The Sixth Anniversary

Dear Bill,

You were right. (You don’t hear that very often from me, do you?)

Six years ago, in our last conversation before you died, you told me “You’ll be okay.”

I didn’t believe you then. I didn’t believe you on the first anniversary of your death, or the second, or the third. By the fourth, I had become good at existing, but I never felt okay. By the fifth, I felt okay unless something went wrong, then I was angry with you for not being here to help me deal with it.

But it’s been six years now, and I really am okay. Things still go wrong, of course, but now instead of being angry, I’m just sarcastic – “Way to get out of dealing with this one, honey!”

I kept one shirt of yours, and I have worn it when I needed the comfort of feeling you close. Today, I’m wearing it because I want to, not because I need to. That’s a big change for me.

Like everyone else during this pandemic (Way to get out of dealing with this one, honey!), I’ve been doing some decluttering. And I’ve finally been able to throw some of your cherished mementos out – pictures of your cars, your time cards from SIR, the old wooden silverware chest that you kept them in. It’s only now that I could admit to myself that as much as they meant something to you, they don’t mean anything to me. And it’s only now that I could do that without any guilt.

I miss you and I always will, but now I see your death as a change in my life, not the end of my life. Life is not better without you, but it’s also not worse without you. It’s just different without you.

Like you said, I’ll be okay.

Update on Dear Me: The Mother Letters

Here’s an update on the Dear Me: The Mother Letters book.

I am still very much committed to doing this book, however with the outbreak of the pandemic I do not think now would be an ideal time to release it. Much of the success (and by success, I mean breaking even) of my previous book, Dear Me: The Widow Letters, was due to the fact that I could get out and do public readings and promotion for the book. That would not be possible right now. But I do still have a plan:

  • I am not putting out an official call for more letters, but if there is anyone who is still interested in submitting a letter, it is not too late. I will accept letters until the end of this year. As before, the only stipulation is that at least one year has passed since the death of their child.
  • I am currently taking an online class on publishing ebooks, so will be be able to put Dear Me: The Mother Letters out in both print and digital formats.
  • My plan is to put out the ebook by the end of January, and then the print book out after that. (I’m not sure how long that takes, as we haven’t covered print-on-demand yet in the class.)
  • If your letter is chosen for inclusion, you will still receive $50 plus both an electronic and print copy of the book.
  • Truthfully, I can’t even read the letters right now to make a decision. I did read each one as they arrived and they are heartbreakingly beautiful. I just don’t think I can handle that level of emotion in this time of stress and isolation. I hope you understand. I know the bereaved mothers deal with it every day of their life, and I can only hope they are doing okay through these strange times.
  • I will, however, commit to making the decisions in the first week of January.

So, that’s the plan, anyway. I’m sorry it is taking so long. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to email me here.

My Letter

I am posting the letter I wrote for my anthology Dear Me: The Widow Letters for a couple of reasons.

  • To promote the book – an ongoing self-publishing reality. If you are interested in purchasing the book, please visit my online bookstore:
  • As an example of the type of letter I am seeking for my new project Dear Me: The Widower Letters. I am looking for men who have experienced the death of their spouse or life partner (at least one year ago), to contribute letters for this new book. I would like to have all the letters by the end of 2022. You can find more information about this project here:

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Bill died in 2014 at the age of 67, after prolonged health problems. He died peacefully with Dianne and their two sons by his side. Dianne was 55 years old and they had been married for 30 years. She wrote this letter almost two years after Bill died.

Dear Me,

You had no idea that heartache could be such a literal thing, did you? Sometimes the pain is so intense it takes your breath away. I know. And your eyes never seem to stop leaking. It’s okay. Gasp. Sob.  Cry. Feel. Feel sad, feel angry, feel betrayed, feel it all. None of it is wrong. There is no right way to grieve – there is only your way. Will it get better? Eventually. But not for a long time. And though in time your heart will not feel like it is seizing up in your chest, it will never feel the same. It will always feel like a part of it is missing, because it is. Bill’s life and love was adhered to your heart, and having it yanked away leaves a scar.

It is not crazy to feel that Bill is close by, reaching out to you, whispering in your ear. You will become highly suspicious of coincidence. I like what author Emma Bull said – “Coincidence is the word we use when we can’t see the levers and pulleys.” You will remember things as you head out the door – “do you have your…?”. You will smile when just the right song comes on the radio. And you will feel his arms around you when you need it most. Believe.

You will want to talk about Bill. This will make some people uncomfortable. The first time It will silence the room. That’s not your problem. And they will get over it. People don’t mean harm. They’re just worried that you’re going to fall apart. And you might. And that’s okay, too. I’m not saying to go out of your way to bring Bill’s name into every conversation, but when something “reminds you of the time”, go ahead and say it. It will be good for you, and for them.  

Do not be afraid to ask for help. There are things you will have to do alone now, that Bill did before, or that you did together. As he became sicker, you were the brawn and he was the brains on many a project and you made a great team. Now it’s just you, but you will figure it out. You have friends. You have family. You have Youtube. It’s amazing what you can learn to do there! And if all else fails, you have the common sense to hire a professional.

What’s really exhausting is the decision making. Sorry. It just is. There is no more “What do you want to do?” “What do you think?” “Where do you want to go?” It’s all on you. If there is a good side to it at all, it’s that you no longer have to compromise about anything. You can have your way. Everyday. Every time. But it will take time before it feels like that outweighs having Bill’s opinion, but it will eventually. I hope.

Go easy on yourself. Take the time you need. From work, from activities, from obligations. And not just at the beginning. Once you go back to work, things will seem to be going fine and then WHAMO! Something (or nothing) will hit you and you’ll feel like you’re back to square one in your grieving. That’s okay. The only way to deal with it is to feel it. There is no time limit on grief. There is no “keeping your mind off it”, or at least no healthy way. Cry when you want to. Mourn when you need to. Be the understanding friend to yourself that you would be to someone else going through the same thing.

You will survive. Right now you’re wondering if you will, but you will. And you’ll go on to make important decisions for your life. Not always easy decisions, but important ones. Do not be afraid to go in new directions. You know what’s best for you. Trust me.