Elevator man similar to that in story by DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley
Things That Suck

What I’m Scared Of

I slipped into the last spot on the elevator going up to my hotel room last week.  As I fumbled in my purse for my room key (so I could push the button to my floor) the man standing next to me said, “quick! You better show us your room key so we know you are allowed up!”

He meant it as a joke, but it felt like a strange thing to say, and I sort-of half smiled/half frowned at him while continuing to rifle through my purse.  He beamed at the other people on the elevator, who were clearly friends of his.  I got off at my floor, and when I exited I heard him say, “well!  I think I scared her!”

I almost turned around and said, “duuuuuude.  Seriously.  You did not scare me.  I’m a widow for chrissake.  Nothing scares me.”

It’s true, in a way.  Once you’ve held the love of your life in your arms and watched him die – well, nothing can really be much worse than that.  I mean, really, elevator guy, do you think I’m so easily spooked?  Or so worried about how I might come across to others?  Do you think I worry about that stuff anymore?

I don’t.  And in that way, I’m scared of nothing.  Yes, I could lose my job or have my car break down. People could think I was desperate or crazy when they read my writing.  I could get turned down for a promotion. Someone could get sick and I might have to miss a lot of work.  All of those scenarios would suck, but at the end of the day, I’d make my way through it.  I know I’d survive it because I survived the worst thing ever.  Hence, under this logic, I can survive whatever it is that may be thrown at me.

Except sometimes I’m not actually that strong.  Sometimes, I cower at the idea of going out on my own to a restaurant.  I worry about how I’ll feel, and whether I might cry.  Sometimes I avoid those parties where I know I’ll be the only single person, because I’m nervous that I’ll feel out-of-place. Sometimes a rude comment by a stranger can ruin my day, so I try to appear to be the perfect mother.

Sometimes, it seems, I’m scared of everything.

Take dating.  In a way, I’m not scared of dating.  So what if I get rejected by a man?  I know I was loved deeply.  I know I was desired.  I know I was perfect for someone, once.  So if I meet a man I like who doesn’t like me?  Well, who cares.

But then, I could fall for a man and give him a bit of my heart and it could be crushed.  Not as badly as before, but still, my soul is fragile in many ways.  I am scared of getting hurt and that makes me think I actually don’t ever want to date again.

Or take parenting.  Sometimes, I don’t worry about the little things.  So what if my kid does something annoying or obnoxious?  So what if they have to endure a few slights?  It won’t be as bad as losing their father, so I know they’ll survive it.

But then, one of my kids could really get hurt by someone, and because they are my everything, it would crush me.  If something actually tore at one of their hearts, well, it’s terrifying to think about how I might react. 

Or take simply living on this planet.  In so many ways, I’m not scared of living a full life – of eating great food and laughing at the bar with old friends and taking trips to far off places.  I’m not scared because I know that time is short and I have to live.  I have to enjoy whatever time it is that I have here on this earth.

But then I remember the thing that scares me the most.  If I decide to live – to really live – and build a life that brings me joy and happiness, I’ll have to do it without Shawn.  Finding real happiness, the kind where I’m living so fully that I don’t think about the sadness of losing Shawn quite as often….well, that’s actually quite scary.

I’m a widow.

I’m scared of nothing.

And I’m scared of everything.


  • Kate

    I can emphasize with almost everything you wrote. I feel brave because I live through the worst that could have happened (losing my spouse), but at the same time, I’m scared to move forward. I feel like I live life in a bubble right now. I live for my child to ensure that he is happy and working through his own grief. At the same time, I think about my own happiness and future and it scares me so much. I’m afraid to date, not because I might be rejected, but because I may actually feel love again for another person. It is confusing to me and heartbreaking. I’m scared to feel happiness and joy because I worry about being judged. Am I not grieving enough? How can I feel joy while traveling and experiencing things when he is no longer able to because he is dead? It really is hard to be a widow.

    • Marjorie

      You can say that again – it is REALLY hard to be a widow. There are so many people who have ideas about how I should be living and reacting to grief, including me! It’s easy to feel like you’re doing everything wrong, but if you’re keeping your family safe and comforted, you are doing the most important thing right!

  • JustDad

    These days I find being scared almost thrilling. I think that’s because there isn’t the threat of not coming out the other side anymore. The worst has already happened. To borrow from Garp, I’ve been pre-disastered. We don’t need to be without fear. But the confidence to stand up to it (or maybe wrestle it to the ground) is something I’d like others, and especially my kids, to see in me. Boo!

    • Marjorie

      Yes! I love that attitude. Hell, what worse can happen? I had my garage almost totally collapse a few months ago and was like, “oh well, I’ll just deal with this, no biggie.” Perspective!

    • Amanda Villegas

      Marjorie, as I read your words I felt as if my mind was sucked out and put on a page by someone I didn’t know. I am sorry that we relate on this, but I am grateful to have found your blog. You described the feelings of being widowed impeccably. Losing the love and stability in your life is truly excruciatingly isolating because it is so unfathomable to those around us. I lost my love, my everything on June 19th. In a matter of months, cancer tore my partner of 12 years away from me. I feel as if I don’t know how to function as an adult, for I met him when I was 16-years-old. As a 27-year-old widow, I feel as if I have reverted back to my high school years. I don’t feel right even thinking of my future without him, but I promised him I would keep going and live for him. But I am both terrified and fearless, and I have to thank you for putting your words out for other individuals to connect with. I knew I wasn’t the only one lost, scared and feeling every strange feeling that comes with this painful reality. I am grateful for your vulnerability and openness.

      • Marjorie

        I’m so glad you are getting something out of my blog, but I’m also so sorry that you have to be here. Early widowhood is so so so tough. The grief is always with me but the early days were much worse. Take care of yourself. Sending hugs.

      • Nelsa

        I don’t want to hurt anyone and I don’t want to be hurt. Sometimes I think the latter is impossible because I’m living with a broken heart. How could they hurt me , I guess I don’t want to make myself vulnerable. I’m trying to like my life now , I used to love my life until my sweet hubs passed away. I am only surviving not really living but I keep trying.

        • M Brimley

          I don’t think you need to force yourself to feel any specific way. When it’s time to let yourself be a bit more vulnerable, do that. But for now, go easy on yourself. It does get easier.

  • Debbie

    Marjorie, I read your article on Vox and how to date in today’s world. I’m much older than you (56) but, when I ‘half in half out’ explored widow dating sites, I too saw all the grey haired photos and didn’t even bother to try to figure out how to complete a profile. Thank you for creating this space for widows to be able to read ( and nod their heads in agreement) and share.

    When I reflect back on the past 2 yrs and almost 6 months since I lost the love of my life, and recall all the challenges I’ve overcome, I’m sure I can figure anything out – except one thing. How to live without him. Kate, I agree it is REALLY hard to be a widow.

    • Marjorie

      Yes, agreed – I’m getting through the logistics, but the loss? It’s still so present. Thanks for reading and following along with my story. Love love love that other widows (and others who’ve experienced loss) are reading and “talking” on my blog.

  • Amy

    I can also relate to everything posted here..my husband passed three years ago and I’m a year away from my youngest going to college and being alone with the dog! I dated someone for 5 months but we’ve since parted and it’s as if the grief has hit me all over again. I felt so strong before I dated him (like I could handle anything), and now I feel
    vulnerable again and trying to get back to that position of strength which I liked much more!

    • Marjorie

      Yep – the grief returning after a breakup….it’s so real! It does make you so much more vulnerable, even if it’s not even remotely the same as losing your husband.

  • Jen

    Wow. A post that only a widow can get. I feel like you wrote a secret riddle that only we understand. All so true. Thanks for always letting us know, all of this is completely normal for us.

    • Marjorie

      Yes, exactly. It’s interesting – sometimes my posts resonate with a larger audience, and sometimes it’s just widows that respond. This was one of those that really resonated with widows.

  • Barbara Bossard

    I’m so glad I found your blog I have been a widow for 8 weeks now, my husband passed away very suddenly and without warning. He was 60 and in good health. I am 54 and have never lived alone until now. We have no children and were married for 35 years! I hate saying were, because we are still married. I’m learning to be brave but sometime all I want to do is veg out on the couch all weekend. Thank you for sharing your experiences, as you said, there is no manual on how to do this.

    • Marjorie

      Oh, gosh, that’s such a hard period. I think everyone should get a minimum of 3-4 months of bereavement time to just sit on the couch and try and get through a bit of the shock. It’s so awful, no matter how you become a widow, and those early days are the hardest. Hang in there.