On February 11th, 2018 it was nine years since my husband, Marty, passed away.  I saw a post on Instagram the other day which took my breath away because the words define “the afterwards” of life after loss.

Ode to The Afterwards

“Grief is not a task to finish and move on, but an element of yourself.  
An alteration of your being.  A new way seeing.  A new definition of self.”

Up until the last year of my husband Marty’s life,  I had been working as a businesswoman in the corporate world. Luckily,  the Universe handed me the gift of being downsized from my job just before his celiac disease went into a refractory state.  Marty began wasting away in front of my eyes, and as much as I tried, there was nothing that would or could stop the progress of his disease.

One day Marty told me that he was concerned because he felt that “I (Laurel) had no purpose.” When he said that, I got very angry. I left the house,  drove to the beach to be the near the ocean and to calm down.  I breathed in the ocean air, journaled and returned home with a calmer disposition.  I then spoke with Marty and told him, upon reflection, “yes, I do have a purpose, it is to keep you alive!

At that time, our lives were filled with doctor and emergency room visits, and his multiple hospitalizations.  If you would have asked me before all this started, are you capable of handling such a grueling time,  I would have said,  no – it would overwhelm me!  But,  I did more than I could have imagined as Marty’s sole caregiver and now, with hindsight,  I know how precious that time was for both of us.

I could barely breathe from one health crisis to another and was wrapped in fear most of that time. Although I was held together with “spit and glue,”  somewhere inside of me was the spirit of a warrior who was in a life and death battle to save Marty.

Finally, my doctor said that it was time to bring in hospice. In those last two weeks of Marty’s life,  I wearily put down my warrior’s shield and turned it over to the angelic hospice staff who entered our home.  I was no longer alone and gratefully received the loving care hospice gave to both of us.

On February 11th, 2009 (eight days from our 42nd anniversary,) Marty passed away.   After he took his last breath, and I felt his heart stop beating, the fear that had filled my body was released like a pressure cooker.  Sitting down on the side of the bed,  I felt empty, drained, filled with sadness and grief.

The uncertainty of what was to come was a blur and, truthfully,  I didn’t care.  I was numb – it was one day at at time, one foot in front of the other.  Repeat, do it again and then repeat once more.

The Afterwards …”A new way seeing.  A new definition of self.”

I have struggled over the past nine years to describe the “alteration of my being”  I experienced after Marty’s death. Little did I know that there was an unknown roadmap ahead which would lead me to become the woman I am today!

Grief’s Cloak

I took off grief’s cloak so that its heaviness would be removed.

I needed to lift this shroud of pain and sadness

in order to find out where and who I was without you.

Little by little, the light within me was rekindled.

With a newfound sense of freedom, I grew wings,

felt myself flying, raised up ~ joyous!

Grief’s cloak vanished as I flew.

Riding the waves of life’s currents, I found myself able to soar

without fear or sorrow coursing through my veins.

Experiencing things long postponed, rediscovering life’s possibilities ~

my spirit overflowed with a rainbow of imaginings.

But wait! Was I also trying to outrun grief? No hide and seek here,

it was up ahead ~ my mourning was not complete.

Grief’s cloak is a harsh reminder that loss is real ~

it cannot be pushed away!

And, if not accepted, even honored,

it will clip my wings and leave me unable to fly.

With this in mind, I have learned to say

“Welcome back Grief ~ I acknowledge your presence!”

In death there are no real endings.

The story of us is woven into the fabric of my wings,

and you are forever in my heart!

Remaining connected, even though we are in different forms and space.

You ahead of me, lighting the way ~ the wind upon which I soar,

the sunlit clouds upon which I perch.

Your spirit gently guides me and also reminds me that

it is now time to chart my own course.

Laurel D. Rund


After several months of bereavement counseling, I learned more about the grieving process. A gateway opened which led me to chart a new course.   Something within me began to awaken – my metamorphosis had begun.  A rekindled spiritual being within me said, “Hello … welcome to your light, come home to your heart.”   “Why not?” I said to myself,  “what do you have to lose, the worst has happened!” Fear was no longer in charge, my soul was!

As I stumbled through the door of life without Marty, it took me on a path which introduced me to the healing arts and my inner voice.  I began writing and journaling  as a way to express my grief, confusion and sadness.   My book of poetry and art, Emerging Voices Living On: A Journey Through Loss to Renewal, comes from that first year after the loss of my husband.

New friendships were formed, I was open to trying out the arts, dancing, dating and just being me.  Interestingly enough, several of our couple friends fell off the radar screen. I hear that this happens to others when they have lost their spouse.  Some people come into your life for a season and then they leave.  This was a hard lesson to learn during such a sad time in my life, but I continued on my wondrous journey – learning to trust the Universe.

And, most unexpectedly, several years later, I met a wonderful man and slowly fell in love.  Having an appreciation for and honoring the the individual journey we each experienced before we met, what shaped our lives, is what makes us fit so well together.   My husband of today, Phil, is not at all threatened by the love I had and still have for Marty. He loves and appreciates my first marriage, as I do his.

Funny thing…I had adamantly declared that I would never remarry after Marty died.  I used to say, “What would be the reason to do that?” and yet I took a leap of faith and did it anyway!   Why?   I chose to make a commitment to a beautiful soul, a man who knows the I Am of today.  Our hearts were meant to be shared -it was bashert (written in the stars.)

In Japan, broken objects are often repaired with gold. The flaw is seen as a unique piece of the object’s history, which adds to its beauty.   Please consider this when you feel broken or flawed, you are a beloved being.

The essence of who I am has always been there.  The gift is that my essence is alive and flourishing today – I am a woman whose journey has created a unique and special human being.  Laurel


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Laurel D. Rund

It began in 2009 when a life-changing event transformed me into the woman I am today. Never could I have imagined that the death of my husband of 42 years would take me on a journey through loss and grief to a redefined sense of self. Death, an unexpected teacher, was my transformative metamorphosis. The slow and painful healing process unfolded my creativity and, in what I can only describe as a “new normal,” Essence of Laurel was born. "Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens." Khalil Gibran My first book, “Emerging Voices” has a purpose ~ to serve as a journal and healing catalyst for anyone who has experienced a loss. The art and poetry within is a testimony as to what can happen when we acknowledge grief in all its forms. It allows for the discovery of a new perspective which will lead you on a journey of self-discovery and renewal. “Art from the Heart” has become my playground; a place where I can tap into my innermost creativity as an inspirational writer and artist. The surprise is that it came at a time when I thought that the next chapters in my life would be lonely; without purpose or passion. Instead I have been given the gift of a renewed sense of life, its possibilities and most importantly, an appreciation for living in the present moment. Our human experience, whether in a crisis or a life transition, continuously gives us the opportunity to learn and grow. We can choose to stay in a place of sorrow and regret, or embrace these life-altering experiences from which we can discover a new way of being. My hope is that my writing and ‘Art from the Heart’ touches and inspires you.

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