DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley kisses her husband Shawn
Things That Suck

It Might Not Happen For Me

I love podcasts.

So did Shawn. We used to put them on in the morning to get caught up with the day’s news and we used to listen to really engaging ones in the evening together. One time when he was going through this big health kick, he made me listen to a multi-hour podcast on the dangers of sugar by a martial-arts expert. I rolled my eyes a lot at that one, but we ended up talking about it for days afterwards.

For a while after Shawn died, I couldn’t listen to any of our old podcasts. I still liked listening to other people talk, but I switched to a lot of podcasts that he never would have listened to. One of those that I switched to was “Forever 35” which is a podcast run by these two women, Kate and Doree, and is about “masks, serums, exercise, nutrition, meditation, anxiety and stress, Kate’s favorite drugstore mascara, Doree’s addiction to restorative yoga, and much more.” Not exactly high-brow stuff, but I love it.

Anyway, I was listening to an episode the other day entitled “How To Feel Okay When Life Is Not.” The title stuck out to me and I started listening to listener calls and emails that had gone from asking about face masks and pilates to much more serious issues. One woman had written in asking for advice about how best to celebrate her 40th birthday when she was terribly sad about her many failed attempts to get pregnant. She wanted to know how she could figure out how to get herself to a happy place for the big day.

The host Doree had great advice. She too had been through infertility and could empathize. But what struck me was what she said to the listener about the future and the possibility of getting pregnant one day. “You may need to say to yourself, this might not happen for me,” Doree said. “Everyone is always telling you to stay positive. But maybe there’s not anything for you to stay positive about.”

Doree went on to tell the listener that it was important to think about what the future might look like if she was never able to get pregnant. “You need a plan,” she said. I’m paraphrasing here, but she went on to say something like, “You might need to figure out how to live a happy life without kids, or you might plan on adopting kids, or you might think about getting a surrogate. But you need to at least accept the possibility that your future might be different than you imagined.”

Here’s what I loved so much about that podcast. Doree didn’t try and say everything would be okay. She didn’t give false promises about what might happen someday. She didn’t predict some perfect rosy future.

She said it might not happen.

You are not supposed to say this. I’ve never gone through infertility, but I’m pretty damn sure if I had, people would not have said to me, “maybe this won’t happen for you.”

I know this because when I talk about my future with men, no one says to me, “maybe this won’t happen for you.”

I’m not sure I really want anyone to say something like that to me. But I’ve started to think about my future a lot lately, especially the part about someday meeting a man who might want to be with me for the long-term. For the past year it was impossible to think about ever meeting anyone that I could love like I loved Shawn.

But then I had a short few weeks when I thought that having love again might be possible. I toyed with the idea. I let myself think about the possibility that even if I wasn’t sure how it would happen, I might fall in love again.

Someone might look at me again like Shawn did. Someone could adore me.

Those thoughts didn’t last long. I can still intellectually believe that I might find love sometime in the next 40 years. But emotionally, it’s much harder to believe.

So when I heard this podcast, I started to think about the possibility that love might not happen again for me.

Of course, when I voiced this to my friends, they all protested. “You’ll meet someone, I know it,” one friend said. I looked in her eyes and could tell that she believed what she was saying.

But I’m not so sure. And maybe – maybe – it’s time for me to think about what my future might be like if it never happens for me.

Maybe the listener of Doree’s podcast will get pregnant. Or maybe she won’t. Likewise, maybe I will fall in love again. Or maybe I won’t.

And maybe it’s time to have a plan.

I told my dad about all of this. “Well, you live in DC,” he said, “and it’s a big city, so your chances of meeting someone are pretty good.”

“But it still might not happen,” I said to him.

“You’re right,” he said, “it might not.”

He didn’t say it, but we both knew what else he was thinking. He managed to make a happy life after my mom died without meeting another woman. He never wanted to meet anyone else, but still. He missed her intensely, but he has also lived twenty (mostly) happy years without my mom.

I’d like to meet someone, someday, who I can love again like I once loved Shawn. I’d like to fall head-over-heels in love and feel like it’s 2002 once again. I know wherever he is, Shawn would like that too.

But it might not happen. And in case I end up alone for the rest of my life, I need to make a plan.

To be clear, I’m not sure what that plan is yet. But as of this moment, I have a plan to make a plan.

My future may hold a happy ending. I hope so. That happy ending may be with a new partner or it may not. Accepting that is really, really hard. But it’s probably an essential step in carrying on with my life.

Image Credit: Stefanie Harrington Photography.


  • pam mccurry

    I can so relate to this. I am in year three and recently started dating someone who has been a friend for 20 years. I was always the girl he would call while I was happily married to tell me all the crazy dating stories he experienced. Ours was mostly a phone friendship as we had always lived far away from one another, but after my husband passed I moved back to our home state which is where my friend lives…now we are about 4 hours apart and so we see one another one weekend a month on average. On his last visit to see me we did our usual stuff which always includes ALOT of laughing, but even though I was happy to see him and had a great time while he was here, I noticed the moment he left I became terribly lonely…..not for him, but for my husband. Even though this man is great and we have so much in common, he is not my husband and I don’t feel the feelings when he walks into a room that I felt when my husband did and that is such a hard reality to accept. I may find love again, but at this point I doubt it will ever be the kind of love I shared with my husband. I wonder if I’ll always feel like I’m settling for a little less by comparison. SO, like you I making a new plan to and I will have to face that it may be a life without the kind of love I was lucky enough to have before.

    • Marjorie

      It’s funny – I think a lot of widows feel as you do when they start dating again….it’s like the new feelings of desire bring up all the feelings of loss as well. I’m really not sure how to navigate that, but I do think it’s super normal.

  • CJW

    I’m not a widow, but 37 and still single, and I’ve often said to myself and others “long-term love might not happen! And that has to be okay! I have to be enough!”

    But others always seem to think this view is sad or defeatist. Which makes no sense to me, at I find it liberating, because I can’t make anyone love me whereas I can make myself happy no matter what. I wish others would understand that.

    • Marjorie

      Exactly – I don’t want to be defeatist (I still want love!), but I don’t want my life to be seen as “sad” (by me or anyone else!) if it never happens for me again.

  • Edith L.

    You sounded extremely happy and it is great that you had the opportunity to share a life with a wonderful man. When I realized that being someone’s partner may not be in the cards for me, I remember speaking about this with my father who told me “Don’t worry, you will meet someone”. Then one day, I answered back “you know dad, I don’t think it will ever happen”. As my father was telling me how one day someone would fall in love with me, I answered back “Never mind someone falling in love with me, what about me loving someone. What about all these feelings that I had been planning to share since high school”. There is no answer to that question. My sister, also unmarried, decided to have a child through artificial insemination and she is over the moon. But I never even considered having children. I wanted, and still want a mate. But at 51, things one day did get better. Friends who had wonderful marriages were sundenly single and we started seeing each other again. There is still that wish that the man for me is out there but it took me a while to accept the he may not be and that despite having had men in my life, they never ended up thinking I was the one. Yes, it is lonely sometimes and national holidays suck. But it is what it is. I wish you luck and am happy that you got to experience a great love. Take care.

    • Marjorie

      Thanks so much for sharing your story. Yes, I think for some widows, they desperately want kids or a family life, but I already have that. What I desire is a partner. But I’m going to have to figure out how to live a happy life if that never happens. We’ll see what that means for me going forward – it’s hard to know at this point.

  • Marlene Manto

    Hey Marjorie, I know exactly where you’re coming from. My husband was killed tragically nearly 18 months ago and every time I say that I’m planning for a future alone, all my friends want to argue and say “You might still meet someone!” That’s true, but I’m 63 so it just feels unlikely that I will meet anyone like the person I lost so I am making plans for that. If I meet someone while I’m living my own life….well….maybe that’ll be OK but I’m not planning on it. The important thing is, I don’t NEED a man.
    Cheers, Marlene

    • Marjorie

      I wish I was there with my emotions – I think in many ways, I’m still waiting to be rescued. Which is exactly why I wrote this post. It’s time for me to start thinking about building a life that doesn’t involve needing to be rescued.

  • Juanita Garcia

    Hi, I am also a widow with 4 young children. I have been flowing you for the last 6 months and I must say I love reading your work. I find it striking and compelling that you write about wanting someone to look at you like Shawn did. But Shawn cannot be replaced nor do you want him to. He was a one of a kind. You have to love yourself and be ok with being alone with yourself before anyone else can exsist in your space. I feel like you are looking for someone to rescue you but in reality you have to save yourself. Thank you for sharing your journey as I am travelling a very similar road. I keep asking myself how did I take this wrong I just want to get back to the old safe road but without my husband here in the physical form it can never happen. It will always be new uncharted roads from here.

    • Marjorie

      You’re so right. We have to figure out how to feel safe by ourselves before inviting anyone else in. And that’s the only option – although it’s a terrible one. Thanks for sharing here.

  • Anne

    I hear you on this one, except it’s taken me 10 years to finally tell myself it might not happen. and I am still working on feeling ok about being single for the rest of my life. I’ve only had a handful of not fun dates. It’s not the same dating world as when I met my husband as a 19yo college student. I finally tried the online dating thing this summer and I only lasted 2 weeks. I would say the door is closed for me, but not locked. I am not actively searching for another partner and instead devoting myself to my kids, starting a new creative life/job and even going on “dates” by myself. Sometimes it makes me sad that it’s so hard to find someone special but mostly I am grateful for having had the experience of unconditional love in my marriage and I am proud of myself for adapting to the unknown. I do feel for you and your struggle with the unknown tho

    • Melanie

      You may fall in love again but it will probably be different. It won’t be Shawn; you are older and have more experience than when you met Shawn; and that infatuated, falling hard in young love experience might not happen. It coyld still be magical and lovely but different. I don’t have any wise words except to say that sometimes we have to let life unfold as it may, and not try too hard. Your happy ending doesn’t necessarily have to be defined by a man yet I understand your feelings. Keep writing; you are really working through a lot here.

    • Marjorie

      I love what you wrote here: “I am proud of myself for adapting to the unknown.” YES. Thank you for saying it that way – I’m going to start saying this to myself.

  • JustDad

    There’s good advice above about understanding and being good with yourself as you are now. Confidence in yourself is bottled sunshine, it’s attractive and infectious and it makes good things happen. You’re already braver than most by being bold enough to live your struggle out loud, and your writing makes a lot of people feel less alone. There’s light in there and that’s a great start.

    • Marjorie

      I love that you see light in my writing – that gives me a lot of hope. I think for most of the people who know me, they’d be surprised by the insecurities I have, as I seem to project confidence. But death and grief are strange things to have in your spirit as they can bring on new emotions and feelings. I really appreciate the thoughtful comment.

      • JustDad

        “death and grief are strange things to have in your spirit” Wow, that is making my head spin. I talk a lot with my youngest (10) about his mom’s spirit. But I don’t think of my spirit much, not in the present tense, and certainly not as something that is being molded by experience. Do people see or sense death and grief in me? Can I change that? This is way too existential for me at the moment. Tomorrow needs me to make lunches and fold laundry. Peace.

        • Marjorie

          Well, this is an amazing quote that I’m going to put on my Facebook page today: “Do people see or sense death and grief in me? Can I change that? This is way too existential for me at the moment. Tomorrow needs me to make lunches and fold laundry.” I GET THAT. It’s also beautifully said. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jeff

    I’ll start by saying that I think your father is right: you’re in a big city, so your odds are good, or at least better thanj they would be in a small town. (I am single and have been contemplating relocation and similar considerations have dictated my decision making.) He’s being intellectually honest by acknowledging the possible, but I think it is necessary to look at both components of what he is saying, not merely the component which is most frightening.
    That said – first, when I was going through a rough time, my father told me: all of what you see on TV and in the movies is BS. Life is about struggle. People struggle. Similarly, a CrossFit coach (!) had this surprisingly profound quote on the website: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Sadly, life consists, at least in part, at least for many, of hard battles. I know that you know this, and I hope I’m not coming across as patronizing, but perhaps it’s worth noting.
    I can’t say I’m happy with every aspect of my life, and insult to injury and ironic as can be, in some ways those unwanted aspects are direct results of actions made to avoid them in the first place. But: experiencing what I tried to avoid is not as bad as I feared. I think some of that is age and maturity, but I think part of it is that things can seem worse in the abstract than in the actuality. Perhaps most relevant to where you are, a family friend has been single since her early or mid 30s. She is not married and at her age (last 60s) probably won’t get married. She manages, though – she had an extremely successful and glamorous career (she was in advertising in the generation immediately following Mad Men), she assiduously cultivates friendships and activities, etc. I’m sure it’s not easy, but (again) she manages.
    Last, I read a Dan Savage column responding to an adult virgin. Savage wrote, I am not going to tell you you’ll find somebody, because not everybody does, but go and live life anyways, because it increases the likelihood you *will* find somebody, and if you don’t, your life is richer than it would otherwise be. I like his advice – live life as best you can. Easer said than done, I know, but again, in the end I think Savage is right.

    • Marjorie

      I think Savage is right too. This is why I wrote this blog post, really. I just have to figure out a way to find that sense of calm about my life, rather than a constant yearning. It is possible that my writing will be the way that I’m able to do this – I’ve already started to think about how I could do something more than what I’m already doing. I’m not shutting any doors, but I also know I can’t just be waiting, waiting, waiting for someone else to come along, because (as Savage notes) it might not happen. So it’s time to make my life more interesting in the interim.

  • mh

    Hi – I am also a widow with young kids in the DC area. You are right that it might not happen. But maybe consider whether you really are ready. I had a significant relationship that ended before I met my husband. I thought I was ready to move on within a few months. I wasn’t. I dated a lot but my heart was just too raw. I broke up with 2 people pretty abruptly because I couldn’t stop thinking about my ex. Eventually of course I did meet my husband but it wasn’t on any type of timetable that I would have chosen. My advice, if you want it, is enjoy the parts about being single that are enjoyable. Let yourself heal slowly.

    • Marjorie

      Oh, I’m not sure I’ll EVER be fully ready. By that I mean, I’ll always have things to work through when dating someone new. BUT – and I think this is important – everyone has things to deal with when you get to the age of 40. So I’m not looking to be perfectly healed, because I think that’s impossible. I’m merely looking to be stable, which I hope I am or will be very soon. This post, however, is about just what you talk about – finding out how to enjoy the parts about being single that I can.