While searching for an illustration of a heart I came across this book cover I created for Avon Books many years ago.

While searching for a heart I came across this book cover I painted for Avon Books many years ago.

I love this quotation:


“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” Norman Cousins

I have discovered that I am drawn to grief. It’s as if grief is a flame that dances and beckons me.

I wish I could extinguish the monster. As I grow closer to the heat, my scars begin to throb. But the memory of love needn’t cause a burn.

I feel compelled to taunt that flame – because I know it cannot burn forever!

I announce this loudly to anyone who will listen. Eventually the fire will flicker out with a wisp of white smoke. There will be cold ashes left behind. But instead of a burning flame, the memories bring comfort now – never to be extinguished.

I continue to move through the darkness searching for other flames to taunt. 

When my tears are flowingI have written before that everyone handles his or her own grief differently. Now, I want to share my own personal beliefs about grief:

It is not recoverable; one adjusts to it.

Healing is possible, and maintaining hope of it can provide sustenance. But the process of healing is unconscious and happens despite certainty that grief is endless.

Many, many people succumb to their grief.

Grieving is hard work and consumes one’s existence.

Although it is rare, it is possible to find joy again. But finding it is a conscious effort and requires giving oneself permission to be happy.

A year after Jason died, I wrote to him as a therapy exercise. There were a few profound sentences I wrote that were prophetic.

My words from 19 years ago are as true at this moment as the day I wrote them.

“He will never be forgotten, even when the grief pains diminish. I will keep his memory alive. Because of him, I will never be the same – in that way he’s a part of me and has exposed me to a life unknown. Jason, I still love you.

Jason, Mom, & Guitar

My new friend, Relinda wrote several new posts. (The blue post titles are links to her blog)

Here is an excerpt from Another New Year’s Eve:


“As I end my third year alone, the thoughts that prevail in my mind—I will never feel those perfect lips upon my own again. I will never feel those strong arms around me again. I will never know love again. Every step I take and every little thing I do—I remember him. And just when I catch myself smiling, I remember that he is gone. He is gone and he is not coming back.”

New Years

Relinda also wrote another post called Broken Vases and Broken Hearts:


“Sometimes, in life, there are shattered pieces scattered across the earth that are destined to remain broken. That is as true for vases as it is for hearts. Regardless of how much glue one uses to try to put all the pieces back together, it just will not hold. The scars are there forever. The fractures will always be visible. Once broken, it will remain broken.


People will inquire what happened to the beautiful vase . . .


It leaped from the table to its sudden death, but it lives on scarred and missing that one important piece. I could not save the thing, as hard as I tried. And now it continues to live on, a wretched hull of something that once exuded warmth and love, while transcending eternity. Without that piece, it is ugly, empty, broken… and worthless.


That is how it is for vases, as well as hearts.”


I was thinking a lot about Relinda. I am sensitive to all forms of grief. As a bereaved mother, I embraced living by bearing subsequent children while grieving. For a widow or widower, finding love again might seem impossible.

But then I remembered Joe. Joe’s writing (on an Internet grief forum) always brought me to tears – just as Relinda had.

I decided to write to him.

On December 31, 2012, Judy wrote:

Hi Joe,

You haven’t written on the grief forum for some time. How are you doing? I won’t go to that place that time has healed, but I am hoping it has gotten easier for you.

I continue to write about grief and I thought of you because I have been corresponding with a widow who is bereft. Her writing is very poignant – just as yours was.

She believes she will grieve forever. I would love to hear your thoughts about this. You are such an excellent writer.


On Dec. 31, 2012, Joe wrote:

Judy, after three years I kind of just gave up. That’s when life took a turn and I met someone. Life has changed and I find I can love.

Roses Watercolor


Joe’s Grief Journal – Part 1

Jan. 2, 2011

Hello. My name is Joe. I’m new to the group and want to let you all know why I’m here. I lost my wife on November 14, 2008. We met when we were fourteen years old and she was sixty-three when she died. She was the core of my life and I have felt adrift since she died. It’s always there, the sadness and emptiness, the space once filled that stands empty. There’s a hole in my heart that I doubt will ever heal.


Jan. 8, 2011

I have admitted to friends that I shouldn’t have had a driver’s license the first three months after my wife died. I’d start driving and end up someplace with no memory of getting there. One day in the bank I was looking for a notary to do something for me. Someone innocently asked me, “How are you doing?” I went to my knees crying and all the people around me scattered like quail. The ones who rode the elevator down with me probably couldn’t wait to get free as I was hanging on the handrail and weeping uncontrollably.


Feb. 5, 2011

While I don’t see my wife…I see the space she occupied everywhere I turn. Even now that two years have passed I still see her space at the porch rail, in front of the sink, in our bed, in her chair, beside me while walking, in the passenger seat of my truck where I would lay my hand on her thigh.


Feb. 8, 2011

I don’t trust that the rest of the world will understand. Half of my existence is gone. No matter that over two years have passed I’m not over losing her. How do I explain to the world that I am broken and have no hope of being whole again? All I can do at this point is cry. That’s the most genuine thing I can do even if I do it in privacy now.


March 2, 2011

I am in a really dark place. My mind is shrieking, “I can’t do this alone, this living business. I can’t take care of the house and the car and the dog and the bills and my feelings all by myself. I can’t do this without the comfort of another human voice, the warmth of another human’s touch, the counsel of another human’s wisdom. I can’t! I can’t! I can’t!”

The feeling that accompanies this is terror. I am living in terror and some shame for feeling so weak and desperate. 

I have no skills for living alone. I have never been alone before. I feel truly broken in half and totally incompetent in these circumstances.


March 8, 2011

I woke up tearful this morning. I’ve been tearful all day. It took me a while to realize a dream I had was impacting me.

In my dream, she was looking at me the way she did. Her gaze didn’t reflect that I was bald, getting wrinkles, losing vitality and becoming soft in the middle. She gazed at me like I was the most loveable man in the world. I’m crying now just remembering that look…and hoping she saw the same look coming from me.


March 20, 2011

Even my kids don’t know how bad I continue to feel. They don’t know about the anxiety, the sick to my stomach feeling when I know I’m coming home to an empty house. They don’t know how empty life feels, how often I wish mine was over, how pointless this all seems with her. 

After more than two years, I still wake to that feeling of being alone, still have only a moment before the memory that she is gone comes crashing into my mind and I feel my heart sink. 

They don’t know how hard it is to just keep going. They have moved on. They still have mates and children in the house and a life that is worth living.

I have no idea how to tell them that I do not.



Watercolor Azalea & Camelia

I decided to reply to Relinda in regards to her post about broken vases and broken hearts:

Relinda, I love metaphors, too. You are comparing a broken vase to a broken heart. Such sadness in those words!


A vase does shatter and is almost meant to be breakable. But a vase is man-made unlike a human heart. Humans with all their technology cannot glue a vase back together like new.


But god created humans. Hearts do stop beating and some bleed. But the difference is that flesh has the capability of healing unlike a shard of porcelain.


How wondrous healing is. It is miraculous and it happens without conscious effort. Of course, the wound does leave scars – but the pain diminishes. Your heart is still bleeding and cannot heal at this moment.


You have a beautiful heart; it is far from worthless!

My son died in the fall. Dead leaves always made me sad.

My son died in the fall. Dead leaves carry my son’s memory.

AngerWhat I miss

I always held onto hope that my grief pains would diminish. Thankfully, they did. I would never be the same either.

I always held onto hope that my grief pains would diminish. Thankfully, they did. I would never be the same either.

© 2013 by Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About Judy

I'm an illustrator by profession. At this juncture in my life, I am pursuing my dream of writing and composing music. Every day of my life is precious!
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  1. jmgoyder says:

    I am suffering the grief of impending loss of my dying husband – your post is so sad but so rich – thankyou.


    • Judy says:

      Oh, Julie – now my eyes are filled with tears. I am so, so sorry for your impending loss. I see how supportive you have been of Tersia (61 comments on her annual blog report). That is very telling. Obviously, in your own grief you reach out to others. I see that as an excellent sign that you will heal from your grief. Even as you enter the darkness, you are lighting the way for others.

      I am unsparing in describing the hell of grief, but always emphasize that there is a light farther down that awful road. I wish there was a magical way to make it easier for you.

      Your husband is fortunate to have such a loving partner. Thank you so much for your comment and for appreciating my sad post.


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