Claire Brimley in Brimley kitchen before losing her father
Missing Shawn


I was chatting with some of my girlfriends the other day when we began to discuss this guy one of them knew who lives in another city.  I can’t remember his name, so I’ll call him Bob.  Anyway, Bob is apparently single and my friend wanted to find him a girlfriend.  We all spent time having a heated, if somewhat ridiculous discussion about which teacher at our kids’ elementary school we’d like to see him date.  Then, one of the women there said, “But really, I don’t really have any friends who are single anymore.”

Others chimed in.  A few people had some divorced friends, but most of the situations were quite complicated.  I started to mull it over myself.  Who did I actually know who was single?

It took me a full five minutes of this conversation to realize that – technically – I am single.

The conversation kept going and the topic was quite amusing so I don’t think anyone really noticed my silence.  I looked around and realized that everyone there was happily married (at least as far as I know), most for at least a decade.  They were just like I was a year ago – definitely not single.

I guess I’m glad there’s a box to check “widowed” on most forms.  Because checking “single” would probably be worse.

I don’t feel single at all.  In many ways, I still feel married to Shawn.  I bet that if one of my friend’s husbands had died, instead of my own, I’d probably think it was strange if she still felt married to someone who was dead.  But when I’m out with my girlfriends and people are telling funny stories about their husbands, I don’t feel like a single person.  Sometimes, I don’t even feel like a widow.  In a lot of ways, I feel like I’ve just lost Shawn, and that if I keep searching, I’ll find him again.  I accept the reality that he is gone….and then I don’t.

I still sleep on the right side of the bed, like I did our entire marriage.  I actually take the extra pillows off of both sides of the bed before I go to bed, just like I always have.  I tried sleeping with the pillows piled on his side of the bed for a while, but it felt weird.  So every night, I turn down the bed as though he might come in from a night out with his friends and I’ll wake up with him in the morning.

I continue to hesitate each time I’m going to buy something like new mugs for our kitchen cabinet.  We always discussed purchases for our house together.  Shawn was such a minimalist and I remain one today, so buying extra things for our house was something we always consulted each other about.  I know he’s not there to answer the phone, but I had a real pause when I was about ready to buy new glasses for our kitchen a few days ago.

And I still say “we” and “our” much more often than I say “I” and “mine.”  Try as I might to correct myself, it’s “our” house, “our” finances and “our” children.  “We” have also done a number of things since Shawn died, like enroll Tommy into Pre-K and switch Claire to a new guitar teacher.  Sometimes it takes actually hearing myself saying “we” to think, “well, I guess that’s not quite right.”

But it feels right.  Shawn is gone and I know that – I promise that I do – but it doesn’t seem like he is.  He is everywhere around me.  He’s there in the way that my children laugh and in the way that the cupboards are organized.

I know he’s gone.

But – sometimes – it feels like he isn’t.


  • Becky

    I remember at some point learning about relationship coaching, and the teacher explaining that there are three entities to coach: the one person, the other person, and the relationship. The relationship is it’s own entity, comprised of but distinct from the two individuals. That comes to mind when reading this post. Shawn is gone but the relationship continues. And your relationship was/is so strong, Marjorie, that I’m not surprised that it could go on even when one of you is gone. I imagine that as long as you are alive, the relationship between you and Shawn will exist, though it may change over time. Love you, my friend.

  • Henry

    I too sometimes find my self saying “our” or “we”, and when I do it is because it feels right.

  • Samara Gerson

    I am recently widowed, and I just came across your blog. I have read through a handful of posts, and your writings and mindsets are highly relatable for me. Thank you for putting out this content. It is so very helpful to absorb.

    • M Brimley

      Oh, I’m so glad you could get something from my blog. I’m so sorry for your loss, and I hope that you can find a community of widows here. (You may also want to check out my new resource page.)