash comes. How can I live with that joy and happiness knowing that we’ve lost so much? Just like that, the adrenaline fades and I get reminded that this is not a sprint. This new life, it is a marathon, and I am only at the beginning with a lifetime left to live without him.

It feels like I am living in a lie. Pretending to be fine and that I’ve got things under control. All the positivity fades and I feel like I am living in a nightmare, trapped in some alternate universe waiting to wake up and return to what was.

It’s a suffocating feeling. A lonely feeling. A pain that digs really, really deep and makes me wonder how I’ve gotten through these last ten months. And how I will keep going.

The problem with moving forward in grief is that each step forward is another step away from what was. What feels like progress and happiness comes with a complimentary side of excruciating pain and guilt.

The rational side of me recognizes that I have to learn to live with this duality. In reality, what choice do I have? So I ask myself – What would I say to my best friend if they were in my shoes? How would I support them if I were looking in from the outside? And so I push forward, just a little bit more, trying to give myself some love and compassion.

Will I ever really accept the fact that life will never be the same again? That is a hard question to think about. From everything I’ve read and learned as I study and network in grief….I know that the answer is no. No matter where life takes me, I will always carry my grief with me. And much like a shadow, some days it will loom large and dark and other days, at the right angle, it will barely be noticeable. But it will always be there.

I miss…

Every day brings a different perspective of what it is like to be living without Tony. Some days it feels trivial to try and capture or talk about all the little things, but when I don’t, they add up to be a mass of heartache, anger and sadness. That seems to be the triangle I am stuck in lately – this struggle to accept that what we had is no longer, and that it will never return. I keep feeling like I should be more okay with this new life as time goes on and yet it’s quite the opposite. The frustration in feeling that way just brings on more heartache, anger and sadness.

So what am I missing these days? The simple things, really.

I miss how he loved doing the grocery shopping on Sunday mornings…I had a magically stocked refrigerator by Noon and dinner made for the family on Sunday nights. Some days it was something he’d come up with while at the store, other days it was just munchies and appetizers for a day of watching football and being home. Other days he’d make our favorites or stock the freezer with things for quick meals.

I miss how he always filled the cars up with gas and ran them through the car wash on the weekends.

I miss his spontaneity…a decision to head out and see where the day would take us.

I miss being his passenger. Riding shotgun next to him was one of my most favorite places to be.

I miss being able to turn and look back at my kids while riding down the road. Not just the glance in the rearview mirror…being able to do the full turn and laugh or yell or just look at them.

I miss pushing his buttons. And having my buttons pushed. Both in fun and in seriousness. Because when you don’t have your person to bicker and hash things out with, your inner voice can drive you crazy.

I miss his finicky choices about certain products. Toothpaste, laundry detergent, peanut butter….sometimes I buy what he didn’t like, perhaps to spite him and in hopes that he will send me some sign I’ve irritated him. Other times, I buy what he always liked, so it feels like he’s still here.

I miss the routine of our life. I still find myself folding laundry or doing something mundane and expect him to walk in the room to tell me something.

I miss our lunch and dinner dates. Not just the ones where we’d get dressed up and have reservations but the ones where we happened to have the moment to grab a bite together, even if it meant sweats and no makeup.

I miss looking for him amongst the crowd at events and having that brief moment where you catch each others glance just to check in.

I miss having my co-parent…advising me when the battle is worth fighting and when it’s worth letting go. And most of all, I miss him taking over the battle when he could see I’d had enough.

I miss the night time. When the kids would go to bed and we’d settle in to watch something on the DVR or tuning into the same dumb slapstick comedy movie that seemed to be on every couple of days. Knowing when he’d laugh and what he was going to quote before it happened.

I miss it all and so much more. There are days when missing him means a warm memory with a smile, and there are days that the mere memory of something simple can send me into a tailspin of tears.

But this is the journey.

I have no choice other than to accept it for what it is and take the good with the bad. I have to trust in myself and the process of grieving and all the secondary losses that accompany this giant hole in our lives. To recognize that I am making progress in moving forward, even when it feels like I’m not.

Hello September.

It’s finally here. I’ve been watching it get closer and closer for some time now.

I know all that September will bring.

23 years ago in September, we went on our first date. Later in the month, we’d celebrate his birthday together for the first time.

19 years ago this September, we were married.

4 years ago this September, we entered the month in a sea of fear, in the midst of tests and doctors appointments knowing there was a tumor and cancer, but not much else. By the end of the month, we were scared, but armed with a diagnosis, a great oncology team, a treatment plan and the optimism of a toolbox that would, hopefully, enable us to continue living our happily ever after.

3 years ago this September, we learned that his first round of treatment wasn’t quite cutting it and that he would undergo an series of treatments via interventional radiology.

1 year ago, this September, we lived with hope and positivity that the newly approved treatment he started in June was working and that we would see stability for a few years.

Looking back now, September was the time last year when things were starting to change. We had a lot of fun in September, but Tony wasn’t bouncing back from all of it quite as quickly. We’d have a busy day or two and he’d seem to be wiped out for a while after that. At the time, we thought it was just side effects – he’d been so fortunate to experience next to nothing in the three years of different treatments. The rear-view mirror of last September is, quite honestly, heartbreaking.

This September, it will also mark six months since we said goodbye. A half of a year gone without him and still, a lifetime to go. That is the hardest truth these days…that we will never be able to return to the life we had.

For so many reasons, I have always loved September. The beauty in the shift of seasons. The fresh start a new school year and the start of the new fall television season, inviting you to sit down and relax again. Add in all the anniversaries and birthday, what’s not to love about it?

I am nervously approaching this month. Knowing that all these milestones will bring different feelings this year has me very much on edge.

The problem is that I still very much want to love September.

I know that I have to love it differently now, though, and that it’s going to be hard work to make it through this month without him. Knowing that I can’t just flip the page of the calendar, I’m going to try to do the best I can to get through. I’m scared for the emotions I’m going to face, and I know that I can’t try to predict how I’m going to feel on any given day.

So, welcome September. I can’t say I’m glad you’re here, but let’s make the best of it.


In these early months of grief, it is so easy to focus only on what makes me sad and lonely. What I’ve lost – what I had and what the future no longer holds. It’s a concept that leaves me frozen and feeling paralyzed.

I haven’t been able to sit and write anything recently for a few reasons. First, life has just been busy. School starts soon and we’ve been cramming as much into these last weeks of summer as possible. At the end of most days, sleep comes pretty easy because I’m worn out and exhausted. I’ve become accustomed to feeling like I am barely keeping my head above water. Second, I’ve struggled with what to write about. I named this blog ‘Living. Good. Grief.’ for a reason. I want to focus on the living and the good parts just as much as the grief. But those feelings haven’t been coming easily enough to put into words.

I’ve written before the weight that the weekends bring, especially Sunday nights. Last weekend was especially tough, and as a family it was probably one of the worst we’ve had.

Yet, as I close in on this weekend, and tonight, which marks 22 weeks since saying goodbye, I realize this weekend was different.

I haven’t gotten weepy.

I haven’t felt like sitting in sadness.

Even after typing that and really thinking about it, I still don’t. There were multiple times the last two days where I thought that the sadness was going to rush over me, but it didn’t.

I have been….okay. Really okay. Content with everything and everyone that surrounded me. Happiness has been sitting on top of that base layer of sadness that exists within me.

I feel like this needs to be shared. If I’m going to share the deep and dark sad stuff, I can share some of the lighter moments that can bring happiness.

The beauty of my summer flowers. Throwing some dinner on the grill. Playing with the kids and the dogs on the floor. The oddball goofy things that the kids say or do that just make us laugh and laugh. Time with friends who will sit with me and embrace whatever mood I am in, no matter what the moment is.

Do I think this is any major breakthrough? Not really. But I do think getting through the weekend without feeling like I’ve hit a brick wall is something to be noted. When I look back over these early months, I want to remember that there were moments that the fog lifted.

I know I’ll crash back into that wall – maybe even tonight, maybe tomorrow, maybe in a few more days.

But at least I can remember the hurdle of this weekend and know that I have made it through okay.

I can’t imagine…

One of the most commonly heard phrases I’ve heard throughout Tony’s diagnosis and after his passing is ‘I can’t imagine what you’re going through.’

It’s a tricky statement. I have a love/hate relationship with those words. I think, in some ways, people can imagine but choose not to. And in others, I think no matter how much you try, you cannot conceive the pain and despair that accompanies a loss of this magnitude. It’s a living nightmare and all the things you think about being so awful? Well, they are.

For 3.5 years, I did imagine. A lot.

After Tony’s diagnosis, I was always running a side by side play of different life scenarios and how I would handle things if it were just me. For example, I could be driving down the road and see someone with a flat tire and think…ok, my default would be to call Tony. I would then force myself to think through what I would do if that alternate scenario was present.

It felt really crazy at times to play this mind game. I eventually learned that what I was doing was referred to as ‘anticipatory grief.’ I would get frustrated for always worrying, always thinking about what I would do in that horrid ‘what if’ situation. It felt so wrong.

On the flip side, I also felt like overthinking all the ‘what if’ scenarios was a way of making sure those alternate plans would never need to be executed. Like those disaster recovery and emergency response plans we all see and hear about – a lot of work and nothing ever happens. I was convinced that the more I tried to mentally prepare myself for the unimaginable, I could whittle down the chances of anything actually happening.

Boy, was I wrong. On so many levels.

My worst case scenario, that nightmare that I thought could be circumvented through all my worry? It came true. In a slow blink, it seemed like we went from keeping cancer managed and under control to a whole different world. And then, when we thought we were gaining back traction and making progress, everything quickly slipped away and he was gone. It wasn’t supposed to be that way.

All that planning and mental anguish? It didn’t do me any good. While I may have thought through so many logistical and tactical situations, I never imagined the emotional side of it. I couldn’t, and still can’t. Even at almost 4 months, I cannot bear the thought that I have the rest of my life to live without him.

That right there? That’s the ‘you can’t imagine’ part of it all.

Now, if you think anticipatory grief is bad, the guilt you feel about that anticipatory grief following loss is even worse. You realize it didn’t do you any good. At all. Guess what? If and when you get a flat tire, you’ll figure it out. Doesn’t matter how many times you thought it through before. So why did you waste so much precious time in your head thinking about all of that instead of just being, living and loving together? Hindsight is always 20/20. Yes, I know that it was how I was coping with his diagnosis, but it still stings when I think about it.

Those pesky side by side plays? They still happen in my head, except in reverse. I now find myself thinking about what is happening and how it was supposed to be. How it should be.

During good moments, I am fully present and can remind myself that I can’t change any of this and that I have to do the best that I can, each and every day. It is what it is. I need to carry on and be in the moment, to appreciate what I have and to do what is best for myself and my kids. I made a promise to Tony that I could handle it and that we would be okay. This is the conversation I play on repeat to keep me going. I know I can and that I will.

But, there are the bad moments, ones where grief consumes every ounce of energy and happiness I might have. I sit living in the world we had built and refuse to accept that it’s all gone. I try to wish it all back to the way it was, hoping that everything was just a horrible dream I will wake up from. It’s a horrible rabbit hole to fall down and it can last anywhere from a few minutes to hours to days.

I’m working really hard at trying not to run those plays anymore. It’s a battle and I know that I’ll never be able to push those alternate scenarios completely out of my head. But, each time I am able to recognize a good moment, I place a little more hope that the next one will last even longer.

Thanks for listening,


What you gain when you lose a spouse.

A friend recently posted an article titled ‘What you lose when you gain a spouse.’ Given my recent widow status and gravitational pull toward articles relating to grief and loss, it was no surprise that I read the title to be ‘What you gain when you lose a spouse’ and clicked on it with curiosity. Once there, I quickly realized the error of my ways and that my emotional state should be nowhere near that topic. I exited from the article, commented about my ‘oops’ and went on my way.

Later, that misinterpreted title was stuck in my head and I realized that maybe, there should be an article about what you gain when you lose a spouse. It got me thinking.

So, here goes…

  • A lot of responsibility. Taking on full duties for the parenting, the house, the dog, the everything. Whether it’s just taking out the garbage or making major life decisions, it’s all on you.
  • Guilt. In the event that all of the responsibility leaves you feeling overwhelmed, you may reach out for help. In this case, you gain guilt for asking your friends and relatives for help and for expecting your kids, who are also grieving, to help pick up the slack around the house. And yes, even though you know people are happy to help and yes, they will do anything you ask, you still hesitate before sending the text or making the call and try to figure out a way to do it yourself, to make things happen. You understand more than ever how precious time is and you don’t want to take anyone away from their spouse or family if you don’t have to. Why? Because you’d give anything to have yours back together like theirs is.
  • Exhaustion. You’re always tired…either from not being able to sleep from your mind running or because you are just so tired from all the responsibilities and the feeling like you can never fully rest or catch up.
  • Loneliness. No matter how many people tell you that you are not alone, you have an emptiness like no other inside of you. It can be something as simple as bumping into someone at the store or seeing something funny on TV…when all you want to do is tell your person and he’s not there, you feel it. You may even reach out to someone else just to get it off your chest, but it won’t feel the same. It may, in fact, make you feel worse.
  • The ability to make all your own decisions. This can be both liberating and devastating all at the same time. Whatever things you used to run by each other…it’s all you now. No need to ask if the petunias should be purple, pink or an assortment this year. No one to talk through getting rid of cable and switching to streaming tv. No one to ask what they’d like for dinner (well, you could ask the kids but that never ends well…)
  • A fear of grief triggers. Never knowing when they might strike or how hard they will hit. No matter how much you convince yourself you want to have a good day or that you want to focus on something else, grief finds a way to grab you when you least expect it. Some days you sit in fear of those triggers and on others you embrace them and look at them as a warm hug. As a parent, you fear your children’s triggers, which often come when you are least expecting it, or when you are struggling to get through the day yourself.

I know, it’s a lot. And they are heavy things. But it’s not all bad.

  • Love. Not only do you feel love from your family, friends, and even strangers in ways you couldn’t imagine, you gain an appreciation for the love you shared with your spouse like you couldn’t imagine. Because in all the little things you miss about him – that he always filled the cars with gas and kept them clean, his phenomenal cooking, his ability to know when it was time to take the kids out for a few hours so you could regain your sanity – what you will miss the most is just him. Being with him. Doing nothing or anything. You realize that the love you have is far beyond the physicality of this earth and that it continues to grow stronger in each day that passes since his death. And you look at couples now and see things you didn’t notice before – it may bring tears to your eyes as it reminds you of what you had.
  • Appreciation. You come to appreciate the moments in which your heart feels light, where you can be silly with the kids or crack a joke or two. These moments are hard to come by and are often followed up with a wave of guilt, though – you wonder how you can feel so happy for a fleeting moment when your life is forever changed and your heart broken.
  • Spidey Senses. While you feel numb and like you are living in a twilight zone, you get stronger at reading people. You become acutely aware of who you can trust and rely on, who is sincere in their words and actions, and conversely, who you need to stay away from to protect your sanity.
  • Hurt. Unfortunatley, you do gain a sense of hurt from those who haven’t reached out or been there like you hoped they would. You also understand that maybe they just can’t deal with what you’re dealing with or, that they have things going on in their lives that make them unavailable. This is actually a good thing – you are better off not having them around right now. Why? Because what they have to give at this time probably won’t be helpful. Recognize that this is a long journey and that some people will come and go as you need them. It’s okay. Hold out hope that those you are missing the most now will jump back in down the road.
  • Compassion (or lack thereof). This one comes in waves. Some days, you will have a bleeding heart for anything and everything. Other days, you will be so numb to the world that even the most devestating news may just make you shrug your shoulders and say ‘huh.’ And when it’s the latter, expect more guilt for not feeling the way you think you should.
  • Space. Whether it’s an extra drawer in the bathroom, the ability to pull the car in the middle of the garage, or sleeping on whatever side of the bed you feel like, you find it easy to occupy some of the spaces your loved one left behind. Other spaces you set up as memorials – a note in his office, his cologne in the bathroom, his favorite ‘Dad’ coffee mug in the cupboard.
  • Confidence (or lack thereof). A never-ending circle. You waffle between a constant state of ‘I’ve got this’ to ‘I can’t do this’. But you know that regardless of how you feel about it at the moment, you have to trust yourself to do what is best for you and your family.
  • Strength. This may be a word you get tired of hearing, because many tell you how strong you are. Your reply may be that you don’t really have a choice in the matter and that the last thing you are feeling is strength…but, if you looked at yourself from the outside, you see what people mean. They see in you something they don’t know how they could face. Heck, think about it…do you even know how you’re doing it? Give yourself some credit. It sucks and you’re doing the best you can. Not giving up or in is strength.

Of course, there are so many other things gained in loss as well…I know as time moves along I will find things that change or that there are things to add to this list.

I’d love to hear what other things come to your mind.

Thanks for reading,



Welcome to Living. Good. Grief. A blog that details a journey in loss and the living that comes afterwards.

My name is Jen and I lost my husband Tony to Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Cancer in March of 2019. We have two beautiful and amazing children. I hope to use this blog to help myself and share with others – what is working and not working for me as I lay the foundation to a future much different than I had ever imagined.

I enjoy writing and it’s always been a dream of mine to be a writer of some sort. While I wish the topic was different, for now, these are the words that flow the easiest. I’ve already learned in these few short months that I do best when I lean in to whatever emotions this enormous loss brings. To embrace the ugly times so that I can appreciate the good ones.

Whether you know me personally or have found me somehow through the world of social media, I appreciate your time and allowing me to share with you. I’m looking forward to having this place to come to. Thank you!