Last Post: There’s No Handbook For How to Do This
5 years ago today, I started this blog.
It was my birthday, and I was turning 39. Shawn had been gone for about six weeks at that point and honestly, I was still mostly in shock. I hadn’t yet hit rock bottom (though I believed I already had) and I was hoping that the blog might be a way for me to start to heal. Or at least I hoped it could be a place for me to tell my friends and family why I wasn’t returning their phone calls.
My friend Caitlin helped me set up the blog in the weeks leading up to my birthday. I did all the writing but she did everything else, including getting a designer friend to make the logo and setting up the layout and all of the other little but important pieces. When I first took a look at the blog layout, I noticed that underneath the title “DC Widow” she had written “There’s No Handbook For How To Do This.”
I read it out loud to her. “It’s just a working subtitle,” she said. She told me I could change it then or at any point in the future. She had decided on that subtitle after listening to me rant about how I couldn’t find anything useful on the internet for young widows.
I liked it. And so, even as the months and years passed, even as I actually did find interesting and compelling writing by other young widows and even as this blog grew and changed, that subtitle remained. Because, no matter how much I wished I could find one, there wasn’t a handbook for how to be a young widow.
I simply had to stumble through my life. No one was going to tell me what I needed to do to “get better”…or even what I needed to do to keep my job or be a decent single parent. I had to figure it out myself. What did it mean to be a widow when I was supposed to be starting the best part of my life?
It wasn’t always pretty. In fact, it was almost never pretty in those first few months. And while I thought I might feel better by the fall, more than six months after Shawn died, it was still quite rough. It took a lot, lot longer than I thought it would to get to a place where I felt like I was truly healing. (Not healed – healing. All widows know there’s a difference.)
And in that time, I wrote about the process. I didn’t actually have any sort of plan for the blog. I didn’t ever think, “okay, in 6 months, I want to be writing about X” or “the arc of the blog this year needs to look like Y.” It was just a day-to-day process, one where sometimes I was mad and sometimes I was confused and sometimes I was just too damn heartbroken to try to write about anything other than my misery.
I didn’t set out to tell the whole story of how someone survives widowhood. I didn’t try and show the ways it was possible to fail repetitively…and then somehow also show that I could have good some days, too. Therapy, unexpected grief, work, home repair, finances, friendships, dating, single parenting, living with my dad – there were so many different aspects of my life that were incredibly hard, and some that stayed incredibly hard. But there were also times when I somehow had a breakthrough – when I realized I was stronger than I thought or when I figured out how to do something hard or when I just felt happy, despite everything.
And all that writing, of course, turned into this blog. 641 posts over 5 years. It may not tell you everything, or even much at all about how you might face widowhood.
But these posts did tell me something, over the years. They became my handbook about how I was doing it. Not how I was “supposed” to move through widowed life, but how I actually was doing it. In fact, when I’d feel unsure about any number of things, I’d often reference myself and read back on my old posts. How did I handle Mother’s Day or Shawn’s birthday the year before? What terrible dates did I have that actually were funny to reflect on months later? How much had I once screwed up and thought it was the end of the world, and actually it wasn’t?
And when I did that, well, it was often comforting. I hadn’t set out to write my own guidebook, but it turned out that by writing, I forged a path for myself. I figured out the way to be a widow by simply being a widow…and writing about my life to anyone who wanted to read about it.
This blog was never meant to be a handbook – not for me and certainly not for anyone else. And yet, here it is. It’s my account of 5 years of my life, an account of one way that young widowhood can look. I am by no means proud of all of my posts (God, some really make me cringe years later) but I am not taking any of them down. I am leaving them here for you to read, whoever you are.
It’s not a handbook. I mean, if I said it was a handbook, I think most young widows would want to read it less. Who actually wants someone to tell you there’s one way to do widowhood? There isn’t, of course. There are about a million good and bad ways to do widowhood, even in one day. Even with some of my most opinionated posts, I truly don’t believe there’s any one right way to approach deep loss and begin to start healing.
All I can say is that this blog is mine. It was the way I began healing, and ultimately, I think it tells my story the best way I could.
Maybe someday, months or years in the future, another young widow will be out there, searching for some sort of answer about how to face a new reality. And maybe she’ll come here, to my blog, hoping to find a path forward.
She won’t find it, not exactly. But maybe she’ll find one thing:
A little bit of hope.
Thank you for reading my story.
Image Credit: Sharyn Peavey.
Thank you for years of your story. I am the child of a young widow. She is now 89 and I am 57, and overcoming or managing grief–or just being aware of it and how everyone faces it at one time or another– has been a big part of my life. And, even though I lived through loss at a young age, I’m still always careful about how my friends who are new to loss are doing, I’m still always thinking about the “right thing” to say, I have truly connected with your story. I empathized with your struggles and celebrated your victories. Thank you for giving words when there are no words.I wish you and your family well and I will miss following you on your path. May the road rise to meet you.
Rebecca, I echo your post, my mother was widowed at 30, a month before I made my appearance in this world. While I grew up in a world of widowhood, reading Marjorie’s experience helped me to better understand what my mother went through and why some aspects of our relationship are the way they are. I will miss your writing Marjorie, but I am so thankful you shared what you did with us, and most importantly, the happiness you have been able to experience once again. Take good care.
I found your blog shortly after I became a young widow, also 5 years ago. Your story was a lifeline for me because it made me feel like I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t crazy and you gave me hope that my kids would be OK and I could make it through. Thank you so much for generously sharing all of it. I wish you and your beautiful family a long life full of love.
Thank you for sharing your story with us. It’s been a treasure for me the last five years as I took many similar steps and missteps. Take good care. ♥️
Thank you for sharing your journey. It has been comforting and instructive to read your posts. Wishing you every happiness as the years unfold.
Thank you doesn’t even begin to express how grateful I have been for your blogs all these years. There were very similar and very different things about our widowhoods but reading your blogs truly helped me to process my own.
Thank you for all of your posts! It may not be a handbook, but it was always an affirmation of my own struggles, with both pain and happiness. You will be missed!
Thank you for sharing your journey with us. Sending love to you always, and perhaps even a bit extra on your birthday.
Thank you for your posts and window into your life and healing. I do not share the same loss, but I think your blog shows people how to move forward one step at a time and how accepting help and love is a gift to yourself and your family. Best wishes on your Birthday and beyond.
I have so much respect for you and your journey. I wish you the best. Take care!
Thank you so much for sharing your journey over the past five years. I am also a DC young widow and there have been so many times over the past few years where I have sent your blog to friends and family saying, “this is how I feel sometimes too”. My life is happier again and you were one of those people who helped me realize that it was ok to move forward. So thank you…and happy birthday.
Wow! Thanks for sharing your journey with us. I feel like I got to know you through your journey even though thousands of continents apart. You are such a beautiful writer and I will miss your words. I hope you get to write a book someday too. God bless you and keep all that is dear to you.❤❤❤
Thank you for writing the blog so I and others could know how you are doing. I have to be honest, the first year I would read your blog and tears would stream down my face as I was hurting for you and the kids . Each time after, I felt like you were beginning to heal and when you met Chris I was elated. I could read your blog and laugh, cry, and smile. You are an amazing writer, mom, wife, friend, and daughter. I feel blessed to have known and know your dad, mom, sister, and you. I am so happy for you and your family but I will truly miss your blog. Hugs and prayers ♥️🙏♥️
Thank you for blog. I found it 3 years ago after my husband passed from cancer and it made me feel like I wasn’t alone. Being a widow especially a young one comes with a pressure to do things a certain way. I felt judged constantly. But ultimately I did things my way and your blog gave me the courage to do so.
Anna K Fowler
Thank you for sharing your story. You’ve taught me so much and given me a great deal of hope for the future, as I make the unwelcome adjustment from cancer-carer to young widow. When my husband was first diagnosed I furiously Googled all variations of ‘young widow’ and came across your blog. It was exactly what I needed and it gave my husband a lot of comfort, too, knowing that there were people out there I could look to for guidance and hope. All the best to you and your family for the future. Thank you.
I’ve been following your blog since October 2018 when I became a young widow myself. You were about 8 months ahead of me in the grief journey and I felt like I could really relate to you, having lost my mum at an earlier age, too. I sense a bit of frustration from your comments on not getting to publish a book. Please don’t be. Your blog has helped so many more people in real time than a book could have ever done. Thank you so much. This blog has really helped me tremendously and I am sad to see it end. All the best to you and your lovely family.
I have been reading your blog for almost 3 years now. My husband died unexpectedly in March of 2020 and I was desperately trying to find other young widows I could relate to, or anyone that had made it through the pain I was going through. I just happened to come upon your blog during one of my internet searches. I couldn’t believe how relatable your writings were to what I was, and still am, going through. I felt less alone and I also felt hopeful for the future as I read your posts. Thank you for sharing such private thoughts and pieces of your personal family life. I am selfishly sad to see your blog end; however, I am “over the moon” happy for you and your family as well.
Your blog will be missed. You are a very talented writer and I hope to read your work again. Thank you for your thoughts- they have touched more people than just young widows. I myself am in my 70s, and happily married to my husband for the last 51 years. Still, I found your words compelling, thought provoking, and hopeful as time passed. I wish only the best for you, your husband, and your adorable children.
Thank you for five years of insight and wisdom. I found you only last year (about 2 months after my husband died) but read back and forth between current and previous posts. You were the most encouraging resource as I sought to reengage actively with life. I’m glad that your blog will stay online as a resource to other future bereaved spouses, especially people who are younger than, say, age 55 when suddenly single again. As others have said, one of the best ways to ease a terribly difficult situation is to realize that at least one is not the only person with this problem.
Best wishes to you and your family for future health, happiness, and resilience.
Thank you for sharing your story. Your blog appeared at the top of my google list after losing my husband in my mid-40s while living in DC. The posts were eloquent and relatable. They gave me a sense of connection when other resources did not. I am grateful for your voice, and I wish you ease and joy in your future.
I became a widow about 6 months after you lost your husband. Although I’m not young (I was 71 then) your blog has really helped me through the years you’ve been sharing your experiences with all of us. I’m very glad you have found love again and wish you and your family all the best in the years to come.
Thank you for sharing your story and yourself. I can’t remember how I came across your blog – and I am not a widow, but still your stories resonated with me. As a Mom, as a woman in the world. Wishing you many years of happiness and healing. <3