Grieving an Overdose Death


This photo was taken at Kevin’s convocation for his Master’s degree in social work in 2010. He had been working as a social worker for a few years but had also been doing his Master’s at night. I was also 3 months pregnant with our first born daughter in this picture. This was a happy day. The beautiful life we were building was unfolding. Unbeknownst to me, he had also developed an addiction to heroin during those years. What the actual fuck.  He had struggled with depression and anxiety for a few years and his tool box of coping skills was lacking. At some point, he turned to heroin. A year and a half before this photo was taken he had overdosed at home and I had found him and saved his life. That was my introduction to his heroin use. 7 years of anxiety, struggle, pain and trauma would lie ahead of us. Yes, this picture shows our beautiful life was unfolding in front of us, but our nightmare was also beginning. In this convocation, he was awarded the Dean’s list award for excellence in his Master’s work. He also shot up heroin in the bathroom on breaks friend his classes. Such is the double life of addiction. He would die alone, in our basement, from an accidental heroin overdose, on August 7, 2016. On that day, our beautiful life was ended, but our nightmare was also over. Such is the painful duality of grieving a complicated loss. I am happy AND sad he died. I am angry at him AND I have so much compassion for his illness and his struggles. I am filled with sorrow AND relief at his death. I miss him desperately AND I am happy I have a fresh start. I love him and I hate him. Fuck addiction.

As the opioid crisis continues to ravage Canada and the US, I know I am not alone in this massive loss in my life.  Thousands of other families are stumbling along trying to pick up the pieces after an overdose related death.  This gaping hole  in my heart that contains sadness, love, anger, relief and happiness is not mine alone.  If you too are consumed by this shit storm of conflicting emotions, you are not alone.  You are not a horrible person for feeling these feelings.  You are a human being who has carried that weight of loving a person struggling  with addiction for many years.  The person you loved struggled immensely, but we have struggled immensely too.  Life, in many ways, is easier now.  In so many ways, its so much harder, but I have to recognize and honour that my feelings of relief and happiness are okay and normal and nothing to be ashamed of.  I stood by my love for as long as I could.  But his addiction destroyed me and my life too.  I hate him and I love him.  And that is okay.

Life After Your Spouse Dies

Afternoon sunlight danced through the living room of the cottage.  Squeals of joy and cannonball splashes rang out from the lake as my 5 year old daughter swam with her grandfather.  The baby monitor hummed as my 2 year old daughter napped in a pack and play covered with a mosquito net. Sweat rolled down my legs on that hot August afternoon as my mother stood up and answered the phone.  She looked at me, her heart visibly breaking, as she quietly whispered into the phone “ok, I’ll tell her”. The sun continued to shine, the squeals of joy continued to echo across the lake, and the baby continued to nap.  The world continued to turn as my world was about to end. My mother hung up the phone, and walked towards me, tears welling up in her eyes, and said “he’s dead.”

The room went dark, the walls fell away, my legs crumpled and I heard someone screaming in sorrow.  As my mother’s arms wrapped around me, I realized the person screaming in sorrow was me. weddingI was 41 years old with two young daughters, and I was now a widow.  My husband was dead. Life as a I knew it simply ended in that moment. 16 years together ended. The life we had built together ended.  The laughter that we shared over ridiculous and weird things ended.  Our shared parenting of two young girls ended. Our friendship that had deepened and strengthened over the years ended. Our hopes and dreams for our future together ended. Our fighting over his addiction ended. My mistrust of him ended. My constant anxiety over what might happen ended. The pain that consumed much of our life together ended. His suffering and struggling ended. His presence in my life did not end. Our love did not end.

My life as I knew it ended in that moment.  It didn’t just end….it was blown into a bajillion tiny bits.  Bits that were so small, that despite trying so hard to put them back together…that puzzle has proved too hard to do.  I can’t figure out how the puzzle of my old life fits together.

Profound loss changes you.  It changes your view on the world, your capacity to love, your values, your gratitude, your weight, hell it even changed my bank account (grief shopping is totally a thing).  It has changed me in every cell of my body. No wonder I can’t figure out how to put the puzzle that was my former life back together again. It’s simply an impossible task. Those blown apart bits…they don’t fit back together anymore. Those specks of dust of my former life….I have to sweep them aside and find new pieces to build a new, beautiful life.

I’m more vulnerable now.  More open. More resilient.  Braver. Weaker. More compassionate.  More emotional. I’ve gone up a size in clothing.  I’m more grateful. More present. My hair is greyer.  My kids are more attached to me. I’m angrier. I’ve done things in the past two years I never imagined I would do.  My career is changing. I’m learning to love again, in a way that is new, different, frightening. All of it, because of that phone call that ended it all.  But now as as I sit here two years later, staring at this puzzle I have to put back together….it’s clear to me that phone call also marked a beginning. The beginning of my new life. xmas 2018One that is marked with sorrow and loss, but also with strength, resilience, beauty, connection and wonder. I feel like I’ve bought one of those *really* hard puzzles. The kind that don’t actually show you the picture of what you are working on but have 1000 pieces.  This puzzle is damn hard to put together. I struggle to find how each piece fits and I often want to give up. Some days I hang my head and cry I can’t figure this damn thing out. Many days I want to give up on this puzzle. But I don’t and I won’t. I won’t give up. I want to see what picture while emerge.  I have a feeling it will be beautiful.


His ending was our ending.  But his ending is also my own new, scary, beautiful beginning.

A Chosen Family – A Solo Parent Reflects

Stomach flu making its violent trip through a household is no fun for any family.  But for a family with young children headed by a solo parent, it’s a whole different ball game. The mere rumour circulating the neighbourhood that the flu is going around strikes fear in the heart of solo parents everywhere.  So many logistical nightmares to solve. Meals need to be made, the unsick kids need to get to school or daycare, vomit soaked sheets (and blankets, pillows, stuffies etc etc.) need to be laundered.  EVERYTHING needs to be bleached. And all of this must be handled, while you yourself are most likely barfing or pooping, or both. Hence, the knowledge that Norovirus is ripping through my kid’s class is usually the beginning of a panic attack for me.  As a widowed mom with young kids, I have handled alot on my own. We have all had lice and pinworms. The cat has had fleas. Ear infections and fevers. Snot, so much snot. I’ve dealt with it all, with a loving hug for my sick kid and a glass of wine for me, after said sick kid is in bed.  But stomach flu? In the two years since Kevin has died, I had not yet had the pleasure of parenting while vomiting. I knew my luck would run out eventually, but I did not know when.

The fateful day arrived one night this past Spring.  I woke up in the middle of night and faced facts (and I also faced the porcelain god).  I officially had the stomach flu. The bathroom and I were going to become quite close over the next few days.  In between trips to the bathroom that dark night, my mind raced furiously…who can I text to take the girls to school tomorrow?  Who can I call to bring me some gatorade? Do I have bleach? How will I make breakfast? How will I cope? But the thought that was deafening at 3am while I lay on the bathroom floor was ‘I can’t do this alone.  I can’t do this alone. Fuck him for dying on me and leaving me to do this alone. Fuck him.’ Eventually, the long, dark night on the bathroom floor ended and somehow breakfast was served, lunches were made and a neighbourhood dad was texted to help with school drop off. My 4 year old may have served herself popcorn for breakfast, my 7 year old may have made her own lunch consisting of yogurt, cookies and crackers but hey, standards have to be lowered when you can’t raise your head out of the toilet.

I’ve been a solo mom long enough to have learned that I simply can’t do this alone.  On 1639the best of days, this solo parenting shit is hard. But on vomit filled ones it’s simply unmanageable.  That said, they say ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ and thankfully my parenting village is vast, diverse and absolutely lifesaving.  The head villager is my best mom friend who I met in a parenting class almost 7 years ago when our daughters were new, fresh, chubby and completely anxiety inducing blobs of terror.  When Tiffany walked in to the parenting class, her baby in a carrier on her chest, skinny jeans on her legs and to die for leopard print flats on her feet, I thought a) man I love those shoes and b) she looks like someone I could be friends with.  The shoes brought us together, the shared experience of post partum depression and anxiety brought us closer and the last 7 years of parenting our kids together has sealed the deal. She’s the head of my parenting village.  I would be lost without her and her support.  


Our daughters have become fast friends since they ended up in the same daycare and now the same school. Eventually, little siblings arrived in both families, and we began having monthly dinners, alternately at each other’s houses. The location may alternate back and forth, the menu may change, but guaranteed there is alot of laughter, alot of netflix consumed (by the children), alot of wine consumed (by the grown ups) and a raucous dance party (by children and grown ups combined) always rounds out the night.  We spend enough time with each other’s families, that I utterly trust Tiffany and her husband Ryan to discipline my kids and vice versa. 

I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have such a family enter into my little corner of the world until my husband died and left me alone to parent my kids. Our combined family dinner parties have continued monthly since Kevin died. Laughter, wine, and dance parties are still on the agenda at each one, but now there is often tears too as we marvel at the unfairness of this life.  Tiffany and Ryan are on the list of people authorized to pick up my kids from daycare and they do so on many nights. We sign our kids up for activities together so that TIffany and her husband can help with the shuttling of children back and forth. Their family is car shopping currently and are seriously contemplating a 7 seater car so that they can easily drive their kids AND my kids around easily. So when I found myself on the bathroom floor that night I knew who I would text for help. I texted Ryan in the morning and put in a urgent call for gatorade and wonder bread.  Both appeared on my porch shortly thereafter. Later that night, when I was barely hanging on, and was parenting from a horizontal position on the couch, I got text from Tiffany and it said ‘do you need help with bedtime? I can be over in 5 minutes to put your kids to bed.’ I cried from relief and from gratitude and quickly sent back a text that simply said ‘yes’. A few minutes later she walked in the front door and simply launched into mom mode with my kids. 30 minutes later both my kids were in bed, clean pjs on, teeth brushed, stories read and tucked in with love and care.  She came downstairs, I waved my gratitude at her from the couch (flu germs and all…there was no way we were getting too close!) and she left.


Since Kevin’s death, the idea that my kids don’t have a dad causes tears to prick to my eyes at any given moment.  We are a fierce and mighty little girl gang of 3, but we are also missing a member. Simply put, our family has a hole in it.  That hole will always be there, as Kevin’s presence is irreplaceable. But what I’ve come to learn in my journey trying to head up this girl gang is that families don’t have to be built on a traditional structure, but in fact are built on love and support.  That vomit filled night when another woman, a friend, walked in my house, and put my kids to bed with love and kindness reminded me that. She is not part of my family of origin, but she is a part of our chosen family. My kids have a family that is a beautiful, messy mash up of blood relatives and chosen family members.  I didn’t choose for my husband to die, but the family I’ve chosen to create since then is rich in friendship, support and love. The best kind of family.

The 2nd Anniversary of Your Death

2 years. How is it that 2 years have passed since I’ve seen you, heard you, hugged you, or touched you?  How can 2 years have passed since your deep belly laughed sounded in our house or I buried my head in your chest for a soul restoring hug?  How could 2 springs, 2 summers, 2 falls and 2 winters have all passed without you? Christmases, birthdays, halloweens, summer vacations, first days of school….all without you.  How can the world continue to turn when everything in our world has fallen apart?20180807_104301_hdr

730 days. 730 days since you last were on this earth with me, with us. 730 days since you made that terrible choice.  730 days since you died alone, suffocated by your shame and your pain. 730 days since we fought and you left and I never got to see you again.  730 days in which I’ve racked my brain to remember if I said I love you in what I didn’t know would be our last goodbye. I don’t know if I did. I don’t think I did.  730 days of wishing I had. 730 days without you. Like a magician’s trick, you simply left this earth in a puff a smoke. Poof. You were here and just like that, you were gone.  It simply makes no sense and it is just so unfair that this is how your life ended, and how ours continue on.

I won’t lie to you (you know I never would) and tell you we are doing okay, and that life moves on, and that we feel you with us every day.  That’s the story of grief that the world wants us to tell. I won’t tell you that lie. I won’t lie and tell you we are getting over this and that we are stronger now.  I won’t lie and tell you I’ve forgiven you for all the trauma your addiction has caused me. No. The truth is we are doing okay and we are a fucking mess. Life moves on and it stands still.  We feel you with us sometimes and other times I’m paralyzed with fear that we are forgetting you. Every day we talk about you, every day we laugh at your silliness and your random eccentricities. Every day, my anger at you bubbles over. Every day I yell at you and your selfishness and your illness that caused my world to crumble. I understand your disease and yet I am still so angry at what you have done.  I love you and I hate you. I exist now in a world that it is bittersweet and filled with complicated dualities.

17 520 hours.  17 520 hours in which so much stuff has happened.  Rob Ford died. His crack video came out and we call go to see it.  Mind blowing. And it’s even more mind blowing that you missed it. Brooklyn can speak french and ride a bike now.  I know you two would be having secret conversations in French. Her bike you bought her is too small now but I don’t know anything about bikes so I have procrastinated getting her a new one.  She won’t talk to me about you, and yet has been crying at school saying she misses you. I am trying to help her but I don’t know if I’m enough. 20180728_1908252Piper can swim and is starting kindergarten in a few weeks.  That day before you died, I still remember that you finally got her to get in the lake with you, holding her in your arms. She now jumps in with reckless abandon and can float on her own. She hugs and kisses the grass by your grave whenever we go see you now.  She’s been alive now longer without you than with you and that breaks my heart. I now have two tattoos, one of which is your fingerprint. They weren’t that painful but I do not know how you handled your huge back piece or your chest piece. I wish I had photos of your tattoos, but they are frozen in my mind as I remember tracing my fingers over them.  I’m a writer now. My blog got the attention of CBC radio and I was on Metro morning interviewed by Matt Galloway. Holy shit eh?!! I told the entire listening audience (just a mere 2 million people or so) about your silly dance and your heroin addiction. Sorry about that. Doug Ford is premier of Ontario. I told you my world makes no sense since you died!  I’ve been writing angry letters to our city councillor and our MPP as well as getting lawn signs for the candidates I support. You’d be proud of the work I’m doing trying to make the world an okay place for our kids. I have a boyfriend. He’s not like you and he is very much like you all in one. He loves the girls and honours you with them. He is a safe place for my grief and a safe place for my love.  He is completely okay with the fact his girlfriend is in love with two men. Your brother had a baby. I told your brother how much you loved being the dad of girls and how much you would have loved talking baby girl stuff with him. The fucking Eagles won the Superbowl. I wore your jersey and bawled my eyes out during the game. I thought about our trip to San Francisco when we watched the Eagles play and we ate those amazing garlic fries.  Don’t worry, the Eagles license plate cover is still on the car. Brooklyn wants me to take it off but she’s not in charge around here, I am. So it stays. Something major happened in the Leafs but you aren’t alive therefore my sports knowledge is drastically less so I’m not exactly certain what it is. 2 years worth of stuff has happened and you don’t know any of it. That blows my mind. I desperately want to tell you, to share all this stuff with you.  2 years ago you knew everything about me, about my life and all the beautiful, boring daily minutiae of it. And now 2 years later, you know nothing. Or do you know it all? I’ll never know. 

I want to talk to you.  I want to tell you what hell I’ve been through.  I want to scream at you and tell you how hard life is, being a single mom, working, parenting, grieving, moving on and standing still.  I want to show you the beautiful me that is emerging because of this journey. I want you to see how it’s making me a different person, a better person, a stronger person.  I want you to be proud of me. IMG_8929Most of all I just want you. I want you to hug me and tell me it’s going to be okay, that I’m going to be okay. I want to hug you and tell you I miss you and I love you. But just like the 729 days before today, I can’t. And just like the 729 days before today, I will think those things, and hope like hell that  wherever you are, wherever you may be, you can hear me.

I Wish I Knew How to Be a Wife

I wish I knew how to be a wife.  By all accounts, I am a wife. My last name is not the name I was born with.  I respond to Mrs (although to this day, I chuckle because Mrs makes me sound far more mature and grown up than I really feel).  I have a beautiful white silk dress hanging in a closet, reminding me of how carefree and joyful I was 13 years ago (and irritatingly, it also reminds me of how skinny I was).  I have an album full of photos which show that beautiful, warm September day when I walked down the aisle into my unknown future. I have a mother in law, a father in law, a sister in law and a handful of brothers in law.  Mail arrives at our house addressed to Mr and Mrs. I have a legally binding document, signed by a bunch of important people that shows I married Kevin on September 10th, 2005. So yes, it all lines up. I am a wife. But I also have another legally binding document, also signed by a bunch of important people, that shows that same man died on August 9th, 2016.  Yes, I am a wife. But my husband is dead. When presented with those marital status boxes on forms, which one do I tick off? Married, divorced, single? Widowed at 41 is never one of the options.  Where the fuck is the manual on how to be *that* type of wife?  One those forms, where is the ‘married to a dead guy’ box?!!

20180722_204811Kevin died in August 2016 and organically I’ve shedded a tiny bit of ‘wife-ness’ in the days and months since.  I don’t wear my rings anymore. They sit lovingly in a small, silver jewellery box on my dresser. They went into this jewellery box when I went on my first date with my now boyfriend, and they just never got put back on.  His toiletries are gone from the medicine cabinet. I mean who wouldn’t want more space in the bathroom, so his toothpaste and deodorant were thrown in the garbage pretty quickly. I diligently called every utility and every other bill we pay and told them (to their horror) I was calling because my husband died and I needed to change the names on the account.  I bought new sheets for our bed. In fact, I bought new everything. Grief shopping. It’s totally a thing. Every bit of weight lifting equipment from the man cave in the basement was sold. ANd the proceeds most likely funded more grief shopping. Our framed wedding photo that sat on my night table has been put away. But weird little bits remain. The medicine cabinet is now filled to the brim with girlie stuff, and yet his razor still sits, alone, on a shelf. 20180722_211337 You would think that the joy that came from newly acquired space in the medicine cabinet would motivate me to acquire more closet space by cleaning out his closet….but his closet remains untouched and filled to the brim with clothes custom made for a man that no longer needs them. The car insurance, ownership and registration are all in my name now, yet his Philadelphia Eagles license plate cover still remains. The man cave is now a bright and happy playroom for my kids, but his beat up skateboard is still tucked into the storage closet in the corner of the playroom.  Our framed photos still adorn the shelves in the family room. As I stumble along trying to figure out how to be married to a dead, my physical environment has shifted, changed and morphed. It is changing from what my life was to what it is.   

It is certainly a weird place to be, having such deep roots and connection to a life with someone, but at the same time, feeling completely untethered to that life, that former life.  But beyond rings, photos and toothpaste, there are bigger and deeper things that I can not and will not change. I still refer to him as my husband. I still refer to it as our house. I still celebrate our wedding anniversary and valentine’s day.  I still talk to him. I still talk about him. I had his fingerprint tattooed on my wrist and had a necklace engraved with his handwriting. And most importantly, I still love him. Death has not changed that. Perhaps this is what it means to be the wife of a dead guy….finding ways to leave behind what doesn’t serve you anymore while also finding ways to continue to be connected, to that person, and to that love.  I may not know what box to check on those stupid forms, but as it turns out, I do know how to be a wife.


P.S.  I just recently starting taking a writing workshop class (go figure…your husband dies and your life is totally different, so why not do something I’ve never ever done before?!) and this was the first piece I produced for the workshop.  Check out Firefly Creative Writing in Toronto if you too wish to do something totally out of your comfort zone!  Firefly Creative Writing Studio

Celebrating Mother’s Day as a Widow

As I sit here at the close of my second Mother’s day as a widow, I’m overwhelmed with emotions.  Good ones, bad ones, ugly ones, ones that can’t even be described with a word…all of them. When the person who you created life with is dead, this day is most certainly a complicated package of feelings.  One on hand, I’m so proud of me. And on this day that honours the work of motherhood, I want to shout, yell and holler from the rooftops…look at me world! I’m doing this 100% on my own and my kids are turning out alright!  I want to tell anyone who will listen how fucking hard it is to be the only parent 100% of the time. I want to take out a newspaper ad that tells everyone how fucking tired I am and how some days (let’s call a spade a spade here….most days), it’s a struggle to get out of bed and do it all over again.  I’m so proud of me and the work I’m doing to ensure our little girl gang of three, not only survives this indescribable loss, but thrives again. I’m so proud of the mothering I’m doing (again….most days lol!) and how my strength, resilience and humour is showing up in my girls.

cropped-wwI’m proud I’m teaching my girls how to have a relationship with their dead dad, and I’m proud that the people I love and surround myself with are letting Kevin live on in our lives.  On a day that honours mothers and the tireless work they do, I wore my Wonder Woman tshirt proudly. I just wish I had a cape too.

But also on this day, I am filled with crushing sadness and piercing loneliness.  I have no partner to get up with kids while I get a much deserved sleep in.  I have no partner to help the kids make a special mother’s day brunch for me. I can’t celebrate being a mother with the person who helped me become a mother.  This day is yet another reminder that I’m alone.  I desperately wanted a Mother’s day mimosa (well, I always desperately want a mimosa but mother’s day makes it okay!) so I invited a friend and her daughter over for brunch.  


While the kids ran wild in the backyard and we enjoyed our mimosas in the sun, I couldn’t help but think back to my first mother’s day. My oldest was 3 days old and we had arrived home from the hospital only the day before.  As a special mother’s day dinner, Kevin prepared a gourmet feast of forbidden pregnancy foods I loved but hadn’t eaten in 9 months. Bbq’ed hot dogs and ice cold aspartame filled Fresca! Two of my favourites! We sat on our rickety old back deck (that has since been replaced as I used some of the life insurance money to turn my backyard into an oasis) and I held our sleepy newborn, equal parts terrified and elated.  The late afternoon sun sparkled through the newly budding spring trees as I ate my mother’s day dinner. I remember feeling like love was literally bursting out of me. (Postpartum hormones were coursing through my veins but still) The man I loved, who knew me so well, had made me feel so special and celebrated, and I was holding our perfect, small human we had created together. It was a perfect moment and a perfect mother’s day.

Fast forward 7 years and here I am, again sitting in the spring sunshine in my backyard.  Yet now I have two kids and a dead husband. How the fuck did I get here and holy shit, this is nowhere close to how I imagined motherhood during that sunfilled mother’s day dinner so many years ago.  After brunch this morning, I took the girls to park and while we were there, unexpected tears pricked my eyes. As I glanced around the park, I realized that every single kid there was at the park with their dad.  Not a single mom was there. Except for me. Being dragged in two directions because one kid wanted to go on the slide, but was too scared to do it alone. And in another because the other kid loves the monkey bars but needs help getting up on them.  So there I am, running back and forth between two kids, while it slowly dawns on me that all these dads are here at the park, alone with their kids, because they’ve taken the kids out of the house so that the mom can have some time to herself or time to go get a massage or whatever the fuck else we are ‘supposed’ to do on Mother’s day.  Now, intellectual me knows full well that some of these men could be uncles, some could be divorced dads or widowed dads, some could be part of two dad families…the combos are endless. But grieving, exhausted me only saw the ‘all the moms are getting some much deserved recharge time’ view. And holy fuck, I just want some recharge time.  But the person who always knew when I needed a mothering break is dead. Happy fucking mother’s day. Tears were flowing behind my sunglasses, but I barely had time to wipe them because one kid just fell off the slide and the other kid is now stuck on the monkey bars. The solo parenting never stops. Happy fucking Mother’s day indeed.

Widowed parenting is bittersweet.  Good bits, beautiful bits…they poke in continually through all the shit.  The first thing I heard when I opened my eyes this morning was my oldest, half asleep whispering “happy mother’s day’.  She sleeps in my bed (because a queen bed is too big and too cold for one, and we both love it, so ya, that’s how we roll in this single parent household).  At 6:30 am we both sleepily opened our eyes at the same time and were literally face to face with each other. She whispered ‘happy mother’s day, Mama. Love you”, threw her arm over me and instantly fell back asleep.  I instantly fell back in love with her and then I too fell back asleep. Later that day, when I was out for a celebratory mother’s day dinner with my parents and my brother’s family, I was in the bathroom with my 3 year old.  We were crammed in one stall together, and I was wiping her bum. Mid wipe, while she’s bent over in downward dog, she proclaims “I love you, Mama. I love you because you are so comfy.” My heart melted. I had wanted to leave her trouble making 3 year old self by the side of the road most of the day, but that brief sentence made it all better.  It’s so fucking hard and sad doing this all on my own. But when little shining rays of light like those moments happen, I grab them and hang onto to them for dear life. This will be what gets me out of bed tomorrow when the hamster wheel of solo parenting continues spinning out of control.

As this day draws to a close, I think of all those moms who were also crying behind their sunglasses today.  I see you, I hear you, I hold space for you. For many women, this day is painful and hard and messy. For those of us who didn’t get to get pampered today but simply got to solo parent for yet another day because our partners are dead, I send you hugs. For those of us who didn’t get to receive an ugly daycare craft from our babies because they were born too early to live, I see you. I know how hard it is every day to be reminded of the mothering you don’t get to do, but even more so on a day like this. For those of you who desperately want to hug your mom and tell her how much you love her but can’t because she was taken from you too soon, I think of you and I hold space for your grief. For those of you who will spend this mother’s day morning visiting your child’s grave side, I see you, your tears and I too shake my head at the unfairness of this life. For all of us, I simply ask for you to hold space in your heart for those struggling on this day. Send a note to your friend who had a miscarriage this year, and tell her you are thinking of her too on this day. Check in with your friend whose mom passed away and tell her you are thinking of her mom. If you have a widowed mom friend who is slogging it out yet again in the solo parenting trenches today, drop off some flowers on her porch or take her kids for a couple of hours so she can get a break. For your friend who has lost a child, speak that child’s name when you wish them Happy mother’s day. Grief does not get smaller on happy hallmark days, in fact it gets bigger.

Happy Mother’s Day.  Love and light to you all.  May your wave of pain today become calmer and stiller tomorrow.

How a Widow Celebrates Valentine’s Day

I like to be right.  I mean, c’mon.  Who doesn’t like to be right?!  My husband ALSO liked to be right.  Alot.  So yeah, that was a hilarious and often, furor inducing dynamic to our relationship.  So when he had an opinion about something, he stuck with it.  Unsurprisingly, he had a serious hate on for Valentines Day.  He would assume his cantankerous old man sitting on his porch yelling at kids on his lawn persona, and would rant about the commercialism of this Hallmark holiday.  How it was created simply to sell shit and he didn’t need a Hallmark telling him when he should tell me he loved me.  He simply refused to participate in this bullshit holiday.  And I hate to admit it, but he’s right.  It’s bullshit holiday.  He is probably rolling over in his grave and fist pumping, while saying ‘YES!  I got her to admit it’.  Gah.  Happy Valentines Day you fucker.

Despite the fact Kevin hated the holiday, over the years we negotiated a sweet, and romantic in our own style, tradition to mark the day.  We would get take out thai food from the thai restaurant where we had our first date at and I would buy him a card because I like buying cards.  Simple and sweet, and not too hallmark-y.  Kevin was okay with it, as I was.  valentines cardAnd now that he is gone, I’m faced with a new weird reality….a commercial holiday that I know is crap makes me feel sad.  Man, grief is complicated.  On the best of days, for a widow, it feels like the world is filled with happy couples who have years ahead of them.  On this day, that couple filled world is on steroids. Commercials on TV, writing your kids valentines for school, chocolate on sale at the drugstore, your fucking Facebook newsfeed….it all contributes to a giant screaming sound in your ear….everyone around you is in love and your person is dead.  Even the crowds of awkward looking dudes buying sad carnations at the grocery store tonight made me feel sad.  (And then I felt sad that something so lame made me feel sad, but that’s a whoooole other post!).  

Driving home from the grocery store, wishing I could tell Kevin about the sad looking carnation carrying dudes I saw, I was struck with an overwhelming thought.  Kevin was so right.  You truly do not need a day prescribed by capitalism to tell someone you love them.  This lesson is so acutely true for me, and for any widow.  In an instance, your person can be taken from you.  I should not and will not wait for February 14th to tell people I love them.  LIfe is simply too short and too precious to wait for that one day.  Saying goodbye unexpectedly to my love, my best friend and my partner in life has showed me how right he was (as infuriating that is to admit!)  And I am so happy that he didn’t believe in this holiday, but instead he believed in sharing your thoughts and feelings of love whenever it struck you.  I treasure my memories of him randomly blurting out he loved me, or him bringing home tulips from the grocery store because he knew I loved them so, or mini eggs because he knew I needed a sugar fix, or him giving me a bear hug unexpectedly.

As I sit here now, slightly irritated that I have to admit he was right, I’m missing our Valentines tradition of Thai food but also thankful for his Valentines lesson.  I will raise a glass of bubbly tonight with my boyfriend as we start new traditions, but I will not forget the lessons learned from Kevin and his hatred of the holiday.  It’s a complicated joy, this bittersweet widow life.   

Fly Eagles Fly

On Sunday night, I’m sure many people wept tears of joy as the Philadelphia Eagles clinched their first ever Superbowl win.  However, I can say with happiness Tom Brady would not have been on this list.  Smug lil’ bastard.  I’m also sure a ton of people wept tears of sadness as the Pats failed to steamroll over the underdogs, to claim yet another championship.  What I couldn’t have predicted was this Super Bowl win caused me to shed tears of grief, tears of love and tears of longing for my husband.  I thought I had those types of tears covered on birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and well, just about every day.  Now I have to lose my shit over a fucking football game??  Gah.  Grief is unfair, unpredictable, unrelenting and ever changing.

My husband was a diehard Eagles fan.  He had been since he was a little kid.  No idea why, given he grew up in small town Ontario, Canada, which is nowhere near Philadelphia.  But nevertheless, he loved the boys in green.  Years ago, we took a trip to San Francisco during which we got to see his beloved team play the 49ers. This trip was intended as a trip for us to reconnect and enjoy each other.  Months earlier we had lost our first born child, Ryder, at 6 months pregnant and we were struggling to cope with the magnitude of his loss.  Thanksgiving was approaching and we wanted the hell out of family celebrations and away from pity looks and sympathetic hugs.  We wanted to forget our pain, run from our grief, laugh and be together.  So San Fran and the Eagles game it was.  The trip was especially bittersweet as I was newly pregnant with our second born, our daughter Brooklyn.  Nothing like strolling around Fisherman’s wharf, while your husband shoves clam chowder in his face while you are struggling hard with morning sickness.  Despite all the hardship and sorrow we had endured by that point, we were able to leave it aside for the moment and spent a perfect week together (well, clam chowder aroma induced vomiting aside).  This including seeing the Eagles play and for Kevin, I know this was the highlight of the trip for him.  We ate the best garlic fries of our lives (in ‘Merica sized portions) and watched his boys play as the sun set by the Bay.  It was a perfect day, a perfect trip and now a perfect memory.  

eagles san fran

Once Brooklyn was born, Kevin remained a dedicated Eagles fan, but was also a dedicated father.  He would religiously record each Eagle game on Sundays and watch it after Brooklyn was in bed.  He didn’t want to miss a minute of the action but also didn’t want to miss a minute of being a dad.  This dedication to both of his loves always filled my heart with joy.  He lovingly bought Brooklyn an Eagles t-shirt, and tried desperately to get her to cheer along to snippets of games on TV.  But Elsa from Frozen had her icy grip on Brooklyn, so Kevin’s Eagles had no chance.  

brooklyn kevin eagles

So when the Eagles clinched their spot in the Super Bowl, my heart filled with joy again.  But also with unexpected, overwhelming sadness.  That ever present sense of bittersweet that fills most of my days now.  The grief monster reared its ugly head again, and started shouting in my brain…he is missing this. He is missing this.  Just another thing on the endless list of things that he loved, that are continuing on, despite him being gone.  As the big game approached, my anxiety grew.  I was just so sad that he wouldn’t be able to see this.  He wouldn’t be able to see his team play in their first Super Bowl.  Just like he won’t be able to see our youngest daughter start kindergarten this coming Fall.  Just like he won’t be able to see our oldest daughter reading as she has just started doing.  He won’t see their birthdays.  He won’t see them graduate high school or university.  He won’t see them get married.  They are growing into incredible, curious, brave and kind women but he won’t see it.  He won’t see them and they won’t see him.  It is not fucking fair and when I think about it, tears spring to my eyes.  There I sat, watching the game and wearing his jersey, shouting ‘way to go boys’ as he would have, while my heart broke inwardly.  His team won, yet he wasn’t here to see it.

eagles jersey

So as the clock ran out and the Eagles clinched their first ever Superbowl, the movie of all the things he is missing played on fast forward in my brain.  The world continues to turn, time marches forward, life goes on.  But he is gone.  Watching the Eagles win, and watching it without him, but wearing his jersey was cruel fucking reminder of this stone cold fact.  He is gone. He is gone. So badly, I wish he was here to see his beloved team win, but more than anything, I wish he was here to see his beloved family and all that we are becoming.    

Fly Eagles fly.  Thank you for providing my husband such joy through his short life.  Eventually I will get my girls into football, and into the Eagles.  Kevin would have wanted that.

What Doesn’t Kill You, Makes You Stronger

What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.  Gah.  Hearing this phrase makes me want to stab my eye out with a fork.  I think most widows have the same reaction to this.  Especially when it is expressed to you by someone who is still happily with their person.  I’ve heard it and read it many times since losing Kevin, and while I know it is a well intentioned phrase, it definitely falls into the category of unhelpful.  My husband is dead, I’m parenting two kids alone (forever!), I’m sad, I’m alone, I’m exhausted and at the end of my rope most (all!) days….I don’t want to be stronger!!  I was completely and totally fine being a weaker person but married to my best friend who was alive!  But if I am truly and completely open and vulnerable, the reason why it makes me want to stab my eye out, is deep down I know that it is a true.  The shit I am in right now, is most certainly shit.  BUT, it is causing me to grow.  It is causing me to change.  It is causing me to enter the flames of this firestorm, and I know I’m going to emerge from the fire like a Phoenix, stronger and more beautiful than ever.  I”m not there yet, but I’m kicking, screaming and fighting to get there.  


As I walk through this journey, I find myself thinking increasingly about what mark I am making on the world.  I’m raising (at least hopefully) kind, compassionate and kick ass little girls.  I’m filling the world with dark, yet hopefully hilarious widow humour.  I’m a good friend (again, hopefully!) to many out there in the world.  But as my existential mid-life/widow crisis gets larger, I wonder what am I really doing to make this world better?  Is this enough?  I certainly don’t have the answer yet but I did something recently that filled me joy and pride, and I felt like I was doing my tiny part to  make the world better.  I was fortunate to have to the opportunity to speak on a panel at a conference for health centres from across Ontario.  The attendees had gathered in order to develop a cohesive strategy to fight the opiod crisis in their communities.  I was there to share my story, to share Kevin’s story and to help chip away at the stigma surrounding drug addiction.  I couldn’t save Kevin, but if my story can save another woman from becoming  a widow, or can prevent 2 other little girls from becoming fatherless, I will do it.  Being able to turn my pain and Kevin’s pain into something that may change lives was so powerful.  It also took me back deep into the pain I feel due to his death and it took me back deeper in the trauma I suffered at the hands of his addiction.  This wasn’t fun.  But it was necessary.  Going back into the fire is part of healing.  I need to go into the fire to come out the other side.  And I think I’m coming out the other side a more beautiful person.  That fucking phrase is right.  What doesn’t kill you DOES make you stronger.  I just wish Kevin was around to see it.  He’d be proud of me.

Check out my speech here

Thank you for including me in your day today. It’s a real honour and privilege to be here.  On August 7th, 2016 my life was changed forever when my best friend, my partner in life and the father of my children died of an accidental heroin overdose at home.  August 7th was the day I became a widow and the day my two young daughters lost their dad.  Its funny, because even now, a year out from his death, in my mind the word widow conjures up images of an elderly lady, wearing black and mourning her long dead husband.  If you saw me walking down the street, you wouldn’t think ‘oh she must be a widow’.  If you saw me at the park with my two girls, you wouldn’t think ‘oh those girls don’t have a father’.  I wear black, but it’s purely because of fashion and well, let’s be frank, I’d like to look slimmer.  I look like any young (well, young-ish or young in my mind!) mom at the park.  I don’t look like what the stereotypical definition of a widow looks like.  And I most certainly don’t look like a woman whose husband died of a heroin overdose.  But I am.  I’m a widow and my husband died of a heroin overdose.  

Kevin and I met 17 years ago.  Kevin was almost 21 and I was just barely 26.  We became friends first and then 6 months later, we did as most 20 somethings do….we went to a bar one night, got drunk and made out and that was the beginning of our relationship!  Oh to be young and naive without a care in the world again!  Drunken kissing aside, we began to spend more and more time together, and as we did, we fell in love.  And as we fell in love, we became best friends too.  We knew each other better than anyone in the world, and with each other, our true selves came to the surface.  As cliche as it sounds, we made each other better.  We became engaged in 2004, and got married in September 2005.  In front of our friends and family, we promised to stick by each other through good times and bad, through sickness and health and through richer or poorer, until death parted us.  When i think about that beautiful day now, I shake my head at my naive self.  We said the words, but we didn’t know what they meant or what we were promising.  We couldn’t know what lay ahead of us.  But as I stand here now, having had death part us, I’m proud to say I stood by my promise to him.  I stood by him as addiction ripped his life apart, I stood by him as his addiction ripped my life apart.  I did not give up on him because he became a heroin addict.  I loved him despite it all.  

In December 2008, for reasons Kevin could never clearly articulate and for reasons, I can’t wrap my head around, Kevin tried heroin for the first time. He grew up in a loving, close family.  He played sports in high school, had lots of friends and excelled academically.  Nothing jumps out from his past saying ‘oh that’s the trauma that made him do heroin!’.   As a teen and as a young adult, he had lived a life in which he had used drugs recreationally.  He smoked weed infrequently, did ecstasy at raves and drank with the reckless abandon of a 20 something guy.  But never in a million years was heroin something I would have expected him to try.  Heroin was for junkies on the street, not us upper middle class, educated, gainfully employed young adults.  In 2004, he was diagnosed with generalized anxiety and embarked on a decade long journey to understand his mental health disorder, to find the right medication and to learn the tools with which to manage his anxiety.  His underlying mental health issues were most certainly a driving factor in his desire to feel different, and ultimately a driving factor in his addiction.  He wanted to feel better.  To feel excitement.  To feel something.  One night in January 2009, Kevin went to bed before me and when I came to bed 20 minutes later, I found him lying in our bed, blue in the face, unconscious and barely breathing.  In sheer panic, I called 911 and ultimately was responsible for saving his life.  After the paramedics revived him, I heard one ask him “what did you take?’.  When Kevin answered “heroin’ I felt like a mack truck hit me while simultaneously feeling like I was going to pass out.  This was how I came to learn Kevin had tried heroin.  From that night on, Kevin spent the next 7 years fighting tooth and nail to beat this.  He fought every day to stay clean.  He fought every day to slay his demons and to resist the power of heroin.  For many days, he was successful.  And for many days he was not.  He struggled in active addiction for most of 2009, with stints in in patient rehab, out patient rehab, a sober living facility in Toronto and living with me.  Eventually, his NA meetings and step work started to stick and he got a year clean time, and then 2.  And then relapsed.  And then got another year clean time.  And then relapsed.  And so on and so on.  And with each relapse, he would be tortured with guilt and shame, and then would eventually tell me and sob while doing so.  I remember clearly after one relapse, him lying on the couch with his head in my lap, sobbing while saying “I don’t want this.  I don’t want to do this to you.  I hate this.  I don’t want to die”.  It was moments like that, that gave me the strength to carry on and support him.  Because to the outside world (namely my father!  And my best girlfriends), the obvious answer was to get rid of this deadbeat junkie.  

But he was not and is not a ‘junkie’.  He was a person who struggled with addiction and mental health issues.  He was an intelligent, curious, hilarious, wacky, caring, compassionate, loving person who was also addicted to heroin.  His addiction is part of his story, but it is not his whole story and it does not define him.  Kevin had his masters in social work and had spent more than a decade working with seniors in long term care.  In early 2016, he had left long term care and had moved into hospital social work and was working in the palliative care ward as well as the oncology ward.  He was an amazingly amazing dad to our two young girls.  He was a trouble making middle child who was adored by his parents and by his 4 siblings.  He was a friend to many, and he brought people together with his infectious energy and his deep belly laugh.  And a good number of Simpsons quotes too.  The list goes on.  His custom made, monogrammed dress shirts hid not only a ton of huge and amazing tattoos but also his track marks on his arms.  Our basement held not only his weightlifting equipment, our Christmas decorations, and our laundry room, but it also hid his drugs and his needles.  He hid his addiction from most people in his life, and he hid it because he was ashamed and because of the stigma society places on addiction.  This shame and stigma lead him to isolate himself, to pull back from his friends, his family, even from me.  And in this isolation, the thoughts that told him to return to the drug, the thoughts that told he could use just one more time, got louder and louder until eventually they were all he could hear.  

Early on, after Kevin died a dear friend from high school sent me this condolence card that says ‘Please let me be the first to punch the next person who tells you everything happens for a reason’.  It was so perfect, I wanted to kiss her.  Because it’s true, there is no reason in the universe that I should become a widow at 42, or that my girls should lose their dad when they were 2 and 5. No reason.  But now that I’m a year into this new, unchosen life, I can see that I can squeeze some good out of this awfulness.  I do not want another wife to lose her husband.  I do not want another 2 year old or 5 year old to lose their dad.  I want Kevin’s story to be a lesson for all of us.  

Addiction is a merciless beast.  This opiod crisis is an equal opportunity life destroyer.  Addiction does not care how much money you have or how educated you are or how loving you are or how many friends you have.  Addiction is not a disease of ‘the other’.  It is a disease that is all around us, in all walks of life, in all our communities.  I talk openly about my journey of loving an addict in hopes that I can be a part of reducing the stigma around addiction, and consequently allow a long suffering addict out there to feel less shame and to reach out for help. Until this stigma is gone, and until the ‘othering’ of addiction is stopped, addicts like my beautiful husband will continue to suffer in silence and will continue to die alone.

Some cool related resources

Association of Ontario Health Centres

Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance

Donate to harm reduction in Toronto



The Ugly Emotions of Grief



When I came across this quote in my Facebook feed this week, I couldn’t help but smile and mutter a ‘fuck yes’ under my breath.  My husband died almost 14 months ago…am I veering into annoying behaviour similar to parents when they refer to their 3 year old as their 36 month old??  C’mon!  I don’t want to do math.  I’m grieving, life is hard as is. Let’s not add math into the mix.  He died just over a year ago.  Much easier to say!  Math problems aside, it’s been long enough since he died that outwardly, I look happy.  Life is moving forward and I am happy-ish. But inwardly, the roller coaster of emotions is still there.  Not so many tsunamis of grief anymore, but the waves continue rolling in, pulling me under and make me gasp for air.  I’m pretty sure they always will.  And each day (and multiple times!) I’m struck with the thought “what the fuck?  What the actual fuck?  He is dead??? What has happened to my life??”  It physically hurts my brain because no matter what, I simply cannot make sense of that thought.  I don’t think I will ever be able to wrap my head around it.  Hence my immediate, visceral connection to this quote.  

But the second part resonated even more.  It touched a part of me that I am not proud of, but a part that I own.  A part of me that is not pretty.  Ugly emotions like envy, anger, jealousy, frustration, guilt.  This week, I attended a support group for widows/widowers with young children.  Minutes into our first meeting, a widower spoke of the feelings he had towards the people in his life who loved his wife and loved him, and just so badly wanted to help him.  Empathy, gratitude, connection?  Those would be typical or expected things to feel towards loving family and friends.  But all he felt was anger and hatred towards them and their luck that their significant other was still alive.  As he elaborated, all I could think was ‘fuck yes!!’.  (I wanted to shout it, but it was the first meeting so I wasn’t yet sure of the F bomb etiquette in this particular group)   He spoke of the knife twisting pain that comes when you are newly widowed, grieving the loss of the your best friend and lover yet trying to parent your young kids alone.  Trying to navigate blindly through a life that you had built for two that is now unrecognizable and must be steered by only you.  Most certainly, everyone around you is grieving but as widows and widowers, not only are we grieving the loss of our person, we are also trying to put back together the pieces of a life that was blown to smithereens. Your spouses friends and family are hurting so much over the loss, and yet when you look at them, all you can think is ‘your day to day life hasn’t changed.  Mine is completely blown apart and is nothing whatsoever like it was’.  So many times after Kevin died, I wanted to stamp my feet and have a tantrum shouting ‘NOT FAIR!  NOT FAIR!’. (But I didn’t have time for that, because one or both of my kids was in the midst of their own tantrum that I had to cope with.  Fuck.  Can’t a widow have a tantrum when she wants one?!!)  The co-captain of Team Awesome (Kevin’s term of endearment for us a couple, and as a parenting team) was no longer on the roster and this new team of one was not what I signed up for.  I did NOT want to be the only captain of this team.  As my friends and family would sob over Kevin’s death, there were times when all I could feel was envy and anger.  Envy for what they still had and anger at what my life had become.  I would think “at the end of this tough day, you get to go home, be sad and be comforted or cared for by your partner.  I get to go home, to the home I shared with my husband, a home filled with his things, his smell, his presence and cry myself to sleep alone in our bed. There is no one there to rub my back as I cry myself to sleep.  There is no one there to bring me a glass of water because now I’m so dehydrated from all the crying. There is no one there to take care of me.  And when I wake up after sleeping alone in our bed, I get to get up and parent two grieving children, run a household and work at a job that hopefully earns me enough to provide for myself and our children.”  Cue the envy, anger, frustration and guilt.  Told you there were tsunamis of emotions inside of me!  But now that I’m over a year into this shit storm called widowhood, I own it.  Yes, envy is ugly.  Yes, anger is ugly.  Frustration and guilt too.  But it’s okay.  This is my grief.  It is not just tears and sadness, like the movies would lead us to believe.  Grief is ugly.  Really fucking ugly.  But by being open, honest and sharing what I’m going through, I get to be a part of this really beautiful thing called human connection.  Hearing other widows and widowers talk about this feeling of envy and anger made me feel less like a circus freak, and more like a normal widow just trying to keep her head above water.  I felt less alone, less crazy and as a result, more secure in my footing on this road to healing.  I hope my words here do the same for other widow warriors out there.  And if you are lucky enough to not be a widow warrior, but have one in your life….I hope my words give you a glimpse into the tsunamis she is coping with.  She doesn’t hate you, she is just a bit envious right now and that’s okay.