Posted in widow

Four and Forty Five

Another year has rolled by. I can’t believe Pat has been gone for four years already. And I can’t believe I somehow arrived at forty five years old. What a journey this has all been. I would have thought by now I would be “good”. That this would be just another day, but nothing ever is the way I think it should be. I miss him. I miss the father he would have been. I miss the possibility of what we would be now. I am not naive though. I know things wouldn’t have been perfect or there wouldn’t have been pain or unhappiness along the way. All my problems are not a result of being a widow. But that doesn’t take away the fact that there is a piece of my life that would have felt a bit more secure. Just having him here to watch tv with or simply feel his presence near me is something I miss more than anything.

Life has moved along for me and I have happiness but I don’t have a day to day partner to share my life with. Not in that way. My kids are my kids. They are my sole responsibility and every decision and every action is put on me. And I worry alone that I am screwing them up. I know if he was here it would have been better for the boys. They wouldn’t be stuck with me just me and my craziness. Pat would have balanced it out.

But that is not my reality and I am beginning to see that I have to let that fantasy in my head, the dreams of what and how I wanted things to be, go. That is my next step in this grieving process. When people said grief was a life long journey they weren’t kidding. It has become easier but still there are days. Four years without him…there have been many many days.

But let’s think of the forty five years I am celebrating today. Those have been good. I look back on all I have done and seen in my life and I feel so amazingly blessed. I was lucky enough to have so many friends who support me. And a family like no other to love me. I found love in an amazing man who gave me the gift of three incredible boys.

And my future looks bright. I have love. I have friends. I have family. A job I enjoy. Students I love to help. There is so much left for me to enjoy. So much for me to learn and see and explore. I look forward to it all.

So four years since I lost my life, my love, all I imagined for my future but forty five years of so much love and happiness.

I can’t wait to see where I go from here.

Posted in widow

Settling into widowhood

The holidays are always an interesting time for widows.  I guess it is for a lot of people.  The holidays have become a time when people start thinking about other people they haven’t thought about all year.  We remember those friends and families who have struggled or lost someone.  People want to reach out and let us know they care and they are thinking about us.  That is nice.  There are other times throughout the year where that would be nice as well, but I digress.

The holidays have changed for us since Pat died.  A little bit of the joy and wonder has disappeared and it has become more of a chaotic crunch time.  A lot of rushing around to see people we haven’t seen and buy gifts for people and do all the traditions we want to save.  There isn’t a lot of time to just sit and be in the wonder of the season like I think we did when Pat was alive and the kids were younger.  Maybe it is just part of the kids growing up that has changed it as well, I don’t know.

For the past few years I have been trying to get my obligation of shopping out of the way early so that I could try to enjoy some time in the moment instead of running around with my head chopped off at the last-minute searching for a gift to give.  I wanted some time to reflect on the year and the joy of the season.  But this hasn’t been easy.  So many things keep getting in the way.

One thing that isn’t getting in the way anymore is the grief of losing Pat.  I think we have found our new place and our new normal and even though we miss him terribly…we have settled into our new lives.  We have new routines, new ways of doing things and have started new traditions.  Some we try to keep alive just because, but for the most part we have found a new way of living without him.  That doesn’t take the pain away or make his memory disappear.  It simply has given us a new start on our journey.  I don’t think it is a new journey, it was just a huge fork in the road that we didn’t see coming.  We never do when it comes to sickness and death.

I wish more than anything the course of my life wouldn’t have gone the way it did.  I wish 5 years ago the doctor told us he had a stomach bug instead of cancer and life would have carried on as it was.  I don’t get the privilege of that wish.  I didn’t get to choose this direction or have any control over the circumstances that were handed to us.  This is where I am and now I have choices.  And I made a choice to live.  To start over and begin again.  Easy?  Nope.  But in my head I didn’t see any other choice.

So choices I made and changes I made and a new life is forming.

So, we are settling in.  It’s been just over 3 1/2 years we have been living without Pat in our physical presence.  I know he is with us in other ways every step of the way.  His love and spirit has guided me in my choices and I am sure he would be happy that we are finding happiness.  Sometimes the road is tough and the pain can be excruciating, but sometimes it leads us to amazing places and beautiful people.  I feel good about settling in and I feel blessed for all that has come to us during this experience.

Posted in widow

Just you and me

November 6, 1999…19 years ago today I said I do to Patrick Mahoney.  This was always our day.  It was the beginning of our story as one.  It was Pat’s favorite day of the year.  He always did it up right.  He would send flowers, plan a special evening and give me incredible gifts.  It’s was a day all about us.  Since he died, I have tried to honor this day in little special ways.  It’s an anniversary.  It has nothing to do with anyone else but him and I.  I’m pretty sure most people wouldn’t even remember this day but for us it was the most important day of the year.

There have been anniversaries that other people do remember, such as the anniversary of Pat’s birth.  People send me text messages, write on facebook and even post their favorite photo memories on instagram in honor of Pat’s day.  I love that.  There is also the anniversary of his death.  This day is a little more complicated.  People recognize this day in their own ways.   Some people do send pictures or thoughts, but that day is also my birthday and I think that kind of makes people unsure as how to commemorate the day.  It’s as if they want to acknowledge this as his angelversary or whatever you want to call it, but they feel like it takes away from my birthday.  Or that if they mention it I will remember that it is not just my birthday.  That one sounds crazy to me because really?  how could I forget?  But the thought has crossed my mind.

Beyond those two days, people don’t think about Pat and I in the anniversary sense.  For us widowed folks we know that there are so many anniversaries that we do remember.  The anniversary of the first kiss,  the first date, our first house, the last kiss, the last conversation, the last breath.  And so many in between.  We get to remember it all.  I feel lucky to remember it all.  I was so blessed to get to make those memories in the first place.  I wouldn’t ever want to forget.

But today…what would have been our 19th wedding anniversary is something that is just for him and I.  Something only we remember, well I guess now it is something only I remember.  That’s sad to even write, but it is the truth.  I am the sole owner of the memories of what was once us.  I alone hold the stories of us; every special moment, every intimate conversation, every dream and even every regret.  I’ve got it all inside of me.  And I am thankful for that.  He was mine and I will forever hold him in my heart.  Not just on this day that is ours, but everyday of my life.

Posted in grief, living forward, widow

One Day More

Pat died at the age of 44 years, 6 months and 1 day.  That’s all the life he had to live and boy did he live it.  Today marks my one day more.  One day more is something he would have wanted more than anything.  And now here I am… I have been living one day more than he was given to live.  Its a day that is bringing me mixed emotions.  One, I am realizing how young he was when he had to leave this world.  I couldn’t imagine having to say goodbye to everyone and everything right now.  I am too young.  Two, I am feeling the pressure to truly live life.  I feel like from this point forward I need to embrace life and take every opportunity I have to live and love.  I am doing this for the both of us.  I know I have felt that way since he died, but right now it seems more real than ever.


The past three and half years…I can’t believe we are there already…has been such a crazy roller coaster for me.  I have been in the depths of hell and I have found my way out again.  There were times I didn’t know what in the world I was doing, where I was headed, what I wanted or if I even deserved any of it.  I have been completely lost, alone and frightened.  And then there were times of great clarity.  Times were I could see an amazing future for myself.  I saw opportunities and ideas and dreams that I had never deemed possible before.  I was given a new perspective on life and the world in which we live.  I discovered my inner strength, realized I don’t give a shit about what others think about me and my choices and started to try to live my life again on my own terms.

This hasn’t always been an easy path…it definitely was not a straight path that my journey has taking me on.  But looking back I am amazed at all the self discovery and soul-searching I have done to lead me to where I am right now.  I had crazy ideas and thoughts about where I was headed at times.  I tried so many different things and routes to take before I came full circle and found my peace again.  I found my place.  I didn’t think that was ever going to happen again for me.  I thought I would be a lost soul forever.

But here I am.

Three and half years later, I am finally in a job that I love, working with people I truly enjoy, comfortable (as much as any parent can be) with raising three boys on my own, I have cut people out of my life and I have found someone new that makes me happy.  I am proud with how far I have come and I am aware of the fact that I am just beginning.


I am 44 years, 6 months and 1 day old.  I am barely mid-life at this point (at least I hope).  There is so much living and loving and learning left for me to do.

And now I am going to do it not just for me, but for Pat…in his memory, in thanksgiving of all he gave to me, for the life he deserved to be a part of….I am going to try to make him proud and truly live.

One day more may be all I get and I don’t want to waste it a single minute of it.

Posted in widow

Not just another birthday

I’ve been feeling empty these past couple of weeks.   I have felt like something is wrong and I didn’t know what it was.  Something has been bothering me.  I have thought it was the stress from the test I just took.  Or maybe it was my job.  Maybe it was just this solo parenting thing I’ve got going. Mostly I am just so damn tired.  Tired of the day-to-day.  The running around for the kids and trying to do it all alone.  And then I started to think about it closer.  The date on the calendar….April 5th. It’s my birthday.  I should be happy.  But we all know it is not just my birthday.  Three years.. it has been three years today since Pat died.

Even though I have come to terms with so much in my life, this day looms in my unconscious and bothers me.  I miss him.  I miss him so much.  I miss everything about him.  But mostly I miss our life together.  I know it is easy to say looking backwards, but life seemed easier when he was alive.  We had a rhythm of life together and it worked for us.  It was comfortable.  It was supportive.  It was something we had built together for 20 years.

And now.

Now I am still struggling day-to-day to figure it all out.  There is a piece of grief that just lingers there and settles into the nooks and crannies of day to day life that you just can’t shake.  It is there all the time.  Not in the forefront of your mind or in the things you do, but it’s there behind the scenes.  In the little moments.  And it likes to make its appearance at the strangest and sometimes most inopportune times.  You never know when it is going to come out of the shadows and place a dark cloud over your heart.  It just shows up and tears you down.

So that is where I am.  This day isn’t a day of total sadness, but it is a day that just hovers over me.  It lays a fog around my heart and my mind and my soul.  It brings an uncomfortable feeling that I want to be rid of desperately.  I hate feeling this way.  I hate being brought down to my knees again with despair.  I hate feeling so alone and so unsure of what I am doing.  Not that I usually don’t feel a bit of this, I think that is normal.  But on days like today it rains down hard and reminds me of all that I have been through these past 3 years without Pat.  How far I have fallen from who I was and what my life was like.  And in a lot of ways the change isn’t bad.  But it is still change.  It is still a complete evolution of what life use to be.  I forget about that as I battle my way through each day on my own.  I put my head down and do what I have to do and just keep going.  I just keep breathing and I just keep trying.  I forget to look up and see where I am and all that has gone by.

Today marks three years without Pat.  I hate the sound of that…without Pat.  He is always with me.  I know this.  But you also know what I mean.  I miss him.  I miss him so much.  But it’s my birthday.  And I will enjoy the day for that reason.  But I will also remember today as the day that I lost Pat.  And somehow, someday I hope to find peace with it all.  I hope that the lingering pieces of grief shape me into something or someone worthy of all the love he gave me.

Posted in widow

Monster of Doom

It’s been a while since I have written but I do have a good reason.  I have been working hard on something that has sat in front of me as an obstacle, an excuse and a fear for many, many years.  You see, I graduated with my Masters in Counseling back in 2006.  Since then my life has taken many twists and turns and lead me down many different paths.  I never took my national boards for counseling after I graduated.  I had just had my third baby and was recovering from bacterial meningitis…life was taking over.  Time just kept going by and I continued to put it off.  It soon became this giant monster standing in front of me and I formed an irrational fear of it.  I didn’t want to take it.  I was convinced there was no way in the world I could pass this test, especially after all this time.

When Pat first got sick and we were spending the majority of our time sitting in the hospital, I decided I would give it a try.  I figured I had time just sitting to study and I could use the distraction.  But as we all know, nothing can distract you from cancer and death.  Son I continued to put it off.  Five years have passed since that first half-assed attempt.

Pat died and my world has been turned upside down and I totally lost direction.  Everything changed for me and I didn’t even know what I wanted to do with my life anymore because I didn’t know who I was anymore.  It’s been a quite the journey.  I have taken these past three years to try to figure all of these things out.  This year, I got a new job which I though would simplify my life and bring me some peace.  I thought I wanted a job that was just a job, something that I could leave behind at the end of the day, but it hasn’t turned out to be what I had wanted it to be.  I have spent a great deal of this past school year complaining about the position I am in and wanting out but I didn’t do anything to fix it.  I hate that!  I hate when people complain and do nothing about it.  If you aren’t going to try to find an alternative or a solution, than stop complaining.  Either fix it or deal with it.   And here I was doing that exact thing.

I took a little get away; a break from the kids, the job, and life in general.  I went away for a few days and thought about where I was in my life and where I have been the past few years.  I thought about what I wanted my future to look like.  I started weighing my options and what I may want to do.  When it came down to the foundation of all the things I thought I may want to do, it led me to the same place.  It seemed like the one thing I really needed to do was to take the NCE and finally be a fully licensed counselor.  Oh my God, did this terrify me.

But I took the first step and signed up.  I paid the money which I knew meant I was going to work my butt of to prepare for it because I hate wasting money.  This was a little step, but for me a huge leap.  I had put into motion something that scared the hell out of me.  I waited a bit before I set the official test date and made myself a study schedule.  I tried to take each step slowly and think it through.  I studied and studied and studied for 5 months.  The day finally came and I was so scared.  I can’t even explain to you as to how scared I was.  The morning of the exam my anxiety was through the roof.  My hands were shaking and I could hardly breathe.  But you know what?  I did it.  I sat there for two hours and when I hit the button DONE, I simply held my breath and said “It is what it is.”

No matter what the result was, I had done something that scared me.  I had done something that I had been putting off for 12 years.  I did something.  I took a risk, a step in a direction and waited to see what was going to happen next.

And I am happy to say, I passed that test!  This giant obstacle that has been looming over me for so long is now officially gone.  What a flippin’ relief.  I cried tears of joy and happiness.  It felt so good to have set a goal and actually do I it.  I am so proud of myself.  Not that I passed the test, but that I did it.  I put my mind to something and actually followed through.  I did it without Pat pushing me to do it, though I know he was cheering me on from above.  I did it without giving an excuse as to why I couldn’t.  I did it without anyone else helping me.  I did something for me, about me and all by myself.  I didn’t back off or run scared, like I usually have done since Pat died.  I stuck it out and that is what I am proud of.

But now what?

That is where I land now.  This obstacle, this monster of doom, my excuse is gone.  I can’t use that to stop myself from moving forward anymore.  It has left me with many more decisions to make and directions I can go in.  It makes the next step easier, but also a bit tougher because I actually CAN do these things now.  There is nothing holding me back except for me.  I am now that monster of doom standing in the way of where my life will take me.  This may be scarier than that silly test!


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Posted in grief, living forward, widow, year of self-care

A year of self-care

2017 came to an end.

I was given a gift of a two-week vacation from school and work. I had hoped that I would have felt recharged, refreshed and ready to start 2018.  I wanted to use my two weeks to reflect and refocus on where I am, where I’ve come and where I want to see myself this year.  Unfortunately, the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018 brought my a cold and sickness that I just couldn’t seem to kick.  I came into the year more exhausted then I left the last.  I knew I wanted 2018 to be a bit more about me then the years that have passed, but after the way the year started I now know that it is a must.

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I have been reflecting on the past 2 1/2 years since Pat died and all the different places I have been and the crazy thoughts that have gone through my head.  Looking back is way easier to see what I was doing then when I was actually living it, hind sight is always clearer.  A friend told me that my first year after Pat died would be the year of Denise.  That I would  need to do whatever I needed to do.  I thought that sounded amazing.  I thought that was what it was.  But it wasn’t.  It was a year of survival.  It was a year of grace.  I had to learn how to make it on my own,living in this deep fog that we widows experience.  I had that year allowing myself to be in the pain and the grief and just put my head down and go through the motions.  It wasn’t about me.  It was about survival…for all of us.

The second year I then thought I was ready for a year about me.  I even quit my job and took some time to learn about who I was know that Pat was gone.  I am definitely not the same person as I use to be, but I had no idea who this was.  I had time but it didn’t turn out to be about me either.  It was about learning how to run the household…how to take on all the new roles and responsibilities that were left in my hands.  It was also a year about the kids.  Taking care of their grief needs and school needs and everything else that comes with raising three boys on my own.  It was a year of learning, not a year about taking care of me.

This third year has been about getting back out in the world and finally coming to this new normal everyone has been talking about.  I went back to work doing something different from my past jobs and tried to find a new path for my life.  I have slowly started to get a handle on the finances of the house and making plans for the future.  It’s been about getting the boys back out into life and active with their friends and school activities.  This has led me to devoting all my time and energy to them.  I understand this is what parenting is all about, but I am utterly exhausted not having a tag out to someone, anyone at anytime.  This is 100% on me and boy am I feeling it.

This has led me to my focus on a year of self-care.  I want to change the perception that taking time for yourself and putting yourself from time to time is not selfish…it is necessary.  You can not be good for others if you are drained.  You can not pout from an empty pitcher.  You need to provide yourself oxygen before you can help others reach their oxygen.  It isn’t wrong to care for you…it is the best thing you can do for you and your family.

I realize this is an intentional act I will have to focus on everyday because being a working parent I am pulled in so many directions that I can lose track of where I am headed.  So I am mapping out a plan for myself and I hope others do the same.  This year has to be a little bit about me.  I have to take care of myself; body, mind and spirit.  Everyday I need to take at least five minutes to focus on me.  This could be for meditation, or reading, or walking, or sit ups or writing or anything that I want to do.  Everything else can wait for five minutes.

I am also going to work on letting guilt go.  My kids do not need everything they think they need right when they think they need it.  I am going to give myself the gift of not feeling guilty for not giving them everything.  I am going to put some of my needs and wants ahead of their demands (because they aren’t typically needs anyways).  I am going to schedule some me time to do what I need to do for me.  Not what I need to do for them.  I will take care of me, even if it seems stupid to others and give myself some time to reboot, recharge and refresh my spirit.

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This is hard.

This is so hard with three demanding boys standing over me asking to be driven somewhere, or to buy them something or to make them dinner.  But they can wait.  They can wait for me to get my head together and take a deep breath and remember what life is about.

Life is about love.  It is about finding happiness and peace and love in the smallest of things.  It is not about having the most, or being famous or having the busiest social life.  It is about finding your place in the world and being at peace with where you are.

In order to find this, you have to look.

In order to look, you have to take some time for you.

If all the focus is on others and at the end of the day you are emotionally, physically and mentally drained, you will never be able to find the peace you deserve.  The peace I deserve.

So this is my challenge to you…make it a year of self-care.  Make an intentional effort to be about you, just a little bit and then let’s see where we are in year from now…or even a month from now.  I’m ready for some time to discover me and do what is best for me.  I believe that if I am happy and settled in my life, then everything else should fall into place.  I will be a better mom, a better daughter, a better friend, a better employee…just better.

It’s a worth a try, at least that’s what I think.