DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley looks at her pregnant belly as a young woman
New Perspectives

In a Hurry

Since I was a little girl, all I really wanted in this life was to be a mom.

Sure, I wanted to be other things – a world traveler and a teacher and a great hostess. But more than any of this, I wanted to be a mom. I knew what this meant – I’d need to meet someone when I was relatively young, get married, and then have kids, hopefully all before I was 30.

Thank God I met Shawn. I swear, I might have married anyone at 22. But I met him, and my life was amazingly more interesting than it would have been otherwise.

We were both in a bit of a hurry, I guess, because we got engaged when I was just 24 and married six months later. We had a plan that we made on the back of a napkin that involved us both finishing grad school in a couple of years and having our first kid by the time I was 28. Our timeline was off by a little, but otherwise, we did it. In fact, all three kids were born before I was 35. (I walked across the stage to collect my doctorate as Shawn held 10-day-old Austin. We were driven and we were in a hurry.)

When Shawn died, I found myself in a hurry yet again. At first, this meant I had to make sure we’d be financially stable and emotionally whole. I had to make sure that the heat didn’t go off in the house and I had to meet with so many lawyers and financial advisors and therapists I can’t even remember all of their faces at this point. It was dizzying. But I did it. I had to get through it to make sure we wouldn’t fall into a more disastrous place.

After the immediate aftermath of Shawn’s death, I continued to pushed to try and solve other problems in my life. Mostly, this meant I focused on my emotional state. I wanted to do everything I possibly could to “get better,” even though I didn’t know what it would mean to get better. I saw countless therapists, went to all sorts of meetings where I learned about mindfulness and EMDR and God and psychics and really anything that anyone ever suggested might be helpful. Some of it was. Most of it was not. But I wanted to get better as soon as possible, so I tried it all. (Once, I saw two different therapists in one day.)

As I was doing all this, trying to fix myself, I remember saying to a friend, “I just want to fast-forward my life.”

Yep. In a hurry. For whatever was next. I didn’t really know what this was, but I wanted to get there.

Oh, and then there were the men. I was happy when I was married, I figured, so I wanted to be married again. About a year ago, my big goal was to get married again.

It was disastrous. I clung to men who showed the least bit of interest with me, and I pinned my hopes on men who broke my heart. I was in a hurry to find a man to be my counterpart. Not to be too dramatic about it, but I was in a hurry to find a replacement for Shawn.

And, of course, that didn’t happen. Instead, it made me feel worse.

I’m not saying that I shouldn’t have dated. I’m also not saying I shouldn’t have seen therapists or decided on a financial plan in those early days. All of these things were fine to do. They were probably good for me.

What was problematic for me was the speed at which I was trying to do all of this. Like many of my generation, I wanted things to be done at warp speed. I wanted to snap my fingers and fix things and then be happy again.

But of course, it’s a process.

I was talking to my friend Becky the other day about how I’d decided not to go to a conference, but rather to stay home and enjoy the Halloween weekend with my kids. I told her that I was trying to slow down and just live my life, rather than constantly do all sorts of things for my career and emotional state and love life.

She pointed out that for almost two years, I haven’t stopped moving. “In a way, doesn’t it feel like progress that you can decide to slow down?”

“It does,” I said. “It does for sure.”

To be fair, I’ve had a hard time slowing down. I’ve taken just two weekend days off this fall to simply hang out with my family and I still am pressing forward with my writing. I get up religiously at 5:30 everyday and I run every morning. I’m not a very chill person, really.

But. I have started to relax a bit about “getting better” and finding a new partner. And this month, I’ve set my book writing aside, trying to figure out the best next step, rather than just forging ahead.

Instead, I took a few afternoons last week just to ride bikes around the neighborhood with the kids. I reopened my Hulu account and am finishing a series I really like. I flirted with a man at the coffee shop and I didn’t try and follow up with him when he was leaving.

It’s not perfect. But I’m trying to slow down. Not just in how I spend my days, but also in how I think about the future.

I used to hate when people would tell me that things will get better, just not on the timeline I wanted. Dammit, why not? But low and behold, just trying to hurry everything up didn’t make things better.

So for now, I’m trying to slow down. I don’t need to make my life be a certain way. I just need to see how things go. That’s hard, for a planner like me. But slowing down is also the one thing that has brought me a bit of peace this fall.

Because this is my life. And I don’t need to be in a hurry to change it.


  • Susie

    I enjoyed reading this about you. I lost my 38-year-old husband (Johnny) at the end of May 2014, and only recently realized that I must slow down. I rushed into a toxic relationship, secured a very active social circle (because I was a stay at home mom with my social circle consisting of my husband and children), and working tirelessly on elevating my career all soon after the death of Johnny. When I read about how you spent the last two years, it reminds me of the same activities I was stuck in for the last five and a half years! My youngest son was only two when John passed, and my oldest son was fourteen. I have two daughters (twins) in between my sons. My oldest is now 20, my daughters 10, and my youngest eight. I think they need my attention so much; they are very clingy to me. Maybe it is time for me to devote my life to them and forget about mine for a while. I don’t know, I am still so sad and miss Johnny every day. I have to hide when I cry because my kids get anxious when I do and request that I stop crying. I think they feel insecure when they see me unraveled; it seems as if I need to keep myself in total control for them to feel secure. Losing their dad shook the foundation of security for them, and it is as if I am all they have, I guess I am. Glad I happened upon your blog through a Washington Post article. So much on our shoulders, at times, it is emotionally exhausting. Thank you again. I hope that your ‘slow down’ process works for you as well as for me. Wonder if this is a typical stage in griefing not included in the mainstream steps of grief.

    • Marjorie

      Thanks so much for sharing your story. And I think it’s an interesting point – I wonder if trying to “hurry up” is a stage that many widows go through? If so, then I think a part of healing is trying to slow down. It’s just so hard with kids to actively slow down! I will say this – I think you can devote a big chunk of your life to your children without forgetting your own needs, because YOU are important too. Thanks so much for reading.

  • Francine Whitehorn

    When my husband of nearly 30 years died 15 months ago to cancer, I too was in a hurry to get somewhere that felt better. I rushed everything, from selling his Porsch days after the funeral to my manic 3 times a day walks through town. I called them my widow walks….I was going to get a t-shirt with “I walk alone because I’m a widow “
    I was ready to sell our home and move away only 2 months in… I put things in to action, but family stopped me and said don’t until you get through 12 months.
    6 months ago I met a wonderful man who’s wife died from cancer 12 months before my husband. We met at the zoo through my late husband’s best mate. We exchanged stories and connected. He lives 4 and half hour drive from me so the relationship grew on the phone sharing grief, we understood each other. He helped me slow down and hold my head high on my walks. He would make me stop and sit on my walks to talk to him.
    We fell in love with each other’s hearts and minds within a couple of months…. family and friends I know feel it is too soon and rushed. We don’t because it feels good and have helped heal each other.
    We are making plans for our future together.
    Are we in a hurry? Maybe, if it feels good go with it. Listen to your heart not other people that haven’t walked in your shoes. It’s our turn now ….me and my zoo guy.

    • Marjorie

      You don’t sound like you are in a hurry anymore! Yes, certainly in the beginning (I did those widow walks too!) but when I say being “in a hurry” I don’t mean a timeline….I think when you find love, everyone around you should CELEBRATE. That’s a beautiful thing. I think you were able to find love BECAUSE you slowed down, something I haven’t been able to do yet. Good luck with your zoo guy – he sounds like someone who is making you very happy.

  • Christine

    As I read this post I was thinking how good it is for you to get to a place of acceptance about your current life. I want to feel this way too. Hopefully eventually I will. My husband died 7 months ago and I feel quite lonely which is an emotion I have never really experienced before. I can totally relate to what you’re saying about wanting to get married again. I sometimes feel like I am desperate for companionship. And yet when I think about the practicalities of being with someone new, I can’t fathom how it would even work. I mean, would this person move into my house with my kids and I? But I also worry that time may be shorter than I expect. Everyone assumes that they are going to live until they’re 90, but some of us are going to die of cancer at 62 like my husband. I am 50 now, it’s possible that I may not have that many years in which to regain some of the happiness that I used to just take for granted. It’s depressing to think this way, but your post does give me hope that maybe I will be able to accept my circumstances with more grace in the future.

    • Marjorie

      It’s the not-knowing that’s so hard, isn’t it? I say all the time, if I could know how much time I had left, I could plan so much better! But I will say this – I do feel better about the loneliness than I did a year ago….it does get a little easier to take. Hang in there.

  • Jen

    I turn to this blog whenever I need a place of understanding and you somehow never disappoint. I can always designate with your posts and it makes me feel less like an alien in my own world. I am glad that you are trying to stop and enjoy the simple pleasures. I am a person who had never known how to slow down and as I worked on graduate degree with a full time job as a wife and mother of three, my therapist told me “you need to learn how to slow down”. I looked at her like she had three heads and asked her how? She had no answer and with the hectic life I live it seems even further away. I am confident that you will figure it out and let us speed ballers in on the secrets in time. Looking forward to it and cheering you on along the way 👍🏼🙏🏼❤️

    • Marjorie

      Thanks! Yes, I think it’s just part of who I am – I want to succeed, and part of that has always meant being in a hurry. Shawn helped me to slow down, and without him, I can really let my worst tendencies spiral out of control. But I’ve found that my early mornings (like now) are really a great time to just drink some coffee and reflect on life. Maybe I need a bit more of that in my world!

      • Jenn

        What a great gift he gave (teaching you how to slow down). I am sure much of how he helped you will begin to come back to you, assuming it was more than just taking things off of your plate. I miss having help too among many other things about Phil. I often think about what I can hold on to and his teachings and guidance alone my growing are things I know are forever a part of me.
        I am having that very moment (quiet morning coffee time) right now and it is a moment I often look forward to.

  • Henry

    I have been feeling pretty much what Christine expressed, and I am two years farther out – and have less time because I am 75 now. Still, trying to hurry is an exercise in futility.

    Marjorie, you are in the longest of long games. You say that all you really wanted was to be a mom. Now you are, and you will be for decades to come. No point in hurrying. From what I read and (occasionally) see, you are doing a wonderful job of it.

    • Marjorie

      Thanks, Henry! It’s true – being a mom is something that I’m so so so grateful is a part of my life. 🙂

  • Carol

    I’m so glad I found your blog. My husband died in September 2014 from cancer. He was 44 and our kids were ages 16, 13, and 8. As I read this post, I realized that I went down a much slower path. I have the luxury of being a trained mental health therapist (I don’t practice anymore), so I knew in the beginning that I had to sit in the discomfort and sadness and pain and anger and just let them happen. I was not a person who shared things easily, so I shut myself off from the outside world as much as I thought I needed to find the strength to walk out my front door again. In spite of that, I went through periods of time where I found myself trying to fit someone into the emotional role my husband played. I’ve only had a couple of dates, and I didn’t like who I was. I was this desperate woman trying to make someone be something they had no interest in being. I’ve been in this role for 5 years now, and I feel stuck. Trying to figure out who I am as I go through this process is so difficult at times. I’m ready to abandon this snail’s pace that I’ve been on for the last 5 years, and I don’t know how. I want something to change, and I don’t know exactly what that is. The only thing I know to do is breathe and trust that I’ll know eventually.

    • Marjorie

      I love how you put this: “the only thing I know to do is breathe and trust that I’ll know eventually.” AMEN! If I could know the future, it would really help me with my anxiety…but I can’t! So I can do the best I can, make meaningful relationships in many avenues of my life, and try to push myself where I can (and slow down and relax when I need it!) I’m sure as a therapist you know a lot more than I do – but what I do know is to keep listening to my own compass and going (at least loosely) in the direction that it guides me.

      • jennifer holland

        Hi Carol,
        I’ve studied Psychology and one thing that I got from those studies that really helped my outlook on life was learning how different depression looks for different people. Many have this idea of what depression looks like and I have never fit that vision. When I am depressed, I absolutely can not slow down. I am this speed baller, who become obsessed with accomplishing other things and busy up every moment. People admire me in my depressed state and have called me superwoman, and while I know it is a compliment at times I have hated the compliments because I know where this “strength” comes from and it’s not a happy place.
        All this to say, that it is the same, while some of us are trying to slow ourselves down others are trying to pick up the pace and get out of bed. We are all basically trying to get out of our defensive depressed states and enjoy life at a reasonable pace. Too slow and you miss out on things passing you by, too fast and you never “stop and smell the roses”.
        Thanks for sharing. I love this part of Majorie’s response “keep listening to my own compass and going”.

  • Margaret

    I found your blog through your recent article in the Post. I sooo agree with you! I also did”‘the widow walks”-wow, reading that it is “a thing” brought a smile to my face. I lost my husband 2,5 years ago and I cannot even fathom dating. We were so perfect for each other that sometimes it shocked people, it was also almost impossible for us to even meet but we did, so after that kind of relationship how can I even imagine… I do not even know exactly what: doing it again? redoing it? outdoing it? I do not know if I want to “slow down” because his death is a constant reminder that we do not know how much time we have left. He had so many plans and dreams and never managed to make them happen. I feel like I owe it to him to make all my dreams come true and fast, before it is too late for me. And yet it is exhausting to live in a rush and in a constant fear of death.

    • Marjorie

      I oscillate between wanting to do everything quickly and wanting to slow down….it’s such a process for me! And I think it’s one of those things where sometimes you need to speed up, and other times we need to slow down. I’m not sure there’s one right answer, and I oscillate on this blog with my ideas as well! Thanks for reading.

  • Kate

    Your blog always touches a certain topic that I struggle with. It almost feels like you are writing from my own life. I’m also one of ‘those’ who are constantly in a hurry. My late husband was the exact opposite and we balanced each other out even though these issues could also lead to conflict at times. I was in shock for at least three months after his sudden death, barely able to function. And then it happened. I buried myself in my work, finished my graduate certificate, took lots of trips with my kid and cleaned and rearranged the house, fixed up the yard etc. I simply did not stop, ever. Of course, I was not able to keep this pace up with time and I crashed. I think I was doing all of this to stop myself from feeling the pain, the loneliness and grief. I wanted to feel normal again and happy, just like I did before the accident. I felt like I had ‘identified’ the problem and I was going to fix it. Well, it isn’t that simple and grief rears its ugly head at the times when you least expect it. I have not found the perfect solution for myself and my family yet, but I have learned that I can really no longer control everything about my life and the impact it has on me and my family. I’m gradually learning and it is a very difficult process. I hope that my child turns out okay and that he will lead a happy and fulfilled life someday. I don’t know if I will ever find love again or if I will be alone forever. I have little control over this part of my life. For now, I live for the small moments of happiness that present themselves sometimes when I least expect it. And I’m grateful for this.

    • Marjorie

      This is beautiful:

      “I live for the small moments of happiness that present themselves sometimes when I least expect it. And I’m grateful for this.”

      Love that so much. And yes – I’ve oscillated between rushing through life and trying to slow down….even as I am writing this, I’m trying to do both! Thanks so much for reading, and for your thoughtful comment.