The heart’s keen anguish only those can tell,
Who’ve bid the dearest and best farewell.
~ Epitaph from a grave marker

"There were times of actual sobbing, but often it was something less dramatic. The stimulus could be unpredictable, a song, a word, a picture, almost anything at all. It came on as a wave, similar to the way vertigo, claustrophobia, or nausea begins. My first reaction was immediate and instinctual:
Uhoh! Brace yourself….
Tears welled up in my eyes. My throat tightened, swallowing and swallowing, and then the quick, shallow breaths as the dreaded hollow ache opened at the center. Sorrow was no longer just a thought or an emotion, but something larger, something entire, a way of being: I am loss, I am sorrow."
~ Patrick McKenna Lynch Smith, Leaving the Life: A true story of love, loss and gratitude


Some folks start their day with a cup of coffee. I start off with a crying jag.

I have become so fragile. I am a human faucet-face. I even cry in my sleep. I see something, or something will tearshappen that taps into the hot lava vein of pain inside me, and it erupts. This tends to upset or bewilder the people around me, or make them feel helpless or uncomfortable.

The types of things capable of making me cry appear to be unlimited. Some are to be expected, such as anniversaries. Others I find odd or surprising. Some experiences trigger tears the first time. Eventually I get used to them and am able to steel myself.

I don’t think breaking down and crying is necessarily a bad thing. Tears are supposedly good for us – they release pent up emotions and even carry stress hormones out of our system. Of course I don’t mean it’s good to MAKE someone cry, by causing them pain by being mean, heartless or thoughtless. I DO think it’s okay to express pain we already feel. It’s part of letting it go.

Here are some examples of things that turn me into an eyeball waterfall.

  • Someone I haven't seen before asking "How are you?" (See suggestions for things to say to a grief stricken person.) It reminds me of the sorrow I feel for MY loss.
  • The "first" anything without Doug. This includes going to places we went together. But it also includes going someplace we had never been. That makes me think about he would have liked it but will never get to experience it. I feel sorrow for HIS loss.
  • A beautiful sunny day with a blue sky that would be a great day for him to work or play outdoors. It reminds me that he will not have an opportunity to enjoy it.
  • Realizing there is no more "We." We always went to the hardware store together as we worked on our home improvement projects. (He did all of the improvement part - I just made the "to do" list.) When I was at the counter today, I saw that they had changed the name on our account from Doug to Bet. Mail that comes in his name also makes me cry.
  • Claussen pickles on sale at the grocery store. (He really liked them.) Oddly enough, going to the grocery store has been one of the most difficult things to do. We usually shopped after work together. The first thing I see when I walk in the grocery store door is the flower stand. Doug bought flowers for me every week, even when I tried to convince him we shouldn't spend the money on it. Also, Doug made everything fun, including grocery shopping. We would joke around and make games out of finding the most bizarre food and pretending we would buy it. There are so many foods or treats that I would get just for him - like bottles of seltzer for his runs, or (evilly greasy) potato sticks. When I see them on the shelves and start to put in my cart, the tears well up.
  • Seeing the pain on the faces of others who loved and miss him. His parents. His brother and sister. His friends. His colleagues. I have never seen so many men cry.
  • Things going wrong. Like the cat yakking all over my luggage as I drove him over to Mom and Dad Z's before I left on a work trip. It makes me feel completely overwhelmed, as if everything in my life is totally out of control.
  • When anything breaks. The door knob falling off. He knew how to fix everything. When the faucet starts dripping, or I realize I'm going to have to find a contractor or pay to have something repaired when I can't really afford it right now, I fall apart.
  • Things I can't handle because I lack the skill, knowledge or strength. Bringing my heavy luggage out to the car when I travel for work. He always did that for me. Trying to turn the tumbling compost bin by myself and have it fall over instead.
  • The brief moments when I allow myself to think about the specifics of what happened. Every time, I am re-shocked by the realization that he is really gone; that he is never coming home again; that I'm never going to see him again.
  • The number "8." (He passed away on June 8th.) There is a restaurant we used to go to together - The Vanilla Bean. They bring your order to the table. In order to locate you, they give you a giant playing card. I keep getting the 8 of Hearts.
  • Personal letters and stories from people who knew and loved him.
  • The kindness and thoughtfulness of others.
  • Trying to write thank you notes. Feeling guilty about not writing thank you notes. I have delayed so long. It makes it seem too real. I don't want it to be real - I'm not ready for that yet.
  • Not being able to figure something out. Doug was my advisor. Now, sometimes on home restoration projects he had started, I can't figure out what he was doing or why. Workers keep asking me, and I don't have the answers. He also put things away and I can't find them. (He often couldn't find them himself). I can't ask him where they are. I end up having to buy new ones even though I can't afford it.
  • Coming across something small that reminds me of him, or something that he made or wrote or gave to me. Like a little note he stuck in my computer bag (which I bring on travel) that says EZ + DZ inside a hand drawn heart with an arrow through it. His handwriting was so distinctive, so him.
  • Photos of Doug that I'd never seen before. Also photos I HAVE seen before that remind me of happier days. Videos of him talking and laughing. I'm uber-grateful to have them, but sometimes it is painful to see them.
  • When someone says something he used to say all the time.
  • Regrets. Thoughts of things he wanted to do that he didn't get a chance to do. A month before the end, we had gone into an old fashioned toy store. He found a model airplane kit (the kind you put an engine in.) When he was a kid, he and his dad used to make and fly them. He got quite excited about doing it again. I told him he had to wait until his birthday to open and start on it. He didn't live that long. (See the first birthday without him.)
  • His birthday. Anniversaries. Holidays.
  • A woman on the plane asking me if we could switch seats so she could be next to her husband. (I did move, and she was very grateful, as she was a nervous flyer.)
  • Other people celebrating 20 - 30 - 40 or 50 years of marriage. We would have been married just 11 years on September 11th, 2010. I wanted 40 more.
  • Funerals, or seeing or hearing of someone else's grief at a loss. I know that kind of pain now, and how hard it must be for the survivors.
  • Seeing the day pack he left at the top of the stairs. He had gotten it ready left it there so we could go for a hike to see the mountain laurel blooming that evening as soon as he got home from work. But he never came home. I can't bear to look inside it or move it. My neighbor said that he hopes there isn't an egg salad sandwich inside it.
  • The fact that he never got to enjoy one single day of retirement. He worked so hard, and deserved it.
  • Realizing that parts of my life are over, because I can't do them without him. Like RVing in our camper. I can't handle the big rig on windy back roads. It is older, something is always breaking and I could end up stranded. We had so many fun adventures together in it.
  • Going to bed alone each night.
  • Waking up from a dream where he was alive and we were happy, and remembering reality.



"It’s okay to fall apart for a little while. You don’t always have to pretend to be strong, and there is no need to constantly prove that everything is going well. You shouldn’t be concerned with what other people are thinking either – cry if you need to – it’s healthy to shed your tears. The sooner you do, the sooner you will be able to smile again." from



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