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One Year of Widowhood

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

grief, widowhood, solo parenting, life after loss


I can feel September creeping in. One whole year without you. Without touching you. Without smelling you. Without staring at the "R" permanently inked on your ring finger.


Our 7th wedding anniversary is right around the corner.


In the last 350+ days, it feels like three lifetimes have passed by.


Back in high school, it felt nearly impossible to sit through one 90 minute class without sneaking out to "the bathroom" for a quick kiss at our lockers.


Now it's been almost one whole year without seeing your face or touching your lips.


There have been days over the last year that I didn't want to get out of bed and there have been days that I've eagerly popped out of bed with excitement.


In the last 5 years, I’ve had my greatest dreams both realized and crushed. I became a mom, my mom died, I became a mom again, my husband became terminally ill and I became a widow. I've experienced the absolute best and absolute worst moments life can throw at you.


Those moments change someone.


I've learned that when you are the one in the receiving line at a funeral

and the one picking out the urn and the one watching someone (your someone) who “did everything right” in life, be completely robbed of their future…..you see life much differently.


It felt like one day we were walking hand in hand with my big ol’ pregnant belly to the local farmer’s market talking about our future and the next day we were told we wouldn’t have one.

Knowing death so well has taught me to slow down and enjoy the small moments but to also live urgently and to wholeheartedly pursue what makes me happy. To passionately pursue the things I want to accomplish in this life.


Because honestly, why wait? Next year, next month, and even next week are not guaranteed.


The unpredictability of life used to scare me. So much so that it became debilitating at times. But grief has taught me to let go of the things I can't control. And that's been insanely freeing.


So instead of obsessing over that unpredictability and over all the other things that could go wrong, I try to focus my thoughts on other things...


I think about the way Dante and Dominic greet every person we pass by. And I think about the elderly woman at the library who said my children made her day just by introducing themselves.


I think about the determination Dante had in casting a fishing rod for the first time and the way they both fearlessly run into the ocean ready to battle waves.


I think about the excitement I saw in their faces when they caught a lightning bug for the first time this summer and the way they sing at the top of their lungs without a care in the world. I think about the way Dominic asks me to fluff his pillow in a very particular way each night and the way he holds my hair to help him calm down when he's upset. I think about the pride Dante has as he notices the improvement he's made with writing his letters...


Grief taught me to nurse these moments. To let it be these thoughts that consume me instead of the "what ifs".


After Mike died, I quit my job of 5 years ( a career of 10), took a few months off to regroup and then started freelancing and pursuing other passions of mine.


I started working with a local nonprofit that supports families affected by cancer and I also started my own nonprofit.


My third baby, if you will....





Our mission is to create small moments of joy through experiences for children who've recently lost a parent or sibling to cancer.


I realized how impactful these small moments of joy were to my kids and I in our early days of grieving. The quick trips out together gave us a sense of renewal. They gave me some much needed confidence as a solo parent. Whether it was the zoo, the aquarium, Legoland or elsewhere, these outings gave us the nudge we needed to leave the house and create new, happy memories together. These moments were critical to our mental health.


SO, to spread that joy and support the mental health of other children suffering from loss.... Small Moments was born!


Visit www.smallmomentsfoundation.org to nominate a child or support our nominees by making a donation!


Enter your email at the bottom of the home page to be one of the first alerted to news and event updates!



In addition to Small Moments, I'm writing a MEMOIR! It’s been on my heart for so long now. I’ve written a lot of it over the last year but never had the time or confidence to do anything with it. I told Mike about this crazy dream of mine last year and even at his very worst – he was rooting for me.


“I’ll be watching” he told me…


NOW... we're really doin' it!!!!!


My final manuscript is due in November and by this time next year, I WILL be a published author.


Dare I even say....a best selling author? and if all else fails, my dad said he'd buy a copy...so. ;)


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We also held our Inaugural Mikey D Memorial Golf Outing which was a huge success. We raised over 50k!!!!!!


SAVE THE DATE FOR OUR SECOND ANNUAL EVENT:

SEPTEMBER 16 2024!



I'm doing everything I can to honor Mike yet also move forward and build a good life. During our cancer journey, and I suppose my whole life, I’ve always coped by planning.....by “doing”.


I was planning his next appointment, his next dose of medicine, his next meal…


I coped by doing everything I could for him to have a shot at getting better and then everything I could to keep him comfortable when getting better wasn’t an option anymore.


Serving Mike became my purpose while he was sick and now finding ways to carry on his legacy has selfishly returned some of that purpose to me.


Riding around the course giving out snacks and drinks to our golfers!


Looking back, 2021 and 2022 nearly broke me.

I was living in pure survival mode every second of every day.


I cried and cried and I pleaded with higher powers to change our situation.

I would have done anything.

2023 though....2023 has been a year of hope, healing and rebuilding.


In the last year, I threw birthday parties, I cooked a turkey and I still created a magical Christmas morning. I took Dante to school on time every day, I weaned Dominic in the fall and potty trained him over summer. I survived another 350+ nights of interrupted sleep.


I've taken the boys to therapy and on vacations and I watched them fall in love with the Jersey Shore just as I dreamt about growing up.


I rejoined the gym and I've taken time for myself.


I've cried to my husband at the cemetery and I've smiled at him in my dreams.


I've become more confident and outspoken and I've found purpose outside of motherhood.


I've built new meaningful relationships with people and have been forced to let others fade away.


I've grown and I've faced fears and I've bravely opened up my heart to love again.


I've let go of what others think and I've learned the true capacity of feeling pain and joy together in one moment.


I'm giddy and happy and sad and excited. I feel incomplete but also at peace.


I'm re-learning what partnership and companionship feel like.


I learned how much I'm truly capable of and though I want to do all the things, I know I don't have to do all the things.


I've had to snap out of the mentality that I'm less of a mom if I don't it all myself because no one person can do all the things. In the last year, I've cheered through a season of little league, rallied on the sidelines of the soccer fields and sat proudly through weekly swim lessons. We've been to the zoo and the boardwalk and we've crossed off almost every item on our summer "to-do" list (we have two weeks left!)


I also made the difficult yet exciting decision that in a few months, we'll be moving from the home that I swore I'd never leave.


Mike and I were in the middle of building our forever home when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. We were forced to pull our deposit and move back to our hometown close to his family to get the support we needed.


The opportunity to live in such close proximity to Mike's family has truly been a gift and I couldn't have done any of it without them.


As a single mom, the lifestyle I've had with them right down the street has been a blessing.


Leaving this house means leaving the last home that Mike and I ever lived in together. We hoped for at least 10 years together in this house but we only had 10 months.


Though the boys and I love this home and this neighborhood, it's time for a change. We're ready to build our life while carrying every sweet memory with us. I find it so interesting how the change of seasons can evoke so much emotion.


When winter turned to spring, I had flashbacks of the trauma the previous two springs brought on. I used to feel such excitement as the weather warmed up, but this year was different. The excitement over more time outdoors with the kids was overshadowed by the memories of our hospital stays and the walls of the radiation oncology waiting room. It was overshadowed by the sound in my head of Mike choking on every bite he took and the images of the medical equipment all over my house.


I can feel the pain and fragility of September approaching as the weather changes from summer to fall and I prepare the boys for their first day of school.


I'm not yet sure how I'll spend those "firsts" yet....but I do feel as though if I can just get to the other side of September.... there is a much needed fresh start waiting for us.


So much can change in one year....


Visit www.smallmomentsfoundation.org to nominate a child or make a donation. Donations can be made right on the website or by check (made out to Small Moments Foundation). We are a 501(c)(3) and donations are tax deductible.




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