Brimleys holding hands in hospital
Things That Suck

I’m Not Grateful

I really should just stop looking at Facebook, at least at the end of the day.  I actually like hearing the updates from friends and family and I don’t even mind the cute (and curated) photos of everyone’s kids and vacations.  But – and I mean this in the kindest way I can say – the quotes that appear on my screen are often really awful.  Here was one I stumbled across today:  “Motherhood sucks me dry of my time, of my energy, of my independence.  But when I fall into bed at the end of an upended day, when the tired I feel is already bleeding over into tomorrow, I’m not bitter.  I’m grateful.” – Carolyn Moore.

When I read that quote, I heard in my head, “Of course you’re not bitter, Carolyn.  Because if you were, this quote probably wouldn’t be one that gets shared around and around.  If you felt anything other than total love and gratefulness for your children and your life, I’m sure people would have plenty of judgmental things to say about that.  Good job Carolyn for feeling grateful.  Good fucking job.”

I know that’s not a graceful response.  I haven’t Googled Carolyn Moore yet.  I have absolutely no idea who she is.  Maybe she’s famous, or maybe she’s a spiritual leader or maybe she’s a blogger.  Maybe she’s just a mom.  She sounds a lot like me for the first eight-and-a-half years I was a parent.  Even now, she sounds a bit like me in my better moments, the ones where I’m pulling it together and trying to be thankful for what I still have on this earth.

But she does not sound like me tonight.

Tonight I can hear my kids upstairs, not yet asleep, whining for me and refusing to just stay in their beds.   Today I had one of those days she describes in the quote.  I was sucked dry of my time, my energy and my independence.  I can’t even sit here and eat a handful of chocolate chips at the kitchen island without having at least one of them come down to beg I return upstairs to tend to them.  I am totally sucked dry in a way that I can’t quite describe in words.

Maybe you’ve felt this way too.  Maybe you’ve been exhausted after a long day and barely able to do anything at the end of it.  I know, I felt that way a lot in the past. But just trust me when I tell you this – what I’m feeling now is much more intense than any exhaustion I’ve ever felt before.

And if I’m going to be honest about how I feel tonight, well then here it is:  I don’t feel grateful.  I feel bitter.

I feel bitter that I have to do this parenting thing alone every single night for the rest of my life.  I feel bitter that Shawn isn’t here and that some random stroke of bad luck meant he – and not some asshole on Wall Street – got cancer.  I feel bitter that my kids need so much from me and rarely, if ever, can they actually return that support to me.  I feel bitter that my life has turned out this way, even after I made all the right choices and did everything I was supposed to do to be happy.

I want to fall in bed and just feel grateful again.  I want to read quotes like this and respond with, “oh, so true!” and maybe attach a photo of my two little boys snuggled into bed with each other, or one of my daughter (or my husband) holding my hand.  I want that, I do.

But I can’t do it tonight.  I can’t do it because the pain of missing Shawn is too deep right now, and tonight that means that I do not feel grateful for much of anything.  I know that sounds terrible, but this blog isn’t just for me to paint a decently hopeful picture of the life I am living.  It is also a place where I can be real, where I can show you a bit of my soul and let you into my life.

So here it is: this life right now is one where sometimes I sit with tears streaming down my face at the kitchen island and wish I could be anywhere else.

On nights like tonight, I can’t feel grateful for much of anything.  I know that is not fair.  I know that I am lucky in so many ways, and that my situation could be far worse.  I know that if something were to happen to one of my children I would be lost forever.  Truly, I would never be able to recover.  So I guess, in a way, I can understand the sentiment behind Carolyn’s quote.

That doesn’t change the fact that tonight I feel raw and bitter and cheated by life.  Tonight, “when the tired I feel is already bleeding over into tomorrow,” I feel depressed and I feel drained because I know that the one person who could make me feel better is never coming back.

Tonight, I do not feel grateful.


  • Kathy

    You be you, Marjorie. There’s no right or wrong to live the life you’re now forced to live. Keep doing what you do, no apologies. Fuck it.

  • Jen Martin

    Your writing is perfect. This is one of my favourite posts because of how real it is. I was one of those people that posted that quote and you’re right that some days we are just plain bitter for the lack of me time we get. I wrote you an email the other day but never sent it. Don’t want to invade your privacy but was thinking of you and how I wanted you to know that I think you are one tough woman for continuing to push forward even when the times are the worst. The tears that stream down your face in the kitchen are real and I hope you give yourself that time to grieve for Shawn. You two had such a special relationship. One we all saw 10 years ago on the houseboat and wish we had witnessed more of since. You are special for what you are giving to your children – a loving mom who is real and has the courage to continue life.

    • Marjorie

      Thank you so much for writing this! You certainly would not invade my privacy by writing an email – that’s something I’d love. And yes – I thought of you and the others who posted this when I wrote, because I worried that people would think I’m mad at them. I’m not – at all. It’s just that my reaction to almost anything – including people being totally wonderful – can sometimes be one of tears and frustration. That’s what I’m trying to convey with the post and I hope that came through. Thank you so much for reaching out.

  • Andrea

    You have every right to feel bitter and ungrateful from time to time–probably even all of the time–after the last 6 months. The fact that you’re not bitter all of the time, and are even worrying about whether people will get mad at you for this post, is kind of amazing! For someone who didn’t lose their husband and go through a cancer scare in the last 6 months, I have an awful lot of days when I certainly do not feel grateful when I fall into bed (and may even start fantasizing about my next work travel). You’re certainly entitled to any and all of your feeling, even the rotten ones, although my greatest wish for you is that even those become easier in time. Thinking of you and your family, as always. XO

    • Marjorie

      Thanks mama. I appreciate the support and the real-world honesty from one of my first mom friends. 🙂

  • Cathy Phillips

    As Jim would say, you touched all the bases and followed all the rules. It’s frustrating not to feel rewarded for doing the right things. In our family we say, continue doing right simply because it’s the right thing to do. I appreciate your honesty. When you come home for a visit, let us watch the kids and send you to our beach house for a rest. Perhaps Sarah could join you.

  • Natalie E.

    Marjorie, I read this post when you first wrote it and I’ve been reflecting on its beauty since. The beauty of how you are facing each day and not afraid to put all of your emotions into writing, no matter how raw, is a gift for all of us reading.

  • Jessica

    It’s okay to feel this way. I’ve been reading your blog tonight after finding an article in WaPo. While I am not a widow, I really empathize with so much of your writing. It reminds me of the very raw and big feelings I’ve struggled with since I was diagnosed and treated for cancer 4.5 years ago. It tore my whole life apart. When I survived treatment my support network moved on with life and I still deal with treatment side effects. I know you mentioned that there’s not a lot of widows with young children, there’s also not a lot of young mothers #postcancer. My whole world changed, every one saw it, but it really only affected me. Blogging is very cathartic, I hope it helps you. I have hundreds of unpublished blogs, because I feel like I should be grateful the cancer didn’t kill me – instead I’m dealing with anxiety, near constant joint pain, and ptsd. No one wants to hear from the bitter cancer survivor. Lol. Especially me. Any who, my point was I feel ya, and that you shouldn’t feel bad for feeling this way.

    • Marjorie

      Jessica, thank you so much for sharing your story here. I can only imagine how it is to feel like you have to move on when you still have terrible pain and are emotionally drained. I think I’m still in that early phase when no one expects much out of me…but I know that may change as time goes on. And I think people would love to hear from you! The posts I get the most feedback on are the ones that are the least hopeful and the most raw. So – I’d encourage you to blog, especially if it would be cathartic to you!

  • Erin

    I love reading your posts. I feel like you are expressing my exact feelings. My husband passed away in a car accident 10 months ago. At the time he was 38 and I was 34, we had 4 year old twins, a 14 month old and I was 2 months pregnant as a surrogate for another couple. In an instant my life was completely turned over. My best friend was gone. I have not found anyone that knows what I’m going through until I found your blog. You don’t find young widows with little kids around every corner. It’s comforting to see my feelings and experiences are normal during this time. Thank you.

    • Marjorie

      I’m so sorry – for your loss and for everything you are dealing with. It’s so tough. And yes – sometimes it feels SO isolating….there certainly aren’t a lot of us out here. Thanks for reading.