DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley Hale hugs friend Michelle at night
New Perspectives

I’m a Widow. You’d Think I’d Be Better at Doing Hard Things. I’m Not.

I’m about to do something really hard. And I’m a tiny bit nervous. Okay, I’m more than a tiny bit nervous. If I’m being honest, I’m legitimately anxious about this next step. It’s a big, hard step.

And doing hard things is scary.

It’s not like I’ve never done hard things. I lived with a mentally ill mother who died by suicide. And then I got married and had three kids and then my husband died. And then I dealt with everything that widowhood brings. And I survived it.

I even found love again. Which was wonderful…and also, it was sometimes scary.

Any big changes can be scary, I know that. When I told my friends about my next step in life, I joked, “Well, here’s another announcement from me. Because if you’re looking for someone who makes a major life change at least once a year, I’m your woman!”

It’s a joke, but it’s true. In less than 5 years, I’ve nursed my husband through his cancer treatment, watched him die, become a single mom to 3 kids under 9, had my father move in with me, started dating again, had my father move out, dealt with a global pandemic as a single parent, fallen in love, had my boyfriend move in with me, got engaged, got married, and had my new husband adopt our kids.

And now, we’re adding one more to the list.

We’re moving to Colombia.

No, I’m not talking about Columbia, Maryland or Columbia, South Carolina. I’m talking about Colombia the country, which I’ve started to say when I tell people. I get it. It’s not exactly the typical next thing to do in midlife.

But Chris worked there for many years and this spring we found out there were new opportunities for him there again. In February, we took a trip to check out where we’d live, the schools, and even got the kids to appreciate that Colombia is a pretty cool place. Behind the scenes of our regular life, we felt out if this move was possible. We wouldn’t move forever, we knew that. Just a year, we promised ourselves and then our family and our friends. We’d need to rent the house and change our jobs and make sure the visas came through. There were a lot of logistics involved. But we could do it.

So we are.

As we were filling out yet another oddly translated form for the kids’ school and as I was looking over the rental contract once again, I didn’t really think much about the emotional part. I’ve done hard things, and in the past 5 years I’ve done a lot of hard things. This was just one more thing, right? And – here’s the rub – I’ve convinced myself that I’m good at doing hard things. Which may be true.

But I’m just as scared as anyone else to do those hard things.

I still get nervous and feel bad and lose sleep over all sorts of things, but especially the hard things. For example, getting married, even though I wanted so badly to marry Chris, was really stressful. I worried and I lost a ton of sleep. I remember thinking it was crazy that I was so stressed out, because marrying Chris was something I really wanted! And yet, I still felt scared.

I’m no better than anyone else at confronting hard things, it appears. Being a widow doesn’t make me immune to these tough feelings.

What I do think widowhood gave me was the knowledge that I can do hard things. I think (often because there wasn’t really any other option) I learned how to take the leap and do things that were scary. Becoming a widow? Scary. Going back to work? Scary. Traveling alone with kids? Scary. Online dating. Scary. The list could go on. I didn’t always have to do these things. But I knew that my life and the kids’ lives would be so much better if I faced whatever the hard thing was and just did it. And once I did one hard thing, I realized that I could do more.

So now I’m going to do this hard thing. We’ve packed our bags and we are ready to go. No, I don’t really speak Spanish, and neither do the kids. No, I’ve never lived abroad with kids and no, I haven’t spent more than a week in Colombia. No, I don’t know if my school will take me back when I return in a year. No, I don’t honestly know what my days will be like for the next year.

But I am doing it. I’m not sleeping particularly well and I’m worried about the kids’ transitions and I’m not totally sure we packed any of the right things. My plan right now consists of taking a month off the blog (I’ll be back after Labor Day, don’t worry!) and trying to do as much Duolingo as I can. Pretty soon, I’m going to get on that plane, smile widely at my kids, and tamp down the fear in my chest.

And I’m going to do it.

It’s the only way I know how to do hard things.

Image Credit: Becky Hale.


  • Erin

    What an exciting adventure and great experience for you and the kids! I admire your bravery for doing the hard things that seems scary. Can’t wait to read your posts during this adventure.

  • Gina

    Best of luck to all of you. What an exciting time. I needed this post today. Because I too get scared, and it’s not something I talk about. Scared of so Amy things. Scared I’ll live in my grief, and scared I won’t, as I move forward. Scared of being sad all the time, but all scared if I feel happy..like should I feel happy? Perfect timing today for me…as always… thank you for writing and sharing.

    • M Brimley

      Oh, gosh, I have so many posts on being scared, and SO many more I never wrote (but should have) about other things that were scary. All I can really say is this – the scary stuff gets easier, as does the self-judgement and the grief. It’s all still there, of course, but…it’s just easier to manage as time goes on. Hang in there.

  • Samara

    In my widowhood, I say to myself “this is hard, but it is not insurmountable.” I also listen to “Top of the World” by Imagine Dragons when I need a swift kick out of ruminating over hard things. Best of luck to you and your family as you traverse the journey. Be scared, do hard things, and have fun!

    • M Brimley

      I love that phrase! I will also make sure to put on that Imagine Dragons on the plane ride down!!

  • Sherry Gaulke

    Marjorie……Kudos for taking the leap of faith‼️‼️
    I have to thank you. Your picking up and moving towards an adventure
    for the entire family gives me MORE appreciation for what my Mom had
    to do for so many years. My Dad was a senior Navy Officer for 34 years
    and many times when we were transferred ( usually 1.5-2 years) my Dad
    went ahead of us to our new ” adventure” to report in and check out
    our living accommodations so Mom would have an idea.
    It was my Mom who packed us, traveled alone with 2 girls and made the
    whole trip an educational, fun trek each time. Believe me when I tell you
    the kids will remember the trip getting to the adventure.
    Don’t be scared—- you’ve been dealt much harder situations and you
    came through stronger and wiser……this time you are only a plane ride
    away and on the same side of the world—- easy 🥰
    Safe travels to a new adventure chapter.
    PS The kids can use events this next year for years of school reports‼️

    • M Brimley

      Sherry, I love this story. It’s so inspiring as I move our family halfway across the globe! We will keep you updated. Thanks for the love!

  • Liz Pelroy

    Hike reading your post, it put into words what has been in my brain for the last 5 years or so. As much as I hate doing the hard things and feel like I get handed the hard things over and over, I am blessed I can do them, ALL OF THEM. I am actually good at doing the hard things, even though they are terrifying. Somehow we just always find a way!! Congratulations on all of your love and success!!

    • M Brimley

      Yes – we can do those hard things! Sometimes it feels like I just want everything to be easy. But that’s not how life is, or at least hasn’t been for me in the past 5 years. I like what you said – “somehow we just always find a way!” Yes!

  • Romeo Riojas

    Columbia?!? Wow! I know you’ve got this. And the experiences your entire family will gain will be priceless.
    Your Tía Carmen and I have had the pleasure of living vicariously through the travels and adventures of both you and your sister.
    Keep those posts coming. Life is a journey, so just hold on tight and enjoy the ride.

    • M Brimley

      Oh, I loved hearing from you and Tia Carmen. We will keep you updated on all the adventures. I’m practicing my Spanish every day!

  • Emilee

    I’ll say that as soon as I read Colombia, I knew you meant the country. You have mentioned Chris’ history there, and I immediately thought about how this adventure makes sense as your family’s next step.
    Your kids are going to have an amazing experience. Yet another life changing event. They too, can do hard things. You remind us often how amazing your beautiful children are. They will thrive!
    My sister in law just moved to Nicaragua to teach. It’s exciting to think about fresh starts in new places, and opening yourselves up to know and appreciate something outside of our country. The world is so big. You will be glad you allowed your family the opportunity to be uncomfortable in order to grow. This time you get to choose, and I think you’ve made an amazing decision!
    Have an amazing time! We will be eager to hear what life in Colombia is like for your family. ❤️

    • M Brimley

      The world is so big – YES! It’s already such an adventure down here…can’t wait to update you all. Thanks for the love!

  • Kelley

    Congrats. What an awesome thing to do!!!! If anyone can do the hard things you can.
    Your kids will adjust to a new school probably better than you will expect. Colombia is such a beautiful place with fantastic people and great food. I know you guys will love it. Living abroad as you know is amazing and living abroad with your kids is just as amazing. They will learn so much and become such global citizens. It isn’t always easy. And the first few months can be a honeymoon stage or hard. I always tell myself when moving to a new place we can do anything for a period of time. If we don’t like it we can change. Enjoy it all! You deserve it.

    • M Brimley

      Oh yes, I think we’re in the honeymoon phase and ALSO the hard phase…can’t wait to update you all about it all once we get settled in.