Friday, June 27, 2014


I am just a couple short weeks away from the 3 year mark of my husband Don's sudden death. I feel like I can't even type that sentence without breathing differently. 3 years. Three. Years. I have no idea how it is even possible. I have no idea how those words could apply to me. I have no idea ....

July 13th will be the 3-year mark. On the first year death anniversary, I created "Pay it Forward for Don Shepherd Day", in which I asked everyone on planet earth to do something kind for someone else, tell me about it in writing, and take pictures if possible. Last year, I did it again, and there was even more of a response. Over 130 stories each year, all of which helped me immensely in getting through that day. This year, and every year, I will continue that same tradition, but Im also in the middle of writing my book, which will hopefully come out later this year. In the book, I will take my favorites of all of the stories from the past 3 years, and create a Top 10 List out of them to publish as a chapter.

Year one and year two, on July 13th, I went home to be with my family and spend it with them. Both years, we made Don's favorite foods, and we hung out and honored him and talked about him and made toasts to him. Both years, I woke up that morning sobbing, and both years, my mom hugged me as I cried - re-living those first few moments and hours of that day - where I woke up to that ringing phone that would tell me my husband would never return home from work.

This year, I will be in San Diego, at Camp Widow, giving my comedy presentation for the 4th time, and seeing lots of amazing friends in the widowed community. I will be surrounded by hundreds of people who "get it", and who will totally understand and know how to deal with any weird or all over the place emotions I might have. I will be in a place of healing.

So why the hell do I feel so awful? Why am I so terrified right now? Why is it that I can barely breathe when even talking about "that day" that is coming up, or thinking about it? Why am I so scared to wake up in that hotel room on that morning, and break into sobs or panic or PTSD-crap, and not have the comfortable presence of mom and dad there? Why do I feel like nothing that I am planning to do in San Diego to "honor him" or recognize the day, is ever enough? Why am I picturing and worrying about having that awful reality, while there, of being in the middle of a crowd, and never feeling so alone? My widowed friends keep telling me and assuring me that the "leading up to the day" anxiety is always worse than the actual day, but this feels different somehow. This year feels different. I have actual nerves in my stomach about this, and I feel almost nausea just working it out inside my head. I am so terrified.

3 Years. Three. Years. How can this be? How can I no longer be "one of the newer widows" that we all have to keep an eye on and make sure she is okay? How is it that I have been writing about this and processing this for 3 YEARS, and I still have so much to say and process? How is it possible that I have been seeing my grief-counselor for all this time, and yet I still very much need the routine of it and the help that it seems to bring me? How is it that I have been missing him for 3 years, and how the hell am I supposed to keep on missing him and aching for him forever and ever and ever until always??? 

For some reason, this 3-year mark is really driving home the whole "he will be dead forever" thing in my heart. And it is also driving home all the "Where would we be now?" type questions. In 3 years time, life changes. If he were alive, where would we be now? Would we be out of our crappy Jersey apartment and into something nicer? Would he have a new job or a promotion? Would  I have landed something as an actress or writer or comedian? Would we have our first child? Our second? Would we have adopted? Or maybe Id be pregnant. Maybe our little girl would be playing with and picking strawberries with my brother's little girl and little boy. That is how it was supposed to be. Would we be in a new home or condo? Would we be in New York? These are the things I think about now - all the time. Everytime I see my own family or friends or other couples, doing what they do. Living life. In three years time, a lot of changes happen. My mind and heart goes to those changes, and constantly asks: What if? 

This is not the same kind of grief I felt or had in year one or two. Im not quite sure what to do with these feelings. They hurt and they suck and they pound at my chest and make me feel terrified of my own future, and jealous and envious of everyone else's. I am making a life for myself - a new life - because I have no other choice. But I haven't figured out how to stop picturing or wanting or longing for the life I had, and would have had, with my beautiful, wonderful husband.

Three years, and I don't know how to do that. How? 


  1. My 3 years will be August 30. I think it's scary because it proves no matter how much we hate it, we are able to survive (and maybe begin to thrive, which carries it's own guilt). 3 years. It sounds like a LONG time, but it's not. Not really. It feels like forever, and yet, like the blink of an eye.
    It's this in between time, and it's hard. Hard to accept that the forever we had planned for wasn't and isn't ever going to be the one we got. it's mourning each of those lost dreams, while continuing to mourn the loss of my person.
    I don't know how, and I think if anyone tells you they do, run away, quickly, there's no playbook for this, it's all improv. Hold on to your center, to whatever it is that gets you through the day, and you'll make it. Don't forget to breathe. Remember, you are loved.

  2. :( Your words always help me to help my widowed best friend. Hang in there!

    1. Awww, well he or she is very lucky to have an awesome and empathetic friend like you. You rock xoxo...

  3. Im sorry you have to feel this way. I'm sorry you have to go through this. I'm a little over a year in now, and that "what's next" question is paralyzing. Wondering what would have become of all those plans we put in motion mere months before he died. I have no idea how to make it through the years and events without him. For me, I try (key word try) to focus on today, and handle one big change at a time. Of course, as life flows as it will I've spent this last year holding on tight trying not to be swept away by all the unplanned items life continues to toss my way. Hmm, I meant to have some bolstering words. But I guess as we know, you just have to go through it, and hopefully you'll have lots of support while you do. ~Sabrina

  4. I so get this, Kelley, this wondering what our life would be if he were still here, this yearning for the old familiar life we had, instead of this sucky life I have now. Time has a way of creeping up on us, look around and years have gone by. And here I am, still not able to jump back in 4+ yrs later, still grieving my person. People tell me "you look so good"...don't know how that can be when I feel so shitty. Just trying to make it day by day, and the days turn into years. Not a good way to live life, but it's the only way I know how at this moment. Hopefully the tide will turn for all of us, and we'll make new plans, and not focus so much on "what if" anymore.

  5. dear Kelley, I wish there were words that could comfort you...I wish I could just sit with you and hold your hand, and be a presence to listen. I am only just over a year out from Hugh's sudden death; and where you are now is where I will be at the 3rd year, feeling exactly the same way. I don't feel or remember so many things - just get flashbacks of stuff I wish would never come to light. but they are relentless, and I expect it will take a lot of therapy and a long time to deal with that - like for PTSD; plus in the second year there are still so many emotionally painful "firsts' to get through, along with a parade of what feels like moving forward a few steps, then being yanked back to square one. life moves along but not in a linear way, more like a spiral into a vortex that spits me out nearly drowned and gasping for air. I figure with all that shit, plus what I can't even anticipate - only for sure, more changes, getting "stuck" again and again will pretty much be what leads into the 3rd year. for many of us, even having made progress we can't tangibly appreciate, a set-back on the richter scale that tops the charts is decimating. how can we feel safe and secure, and believe that it will get better? I don't know, I just know I have too. just know you are not alone, that you have struck a chord with many a widow, and that what you write about with such raw candor, you help others know they are not alone. I am sending you my best juju to quell the ugly beast of the insanity and ridiculously painful places we get taken to. just breathe, just is enough... much love, Karen xoxo

  6. Thank you thank you thank you everyone for your support and very kind words. It is so helpful for me (and Im sure for you too!) to know that my feelings are also felt in other/similar ways by other widowed people reading this - it makes such a difference. Love to all xo.

  7. Thank you for expressing exactly what I feel ... it will be 2 years for me in November. I wish I had words that would be of comfort to you, but I don't. This sucks and I can't imagine a day it won't. I hope that knowing you are not alone is some comfort.

  8. Kelley Lynn: The feelings you are experiencing as a widow of three years very closely parallel my own. My husband died on our 47th anniversary, May 23, 2011, three years ago. We had no children or brothers or sisters; I have no family at all. My grieving is much more intense now than it was in year one or two. I, too, am terrified of what the future holds; just the thought of going through the rest of my life without him is overwhelming. He was the sweetest man and a wonderful husband.