The Wandering Widow

Observations, Tips and Reckless Truth Telling on the Road Through Grief




A Grief Recovery Project Post

Of all the things I tried for The Grief Recovery Project, meditation was the hardest. I tried a bunch of different things…Buddhify and Calm (both apps), YouTube videos, pretty much anything that wasn’t a class. I quickly learned meditation worked really great at one thing…making me fall asleep. Meditation became synonymous with napping. Clearly, I was doing something wrong.

Ben, my hypnotherapist, told me about a study that showed how meditation helped those with PTSD and depression. In this study brain scans were done on the participants at the start and end of an eight-week meditation challenge. The scans revealed that the hippocampus was undersized at the start of the eight weeks. After eight weeks of daily meditation, scans were done again which revealed a normal sized hippocampus. Cool. You know me and science, so of course, I wanted some pretty pictures of my hippocampus. Since you can’t just walk into a lab and get some taken, I had to go on faith and my meditation journal.

Since I kept falling asleep, Ben encouraged me to be sitting up during meditation. That made my back hurt and I couldn’t find my zen. A friend gave me a tip about sitting upright on a cushion with my tailbone against the wall to cut down on the back pain. That helped a lot, but I was still easily distracted…breathe in, breathe out, grocery list, bills to pay, what flowers to plant, shiny thing, shiny thing, shiny thing. I took a tip from Pema Chodron in her book When Things Fall Apart and would recognize that I was distracted and let whatever that thought was float away with the exhale. Everything was about focusing on the breath, being mindful of my breathing.

Photo credit to

So did it work? Om, yeah it did. I still get the fidgets. I still get distracted by random thoughts. But after eight weeks of daily meditation, I found it is easier to step out of emotionally charged moments and just breathe. If I skip a day I feel it. The days I meditate I fall asleep faster and sleep better. I also deal with the grief related social anxiety better, which is the whole reason I went to see my hypnotherapist in the first place.

Oh, and if you know where I can get a hippocampus scan let me know.


The Wandering Widow

Letter to my 25 year old self

A Wondering Widow Post

Dear Lisa,

It’s 20 years from now, and amazing things are about to happen in your life.  I wish I could spare you the heartbreak and pain ahead, but can truthfully say it will forge you into a better you. And while it won’t feel like it, you will survive.  Here are some words of wisdom I wish you could hear:

1. Your goal to retire at 45 WILL happen, but you will pay an unbelievably horrible price to achieve it.  Don’t let that stop you from doing it.

2. Forever isn’t linear, it’s now. Forever is in every tiny moment. Don’t waste a single one. Stop working so damned much and invest those tiny moments in those you love and those that love you. Memories will always be worth more than things (trust me, at this exact moment you are selling everything you own). Take that trip. Take the class. Take a chance on love. Take the risk of living outside the plan, and outside what is expected of you. Sometimes happiness lies on the other side of playing it safe.

3. You have no control over anything but your attitude. I know your inner control freak won’t believe me until the universe decides it’s a lesson you WILL learn, and it will be in the hardest way possible.  It’s okay. It will be okay.

4. You are f@#$%^g awesome. I know you will spend years feeling insecure and not enough. You will hide those fears and lack of confidence in a hard shell that does you no favors.  Don’t be afraid. Believe in yourself. You are stronger than you could possibly know. 

5. It’s taken me our whole life for me to learn to love me.  Love you for you, and don’t wait so damned long to do it. 


Future You,  aka The Wandering Widow

The Grief Recovery Project

Did you know the caterpillar doesn’t just grow wings and become a butterfly? It digests itself, dissolving into a cocoon full of goo before reforming into a butterfly. It’s messy. And I’d imagine it’s painful. How is that for a freaky visual?

As disturbing as I find it, I love that analogy for what happens to us as we allow ourselves to come through the grieving process. It’s gruesome and gory. Who we were is destroyed. But in the end, we come out of it transformed. We are reborn. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ve heard me say that the old Lisa died that July 10th morning, may she Rest In Peace. I chose to experience grief fully, allowing myself to become the caterpillar. I dissolved into a gooey mess that resembled neither who I was nor who I am becoming.

JM Storm is amazing and one of my favorite writers.

I’m told I’m goal oriented. I LOVES me a checklist. I set goals, and I figure out how to make magic happen. Once I set my mind to grief recovery, it became a project too. One of my W friends laughed as she accused me of over-achieving my grief. And I laughed with her! I had already given myself permission to take all the time I needed so I wouldn’t turn into a self-destructing-ticking-grief-bomb but was desperate to get as far away from the black pit of despair that almost cost me my life. So I went full bore into project mode.

The next few posts will cover my experiences with the different things I tried as I researched the Grief Recovery Project. I’ve already written about my experiences with grief counseling, and that is still at the top of my list for being the most helpful. But  acupuncture, massage therapy, Reiki, hypnotherapy, travel, a makeover and tons of books and blogs also became part of The GRP.  I’m far from being ready to fly away, but I can feel myself becoming solid again. I’m tired of the cocoon and getting ready to break out and flex my new wings.

Helping Your W Through Her First Valentine’s Day

Well there is just no good card for that. No one has figured out the right way to say, “Hey, I’m sorry the love of your life died and left you alone forever, but here’s a card to say I’m sending the very best. Happy V Day!”

So how do you reach out to the W in your life on this day where we are bombarded by messages of love and romance?  First, not everyone celebrates this day…the hubs and I didn’t, and neither did many of our friends.  But lots of people do, and this first red heart day can be yet another painful reminder of the void in our lives.  Even though we didn’t celebrate it, the constant stream of jewelry-chocolate-wine-dinner-romance commercials and Facebook couple surveys and public “Kissy Face I Love You’s” is enough to push me into the grumpies.

So how can you help your W on this potentially awkward day? That’s easy. Just like it has been from day one, let her know you’re thinking about her.  Be there if you can.  There are no excuses for geography–FaceTime or Tango are almost as good as being there in person, minus the hugs, wine and Oreos. If she wants to talk about Valentine’s past, listen.  If you’re hosting Galentines please invite her.  Don’t take it personally if she says no. And if she wants to be sad, let her.  This is just another stop on the path through grief.

The reason the hubs and I didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day was we chose to celebrate Mom and Dad’s wedding anniversary instead. This day is doubly hard because it reminds us that we’ve lost the two most important men in our lives. Who knew we’d both become widows just months apart.

100 Days and the Non-Disappeared

It’s been 100 Days since he left us.  Remember when you were a kid and 100 seemed like the biggest number in the world?  It’s still a big number,  but in widow years it goes by much more slowly.  I feel like I’ve aged 10 years in these last 100 days.  Watching everyone else’s lives go by is like watching them in fast forward.  Life goes on. Their lives go on. I’ve been left behind.

I’d been warned that after a funeral people disappear.  Maybe it’s because the action is over…those individuals that feed on crisis and helping in a crisis now have nothing to do. This was hard…the people that had been there week after week helping during Dan’s illness drifted away and left a void. Maybe it’s because our pain is overwhelming to witness and they have to turn away.  Maybe they loved him as much as I did and they can now focus on their pain.  Dunno.  All I know is people disappear.  I expected his friends to fade away.  Which they did.  Almost immediately.  I expected some of our mutual friends to disappear.  And some did.  Even family has to take a break from the pain sometimes.  It’s exhausting watching someone you love suffer so much. And it’s okay.  People come in and out of our lives when we need them to.

There are those stalwart few who don’t disappear.  To quote one of my favorite memes, they stick to your face like an octopus. They call, show up, force you out of your house.  They bear witness to your pain, your grief, your anger, and they love you anyway. They ride the roller coaster with you, holding your hand as you scream on the way back down.  When you fall, they curl up on the floor next to you reminding you that you’re not alone. These Non-Disappeared are the ones that will help you survive. Hold on to them.

Photo credit to Lauren Giuffre.

For 91 Days

Today marks 91 days AD (after Dan).

One of my favorite travel blogs is These guys have the best gig ever…travel around the world, pick a spot and hang out for 91 days. The idea being that in 91 days you can really get to know the true vibe of a place. If widowhood is a place, I’m still horribly lost. Although I may have picked up a few key phrases, and definitely some amazing guides, I am a stranger in a miserably strange land.  I didn’t ask to come here.  I fought tooth and nail to avoid landing here and am here against my will.  I am absolutely flabbergasted that I’ve survived this far.  

The hubs and I loved to travel together.  I like to think he’s still with me as I try to get through the next 91 days.

Our last family road trip to Hood River, OR. This photo was taken 10 days before he left us. His sense of humor was still going strong.

This F@#$%d Up Club

People like to say life is a bitch. I think that’s because they’ve never had a front row seat to death.  If life is a bitch, death is the psycho ex that torments you in ways you never imagined possible.

I like to hike. I’m not especially good at it, but I enjoy it.  Last year I blindly signed up for a “hike” of Idaho’s tallest mountain.  I didn’t know anything about it, but it was a fundraiser for a cause I’m passionate about.  It was horrible…40% grade, ugly shale covered path, and my fibromyalgia screaming at me all the way up.  I very quickly fell behind our group.  It wasn’t long before I couldn’t see anyone ahead of us. (My lovely husband and friend never left my side).  Periodically I’d catch a glimpse far ahead of someone from our group.  It was both reassuring that I was on the right path, and disheartening to realize how far behind I was and how there was no end in sight.

Bringing up the rear.

That “hike” has become a metaphor for the horrible climb I’m on right now. Only this time I didn’t volunteer. Like everyone else in this f@#$%d up club, I was kidnapped and put on a forced march. Unprepared, hauling all the wrong gear and trying to stay alive.  Every now and again I can see others, my mentors in widowhood, up ahead.  They give me comfort in knowing I’m still on the path and that there is something ahead.  They help me understand that I’m not alone on this really crappy ugly trail.  They call back to me to encourage me to keep going.  And when I’m about to go over the edge, those beautiful women are there to reach out and help me find my footing.

I can’t imagine going through this alone.  And while each of us carries our pain differently, sometimes sharing that pain with others helps us get through our own.   I don’t know where I’d be without them. My beautiful Michelle who lost her love decades ago, leaving her a young widow and single mom, who only just remarried.  My beautiful Susanne who lost her love two years ago to the same horrible disease that stole Dan from me. And my Double Whammy Widow Club mentor, my beautiful Julie, who is just a few months ahead of me and also dealing with the profound loss of both husband and father so close together.  And since this club keeps forcing women to join, I know that all too soon I’ll be the one up the path looking back to encourage our newest member to keep going.

I Just Called to Say I Love You

It took 23 days for me to breakdown and call his phone just so I could hear his voice again. In the last 23 days I have greedily consumed every text, video, photo, and journal entry I could find in the desperate attempt to feel him close to me. I’ve begged  my bonus daughter, his mini-me, to come over because she reminds me of him.  Because our shared grief and love for him make me feel less alone.

It’s overwhelming how unprepared I was for how painful this would be. It hurts so much I sometimes can’t breathe. And it seems so completely wrong that universe exists without him.

Throughout his battle with cancer we focused on staying positive and proclaimed “Live Now” as our motto.  We crossed items off our bucket list. We spent time making memories with family and friends.  We knew that, despite the horror in front of us, we were blessed with the knowledge that the clock was ticking and had the opportunity to choose how each minute was spent.

Now he is gone.  And each day that I wake up still breathing, I am faced with a battle.  The fight to figure out how to “Live Now” with the raw wound that consumes me.  Until I find my way out, I’ll just call his voicemail to say, “I love you.”

The last phone call with his bonus son. Eight days later he was gone.




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