You?re home now — From the cemetery — Just closed the door on an endless line of well-wishing-filled-with-advice strangers who didn?t know what to say but talked endlessly anyway, and now that they?re gone you know you will never see or hear from most of them ever again.

Your hair smells of roses and gladioli and you secretly wish for a giant eraser to erase all the pain.

You?ve just buried your life partner; your husband, your best friend. As Joan Didion says, ?Life changes fast.?

He?s gone now and like it or lump it, you?re not.

You stand before your mirror stiff as a stick wondering out loud, “What now?” You ask yourself, “Where do I go? What do I do with the rest of my life without Him?”

Like a crust of bread the W word sticks in the back of your throat as you ponder your future and process the reality you are alone.

Welcome to my world.

Though I do not hold the answers to your questions (no one does), I share three secret things that will guide you on your journey. Mourning the death of a spouse is different for every widow. Each one of us must beat the bushes and blaze our own separate trail. You, the newly widowed, must dream a new dream.

It is scary. But I?m here to tell you, you can, and you will, get through this difficult time.

Here are three secret things to guide you:

Keep a JOY-nal

It can be as expensive as a leather-bound book with gold edged pages; or as cheap as hard-covered composition notebooks from the dollar store.

I purchase spiral bound notebooks, buy them by the dozen, one for each month of the year, paste them with pictures of Him front and back, scribble first pages with favorite quotes in magic markers in every color of the rainbow, and carry one everywhere.

Need a topic to get started? You, the newly widowed, have only to look out your window for inspiration.

List ten things — The first ten things your eyes see.

Be specific.

Don?t write bird, write blue jay; don?t write tree; write flowering plum.

Get the picture? Good. That?s the point.

Write about the weather.

Stick your thoughts in the clouds, write about that.

Discover what I call “mourning joys” — A found parking space in a crowded shopping mall; a copper penny Lincoln?s head up, green lights for six blocks, a cup of tea you didn?t make. Write it.

The loss of a spouse is a humbling experience and leaves you numb and dumb. But scheduling a time to write for five minutes every day will aid in connecting you to your mind, teach you to focus, and help ground your thoughts. You?ll discover a hidden part of you, you never knew existed.


That?s write.*pun intended* Practice breathing. Think of it as your job.

Place your right hand on your belly, left hand on your chest.



Feel your breath rush through your nose and out your mouth.

Whenever you feel stressed, perhaps when merry mailman delivers an overdue hospital bill, when housebroken dog crawls under bed and pukes chicken bones scavenged out the garbage, when you think you just can?t control those tears one minute more — Breathe.

Embrace Life.

Hug a tree.

Hug your children, your grandchildren.

What?s that? Got nobody to hug?

Ask your neighbor if you can hug her. Ask if you can hug her children, her grandchildren.

You?ll make a friend and you?ll feel good, too.

Hug your dog. Hug your cat. Cradle the fishbowl.

Heck. Throw your arms around yourself and squeeze!

It?s not easy losing a life partner. Nothing will be the same without Him. Adjustment to your new life will take time. You, the newly widowed, will feel lost lonely and helpless, but I?m here to tell you, you can, and you will, get through.

Just follow my three secret things to guide you (outlined above) and it won?t be long before you?ll have breathed and hugged your way through a stack of writing JOY-nals. You will be more focused. You will be a better writer.

And all those questions you pondered? Well, you may even have some answers.

Linda Della Donna is a freelance writer. She supports new widows through the grief process. Receive a copy of Della Donna?s FREE E-Book,Mourning Joy. Just visit her web site – – and subscribe to her mailing list. Learn more about Della Donna by reading her blog – – Need an interview? Perhaps you have a different writing assignment. Feel free to contact Della Donna at She?s waiting to hear from you.

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Linda Della-Donna

Linda Della-Donna is founder and director of Griefcase is a nonprofit organization. Linda Della Donna supports widows going through the grief process. Della Donna makes her home 50 miles north from where the World Trade Center used to be. Email Linda Della Donna at

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