Posted in grief, living forward, widow

A Widows Christmas: Part 2


This is my second holiday season as a widow.  Last year  I spent the holidays just trying to get everything done and make sure the boys had everything they needed and that they felt comfortable without their dad.   I tried to keep it as “normal” as I could under our circumstances.  See last year we were not in our own home.  Not only had we lost Pat, but we had to leave our home for six months due to some major construction to the foundation of the house.  We spent the holidays in a rental home.  We didn’t have access to our Christmas decorations, or anything.  We didn’t have lights, or stockings, or anything that made us feel like it was Christmas.  We were living out of boxes and in a mess of things.  But the holidays come no matter where you are or what state of mind you are in.

I thought I was doing okay.  I was getting all the shopping done, staying on top of school parties and making sure Christmas morning was just as it always had been before Pat died…like that was even possible.  But I was trying.  We always had a breakfast casserole and cinnamon rolls for breakfast after opening presents.  And we always had spaghetti dinner.  I was prepped and ready for the day.

The boys came down and were happy to open presents and give me the gifts they had made.  It felt okay.  We were doing okay.  And then it was time for breakfast.  I took all the ingredients out to get cooking but didn’t have a pan to cook it in.  We had a house full of rental furniture and dishes and stuff and there was no casserole dish to cook breakfast.  This was what broke me.  I left the house in search of a store to buy a pan, crying the whole way.  I couldn’t do this on my own.  I wasn’t cut out for this.  I had messed up and ruined Christmas.  I ended up at my friend’s house in the neighborhood crying on her couch as she quickly found me a casserole dish to help me out.  I was a mess.  It pretty much summed up my first Christmas as a widow.  I had been shoving down all the pain, and sadness I was feeling just to push through the days with the boys.  I was putting on a show for everyone, including myself, that I was doing okay.  I wasn’t…  What a joke.

So here I am in the middle of my second Christmas season as a widow.  We are less than a week away from the big day and all I can say is what a difference a year can make.  I don’t feel that agonizing pain and loss.  I don’t feel alone and overwhelmed.  This year it seems people have gone away, as they do, and so we weren’t pulled in as many directions as we were last year.  There weren’t the parties or get-together we use to have to attend.   And last year I felt obligated to go to everything and see everyone.  I was worried about hurting other people…  I’ve gotten over that.  Now I worry about the four of us and what we need.  So I am sure that has helped me out this year.  I can focus on what is most important and that is us being together and making memories together.

Now don’t get me wrong. This is no Norman Rockwell painting here.  I do have three boys between the ages of 13 and 10…there is a lot of chaos and fighting going on in this house.  But it is something that just is.  It isn’t a result of Pat not being here.  It’s just the fact that there are three boys filled with testosterone fighting for their place in this house.  It just is.  We aren’t weighed down this year with the sadness.  Yes we miss him.  Yes we wish he was here to celebrate and be with us.  But that’s not our reality.  We can’t live like it is.  I am glad that we aren’t .  We are all trying to turn the page and start living forward.  We have started to make new traditions.  We are changing some of the old traditions too.  It is a part of becoming the new us.  The Mahoney 5 is gone in the physical sense and so we can’t expect everything else to stay the same too.  We have created our new family and our new way of being.  It has brought new challenges, but it has also brought us new happiness.

I think that this year is better because the fog has lifted.  I don’t feel that weight holding me down.  I can see where I am headed and I know we will figure it all out.  Each day is still a struggle, but it is not the same struggle as it was last year.  Now it is more of the struggle to raise these boys and help them to succeed in life.  Parenting alone is the struggle this year…not the holidays.

So as the days bring us closer to celebrating Christmas,  I am hoping that I truly am doing Okay this year.  I am hoping that this year will not end up as a rerun of last year.  I don’t feel as though it will.  But hey, this widowhood thing always has a surprise waiting around the corner and sometimes you just don’t know what is coming your way.  I am just going to try to keep on moving in the right direction and pray for a peaceful, Merry Christmas.


Merry Christmas   2016



Posted in grief, living forward, widow

One Last Good-Bye

I never said good-bye to Pat before he died.  We said a lot of things to one another, but I refused to say good-bye.  It was me and him forever and therefore there was no room for good byes.  I would see him again.  I will see
him again.  But since he has died, I have had to say good bye to a great deal of things from my “former” life.

Right after he died our house had some major issues to it and we had to move out in order for a complete renovation to occur.  I was forced to pack up all his belongings, everything we had accumulated together for the past twenty years, and put it into storage.  Pictures came down off the wall, his clothes came out of the drawers and my physical memories of him were taken from our home.  And we when we moved back in it just didn’t feel right to put his stuff back in the new house.  It was a new start for us and I couldn’t see hanging everything back up in the closets when he wasn’t here to use them.  It was a difficult thing to do especially so early on after he died.  But we did it.empt

It seems to me that most everything in the physical sense that was Pat’s before he died has been packed away, and said goodbye to.  Everything except one. .. His car.  For the past year and a half I have had two cars.  My car, which my parents have taken over thankfully, and Pat’s car.  I could have turned his car in after his death because it was in his name, but mine I had to keep since it was in mine.  But I didn’t want to give up his car.  I liked his car.  It was his.  He only drove it a couple of times before he died, but it still had all of his things in it.  It was a physical connection to him.

The boys and I have taken some great trips in this car over the past 20 months.  We went to Florida, Kentucky, Chicago, Traverse City, Grand Haven (twice), and many other local trips filled with amazing new memories.  We haven’t touched Pats stuff in the console…it’s just as he left it so it was like we were taking him along with us.  But the lease is up now.  The time has come to turn his car into a memory too.  It is our final goodbye.  The last physical item we have that belonged to Pat, that belonged to my “former” life.  It is leaving us today and we are starting a new…again.  .

I’m having mixed feelings about this.  I am sad about letting another piece of him go.  My mind is fully aware that it is only stuff and not him, but my heart feels like I am losing something more than a car.  I miss Pat.  The car is just something else I have to let go and learn to live without.  We will make more memories and travel to great places together in the new car, I know this.  The future has so much for us.  We already have our first trip planned over the holidays.  A new adventure.  Another new beginning.

So even though good byes are usually sad and beginnings are usually scary…I know that in the middle, all those memories we will make, is where the good stuff lies.  Just because I am letting go of Pat’s car, I know that doesn’t mean we are letting him go.  We aren’t losing him anymore than we already have.  We are simply making room for something new and hopefully exciting to come our way…the future.

Posted in grief, inspiration, living forward, widow, widowhood

To the new generation of widows

Since I have been writing I have connected with a large community of widows and widowers.  What I have noticed and learned about it is that we are a new generation of widows.  We are not the picture you think of when you think of the word widow.  We are no longer the little old lady or man dressed in black walking around broken and alone.  We don’t hide out and depend on others for everything because we are broken in two.

The new generation has a passion for life.  We have been broken but we will not remain that way.  We are empowered.  We have a voice and we want to be heard.  We no longer want to hide away and suffer the rest of our lives.  We want to find a way out of the darkness and live again.  Sometimes it may take a while for this to happen and sometimes we slip in and out of the darkness, but the difference is that we want to find a way out.

Thanks to social media and the internet we can find a place where we can see that we are not alone.  There are others just like us and what we are going through is normal and okay.  We can lean on each other, whether it is through a simple email or reading someones blog about their experiences.  When we connect with each other we take another step out of the darkness.  I am thankful for this.


I don’t think the widows of the past had this.  They had no way to find one another.  They were alone in their suffering and others looked on them as broken and were either forgotten or pitied. I don’t want to be either.  I want to be a part of the world again.  I want to burn the fire that still lives inside me for all to see.

We need to continue to listen to each other and share with each other without judgment.  We all have our story and our own road to healing.  There is no one right way.  Just what is the right for you.

Another difference is that it seems to be us widows are getting younger and younger.  There is a large group of us out there that are under the age of 50 and have lost our spouse.  We still have a lot of life left to live.  It isn’t the life we had planned on, but there is still life out there.  This new generation of widows now have to grieve for their loss, find their new life and start to live again.  It isn’t the same group of widows who were married for 50 years and will spend the rest of their lives alone.  Not they all do either.  Not that they don’t feel the same pain.  It’s just different.

I have found that being a young widow has its challenges.

  1. the challenge of having to continue to raise young children.
  2.  figuring out where we fit in this world of couples as a young single person.
  3. trying to navigate the financial world on your own and plan for the unknown future
  4. finding people to connect with that understand
  5. navigating family situations both nuclear and in-laws
  6. not having a partner to lean on
  7. and so much more…

I never imagined I would be a 40-year-old widow.  I never thought it was even in the realm of possibility.  But here I am and here you are.  We are widowed.  We are young.  We have a life left to live.  I have to believe we are still here for a reason and there is still more for us to do.

So to this new generation of widows I say we stand tall and stand together.  We are strong in who we are and what we want in life. We can make decisions for ourselves based on what we want and what we need.   We can have the life we deserve without others judgment or disapproval.  We do not have to suffer in silence or dress all in black…though I do enjoy wearing black.  We can go out with friends.  We can laugh out loud.  We can have a good time.  And in time we can find happiness again…

Posted in grief, living forward, widow, widowhood

Ready to Walk the Talk

I recently read a blog about walking between your two lives after the loss of a loved one.  It clicked with me and has left me thinking about where I am walking in my life right now.  The idea of the blog was that as a widow, as she is one too, there comes  a time when you are living with one foot in your former life and one foot in the new world you have made for yourself.  You have to try to balance the two and wait for the right time to fully step into your “new normal”, your new life.

I am finishing up my second year as a widow and I am amazed at how the journey of grief has gone so far. The beginning was all about surviving the pain and shock that came with Pat’s death.  It was about helping the kids adjust and understand.  It was simply forcing myself to get through each day.  By the time the end of the first year rolled around I thought I was in a pretty good place with things.

I was wrong.  The beginning of the second year was rough…on all of us.  It came at us without expecting it which may have made the hit feel even harder.  We were thrown off kilter for a bit but then settled back in.  Most of this second year was about trying to figure out who I am now in this new world of mine. Trying to figure out what to do now.  I accepted the loss of Pat and the fact that life will never be the same again.  I learned that I am no longer the same person and what I want and desire in life is no longer the same.  This has been my main focus for some time now.  I am getting there.  I have learned a lot about me and I have decided what I want and don’t want in life.  The details aren’t completely mapped out just yet, but who’s life is a perfect plan in action?
Now I am finding myself in a new place.  The feelings that go along with it are different too.  Living in the end of my second year and seeing the third year heading towards me leads me to a place of let’s get up and get going.  I think I have done a hell of a lot work for years now.  I have thought about everything.  I have analyzed, critiqued, adjusted and improved myself.   I like who I am.  I like where I am at…basically.  The place I am in now is one of being ready to move forward.  I have talked about the need to continue to move forward and in my mind I have.  I have prepared myself mentally and emotionally for the move.  Now I am ready to do it.  I am ready for action.  I am ready to step into the new life.  It has come that time for me to say goodbye to that in between place we widows live in for a while.  I have dipped my toes into life multiple times and retreated back to my safety, but here I am…ready.

actionI think the fact that I have been writing like crazy shows I am back in the game. My book is coming along nicely and I am ready to begin the process of starting a non-profit.  I am sure I will still be hesitant about things, but I know that now I am ready to get going on with this thing called life.  It is time to start putting my words into action.

Walking between my two lives is sometimes quite a balancing act and it is mostly done in order to make others feel comfortable with things.  People have their own opinions as to how we should live after the loss of a spouse.  Even though they have never experienced it.  It is okay.  I get it.  I didn’t know before I was one too.  I thought I knew what it would be like or what I would or wouldn’t ever do, but you never know until you live it.  I understand that people can be uneasy with me finding a happy life after Pat.  It’s not that they don’t want me to be happy…they do.  But it needs to be on their timeline…when they think I should start being happy and what that should look like.  So I walk that line.  I don’t want to hurt people or make them think I didn’t love Pat or our life together by finding happiness again.  I want to be considerate of others feelings and ease them into the new me.  All that I have now…happiness and my new life honestly has nothing to do with the love I have for Pat.  It is two separate things.  The amazing thing about the heart is that there is room for more than just one love…more than just one life can bring you happiness.

There is no way in hell I would have believed any of that 2 years ago.  But now that I have lived this life, I know that it is.  The heart has an abundance of love to give.  Just because you love another, doesn’t diminish anything you had with the first.  The love goes on.  Just because you find happiness and peace doesn’t mean you are “over”  anything.  I will never be “over” losing Pat.  The pain is just something different now.   The wound has healed over, but the scar will always remain.  My love with him and my life with him will always be with me.  I will always have that.  And I am proud to have that.  Having a second shot at life and finding happiness or love or peace in life doesn’t take that away.  It is different, but it can be amazing.

So as I am entering this next chapter of the grief journey I am ready to take the next steps necessary to ease me out of the waiting room and back out into the world.  I have come to that point where I am wanting to get up and do something.

I hope you all stay with me on this journey.  I can’ wait to see what keeps coming my way. It has been quite an adventure so far.  I never thought I would make it to this point and find my way out of the fog of grief.  I don’t only see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I can finally feel the warmth of it shining down on me.

Posted in grief, living forward, widow

The tears of a widow

A year and half later the tears are still falling.  I have cried so much and for so long, I don’t know how there are still tears left to be produced.  I cry for more than just my loss of Pat and the loss of me.  I cry for all that I can not have and can not be.  I cry for all that I have and all that I will never have.  The feelings are much more intense now.  I feel so much.

tearsBut the tears aren’t just running down my cheek for you all to see.  I cry inside, I cry alone.  My days are not like they use to be.  There is so much more to ponder.  So much more to feel.  All the pressure that comes with being a widow can break you.  But we widows, we are strong.  We have been through hell and are fighting our way out.  We know how to hide our pain and struggles. We hold it in and make it our own.   I don’t like to share my inner thoughts and pain with others because I don’t think anyone truly understands.  And I’m glad for them that they don’t, but I am sad for me that they don’t.  It’s hard when you are all alone on the inside.  Feeling like you are the only one that knows your pain and struggle.  There are people who understand parts of what you are feeling and certainly there are many who can empathize, but it’s so not the same.  The pain we have is so real and personal.  We want for someone to get it, but we don’t want to have to explain it to any of them.  We cry inside for someone to understand.  We shed a tear when we can’t find a way to make it better.

But a tear is a sign that we are alive.  It is the way our soul opens up and speaks to the world.  We can’t always say what we are feeling and sometimes we don’t even now what we are trying to say.  Tears give our soul a voice.  And it doesn’t have to mean we are in a bad place.  It simply is a way of clearing our way for better things to come.

Each tear is for something different.  The tears tell our story and reminds us we are still here and there is life to be lived.  The tears of a widow aren’t always shed for the one who has passed.  Our tears are so much more than the heartache we suffered.  The tears help to wash away the pain and move us along our path.

I’m moving along mine.  I really am.  I’m lucky.  I have found someone who understands.  Someone who has lost their love.  We share our feelings.  We share our pain.  We understand where we have been, where we are.  But this doesn’t make it all better…it simply helps in the healing.  Because it helps to be heard and to be understood.  It helps to have someone put into words the feelings you are feeling inside but you can’t express.  For the tears just keep coming.  And the pain still remains.   I may have tears in my eyes and pain in my heart, but my soul is working its way back into the world and it is ready to shine brighter than ever before.


Posted in grief, living forward, widow, widowhood

Making Progress

After last week of feeling totally useless and depressed, I have to say I got off my butt and went back to working on me.  I decided I needed to make myself a priority and to do something about it instead of simply feeling sorry for myself.  Not an easy thing to do some days.  I have been writing everyday.  I am coming at it a little different now.  I am looking at it like it is my job.  I am setting time aside each day, just couple of hours, and leaving the house for a coffee shop to focus on my thoughts.  The first day I did this felt a little odd.  I felt guilty about taking the time and not working on things for the house.  I quickly got over that.  I need this.  I need some time for me that doesn’t involve anyone else.  These past few years I have been saying I am figuring me out and taking time for me, but that wasn’t 100% accurate.  I have been doing things, but it always involved others.  Whether it was with the boys, family or friends, I always had someone else involved in finding me.  That doesn’t  make much sense.  “Just being” means just being alone.


I have felt alone since Pat died and the loneliness can overtake you, but I am not talking about this alone time.  That is the kind that was thrown at me…or rather something was taken from me.  The kind of alone I need now is of my own free choice.  It is something I want and need to do in order to continue my way out of the darkness.  I have been looking back on my writings over the past couple of years and I am happy to say that when I turn around I am happy with what I see.  It was a horrible time, but what I see when I turn around amazes me.  It is dark.  Very dark and painful.  The past.  And the view in front of me still has the shadows from the past, but the light is there now.  I can see again.  There is a brightness that wasn’t there even a few months ago.  I just have to keep working way through the fog and darkness to step into the light.  I know there will always be a lingering shadow around me that will pop its head out at unexpected times, but I feel like I am making a great deal of progress towards moving forward.

Grief is no joke.  Being a single parent is no joke.  The struggle is real.  Some days I feel as though I am losing my mind.  Some days I want to jump in the car and run away.  Some days I want to throw in the towel because I just can’t do it anymore.  But, somedays are amazing.  Some days I wake up and feel lucky for where I am.  I think that is the biggest lesson learned from losing Pat….What he gave me, what he taught me, what I went through and what I am still going through has been a gift.  I haven’t fully opened that gift just yet to see the true meaning of it all, but the strength I have discovered, and the new perspective on life I have obtained is a great beginning.

Just another day on this journey through widowhood.  Just gotta keep moving.


Posted in grief, inspiration, living forward, self confidence, widow, widowhood


So I’ve been sitting here all morning trying to figure out what is going on with me.  My head is a mess running wild with thoughts and worries and confusion.  I am feeling unmotivated, disillusioned, doubtful and basically scared shitless of what lies ahead.  I am not sure how I got to this point.  I’ve been doing so well.  I feel at peace with Pat’s death.  I am into a good routine with being a single parent.  I have accepted the new Denise and I am enjoying being her.  But there is something pulling me down.  I feel lost and scared and I have been driving myself and probably everyone else around me crazy this week trying to deal with it.  I am not sad.  I am not mad.  I am not even confused about what I want in life.  I know what I want.  I know what I need to do to get what I want.  I just have this loud, obnoxious voice in my head that keeps screaming at me and I can not shut her up.  I don’t know how to get rid of her or at least shut her down for a bit.

Fear.  Fear has taken over all I am and it is holding me hostage in this in between life stage I am in.  I want to move forward.  I see a path, I see a plan and an opportunity, but she won’t let me go.  And because of her pushy demanding ways I am stuck doing what I am doing…which is nothing.  Of course I have a million excuses as to why I can’t get going down this path I want to take.  We all do that.  But why?  Why won’t I just do it?  Just take
that step…it’s not even a jump anymore.  I feel like I have taken the big jumps that I needed to move forward, without looking I must add, and I so far I have survived.  I wanted to jump and see where it takes me.  But serious, Is this it?  It is going to take me nowhere because I am so stuck in my head with the voice of fear keeping me right where I am?

So now what?  That is where I am right now.  I love that feeling when I figure out what my problem is.  It is at that point I can begin to make a plan to make a change.  Even though I don’t exactly know what to do, it is a better feeling than not knowing what the hell is wrong with me.

I know what I am doing to myself by making up these crazy things that could wrong.  Of course things could not work out the way I want, but in all reality what has gone the way I have wanted in my life?  I never in a million years thought I would be an unemployed 42 year old widowed mother of three boys trying to start life over again.  But here I am.  And I am enjoying most parts of my life.  I see that it can actually be a better life than I had before if I could just get out of my head and take the first step down the path I want for myself  I know I could really start feel like I am living once again.

I feel like I have been in this spot before, like a hundred times, back at the beginning,  Starting over and making a new game plan.  Sometimes it feels hopeless because it doesn’t seem to work for me, but its the only thing I know to do.  Make a plan, find a way to fix the problem and get going.  I get down like this, as I think everyone does from time to time, but I refuse to be a marinator…one who sits in the pain and confusion complaining and not doing anything about it. me That is not who I am…ever.  I will give myself sometime to feel what I am feeling.  Think through my craziness.  Cry a gallon of tears.  But there is a point where I say enough is enough.  Get off your ass Denise and get going.  Today is that day.  I am giving myself this past week for what it was worth and I am ready to start again…again.  As long as I keep getting up and trying to move forward I think I am heading the right direction.  As for the voice of Fear screaming in my head, I am ready to shut her down.  If I fail at what I am going to try to do, then I fail.  It doesn’t make me a loser.  It simply makes me someone who wants to live.  Living is about learning and loving.  There is nothing more I want to do with my time here then to learn and love.  So bring it on.  I’ve survived worse and I am ready