Currently Viewing
The Second Year or 'Plan B'
February 15, 2017 – Diana M. Martin
Cancer Changed My Valentine’s Day Forever
February 14, 2017 – Khevin Barnes
Cancer Advocacy: Lessons to Remember
February 14, 2017 – Kim Johnson
That Time I Unwillingly Donated My Body to Science
February 13, 2017 – Ryan Hamner
Living Through Hospice
February 13, 2017 – Diana M. Martin
Cancer and Work: How It Felt to Be Back
February 10, 2017 – Barbara Tako
Post-Mastectomy Woes: Barbie Did a Number on Me
February 10, 2017 – Bonnie Annis
Surviving Cancer on Valentine's Day
February 09, 2017 – Felicia Mitchell
Cancer: The Emperor Has Old Clothes
February 09, 2017 – Mike Verano

The Second Year or 'Plan B'

Being a widow for two years means dealing with the guilt, independence and loneliness that comes with it.
PUBLISHED February 15, 2017
Diana M. Martin has been an adjunct professor in The Writing and Reading Center at Montgomery College in Rockville, MD, for over 15 years. She has a MFA in Creative Nonfiction and has published articles in the areas of parenting, health and cultural arts. When her husband lost his battle with cancer of unknown primary, later identified as bile duct cancer, she became the sole caregiver for their adult son, Alex, who is autistic.

November 20, 2016 marked the beginning of the second year of widowhood for me. The first year I was in a brain fog. I can't remember half of what I did. I only know that somehow the bills got paid. I was able to go to and from work, the bank and the grocery store, and attend a bereavement group, where I either cried or felt like crying.

I remember bits and pieces from that year — placing my husband's ashes in the James River in Huron, South Dakota, where he was born, talking to my therapist, making sure our son felt safe in a new vocational placement (he is autistic and transitioned to an adult program that year), getting the taxes done, etc.

Everything had a common denominator: I was alone. For the first time in almost 25 years, I flew solo looking down upon the earth as if it was some foreign landscape. I don't think I grieved the first year. I reacted from the shock. I was both robotic in my will to push through the days and chaotic in my thinking. But what was I really thinking?


I thought that I had failed in some way. I thought maybe if I had made the right calls, found the right doctors and got him the best treatment that he would still be alive today. Despite numerous attempts from his oncologist, people in the bereavement group and family and friends to convince me otherwise, I still think it will take some time to relieve myself of this guilt.

My husband and I had worked so well as a team that we often didn't ask for help. Now, I had to get used to depending on my friends when I couldn't find someone to watch my son or when I needed another opinion about what to do when my water heater broke. I had to force myself to call in sick for work, to get an extension on filing my taxes and to ask a friend to drive me to my parents' house because I needed practice taking the beltway. This new independence seems more like dependence to me. I am still getting used to it.

With the independence came loneliness, and then, fear. How could I do all this alone? Take care of a 23-year-old with autism, run a house, work? This fear of the unknown was due to the fact that I only had a Plan A.  When you marry someone you love, Plan A is all you need. That is until it falls apart and you're sitting alone in your queen-sized bed with Grumpy cat and the remote. So, I joined and several online dating sites. However, it wasn't the quick fix I thought it would be. It seemed that I was so used to being a wife that I didn't know how to be a girlfriend. I didn't want a fixer-upper boyfriend with an ex-wife or an ex-girlfriend. I wanted what I had with my husband. Again, what was I thinking?

I had to realize that loneliness is not a death sentence. It is a way of being with oneself that can also be transformative. So, I set out to be lonely for a while until I could take the bandage off my cut and trace the scar. I didn't know when that would be, but I came to the conclusion early on that I would have to welcome the loneliness into my life. I would have to go into this second year without an online dating subscription and with new, realistic expectations of how to live and become me. I had to create a Plan B.

Be the first to discuss this article on CURE's forum. >>
Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the General Discussions CURE discussion group.

Related Articles


Sign In

Not a member? Sign up now!

Sign Up

Are you a member? Please Log In