it’s the little things

I felt like I was coming out of a fog the last two weeks. The six month mark arrived the same day as what should’ve been his 52nd birthday. The day was surprisingly calm and peaceful. I say surprising, because I honestly didn’t know what to expect. Even though I resolved myself to celebrate and be thankful for him ever having been born, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel when actually faced with the day.

By the end of it, though, me and the girls hadn’t just gotten through. We laughed, we hugged and this next part will sound crazy, but none of us cried. The not crying part is a head trip. I mean, he only died six months ago. Shouldn’t I have cried? People see me daily, with a look of sadness in their eyes, and ask how I’m doing. I feel weird when I say we are doing well. There’s such a pressure of what people perceive, and if I don’t fit with that perception, am I greiving properly, or enough?

I told you, it’s a head trip. I know there are no rules to any of this. I know my journey is different from that of my daughters, different from that of other men and women who have walked this same path. No one can tell me how to grieve. I know it to be true, yet I feel as though I walk with a spotlight glaring on me at all times.

Through all those feelings the last two weeks, I still felt like I was headed into a new phase. One of acceptance, and a renewal of strength to want to keep going on this journey because turning back just isn’t an option.

And then I come home on a Friday morning after dropping the girls at school and daycare, and decided to flip through the channels. I happen upon PBS Kids and a wave of sadness hits me like a tidal wave. Super Why was on, and at that time just over six months ago, I would’ve been coaxing Virginia into her shoes, getting her to daycare late, yet again. Our mornings were very cozy and relaxed before Michael passed away. He would walk Isabella to school, it was the highlight of his morning. Virginia and I would walk them to the door, blow millions of hugs and kisses, then scurry back inside to curl up on the couch and eat breakfast—poached eggs were her favorite.

There are no more leisurely mornings.

Then today, I was in the car with the girls, running a myriad of errands. It’s President’s Day Weekend, so the city has a quiet undercurrent. Many of my girlfriends are off on vacation with their family. I used to live for the three-day weekends, when we got him for one extra day. That third day in a row, all four of us together, meant the puzzle was complete for one more day, before we had to face the daily grind. Anyway, as I was driving, I thought about how we’d often load the girls in the car and drive to Queens for empanadas at Empanadas Cafe. It was a long way to go, and we could’ve had good grub in our hood, but the drive to Corona was a nice reprieve from the gentrified airs of Smith Street.

We haven’t been to Empanada Cafe in over six months.

Last summer we also took the girls to Roosevelt Island for the first time. Michael got out of the car and took Isabella for a closer look as the tram was taking off, while Virginia and I watched from the car with Feelin’ Groovy serenading us in the background. It’s moments like that which leave me wishing I could build a time machine.

Could I live a lifetime knowing all I had to do was be strong a handful of days a year—a birthday, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving? Of course. It’s the smaller life moments that I miss more. It’s knowing I have to constantly go through them alone, even when I’m in a room full of people who love me. It’s just they can’t possibly love me the way he did. No one ever will, regardless of whether I ever meet someone new. They will never be him, and that’s really hard to accept.

I had planned on writing about a new Italian fried rice I made earlier in the week. It’s a great recipe, and I’m eager to share it with all you. I needed to clear my head first, though, and writing here is the best place I know how to do that.


  • Linda

    The first anniversary of my oldest son’s (Sean Patrick Trail) death is the 27th…..Complications of Diverticulitis. He never woke up from the surgery. He was almost 46, and he was a big bear. We had fallen out of touch for awhile, not for any bad feelings, just not as careful about our relationship as we should have been. But we had reconnected, and I talked to him just a few days before the end. He said he was okay, and we both said I Love You. I feel guilty because I’m not in sackcloth and ashes….. but that doesn’t mean I don’t love him and miss him. Feelings are funny.

  • Paula

    I absolutely agree with everything you say. Your journey is yours alone and you´re making a great job. Your life will be different but by no means worse. And, in the end, you wouldn´t change a single day with him even if you knew what was coming. All my love and strength to you and your daughters.

  • Tracey

    Good Morning Jennie-
    Yes, you hit the nail on the head. All of it. You are going through it all–your pace and no one elses. It is what it is and that is about all you can say. Still love your blog and sending love and hugs your way…

  • Tracey

    Good Morning Jennie
    I went back through ALL the posts since I “met” you. I found your little note right back to me! Thank you. I am glad that sometimes I CAN make you smile. It is funny,(yes again, not really) that this all just keeps on going and going, like the Energizer batteries. Seriously, like a bad, scary movie. But I still think of you, love your recipes and send prayers your way.Have you ever felt him standing behind you? That has happened to me many times and is really weird , especially after all these years. I look around and no one is there! LOOK, LISTEN and talk to him!
    XXOO Tracey (you can always send me an email too.I promise I won’t bombard you with stupid emails or too many either. I would ONLY contact you, if you contacted me)

  • Maria

    grieve on your own terms…since when does one know how you are feeling inside?, only God knows that…
    can’t wait for the new recipe, sounds wonderful…

  • Julie

    I am glad every time you share your thoughts! Thank you. I think the peaceful days are love’s way of giving you a tiny break from the drowning sadness and giving you the strength to keep afloat when the agonizing waves hit unexpectedly. I know there could never be enough little memories, but the ones you have shared are beautiful.

  • Kim in MD

    As always, this is such a beautiful post. I have to admit that I have been a little concerned since you haven’t posted since Mikey’s birthday. I have been keeping you in my thoughts and prayers, Jennie.

  • Holly

    it’s such a privilege you share your experience with us. thanks for the trust and your honesty. you and your girls will always walk in a world made more beautiful by Mikey’s presence, no matter how awful it may be because of his leaving.

  • Arothenfeld

    Sounds like you are making new patterns in your lives and maybe the pain is not as raw as it has been. His memory and life lives on in your girls and the happiness you have had with Mikey are shining through their eyes. Hugs and there is a light somewhere at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel happens to be very long.

  • millionsofpages

    My mom became a single parent when I was 3. She cried all the time, even though she made the decision by choice. Not by fate. I’m not sure which is worse, but no matter what, the dreams and plans you have for your kids as a team now has to be done alone.
    I still had a fun life growing up with my mom, and didn’t feel like i was missing anything because the other parent was gone. The trick is to create life experiences that you can manage on your own, and to be satisfied that you have done the best you can.

  • Em

    There are no rules for coping with the loss of loved ones, that’s for sure. I wish I could say more, but instead, I’ll offer an imagined hug. One step and then another. One breath and then another. One day, and then another. <3

  • Patti

    Oh my goodness. You are so right, that everyone’s grief is theirs alone. There is no right or wrong, but just listening to your heart. You know what is best for you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think you are a strong person to be able to share your thoughts and leave this for your daughters in the future

  • Diane

    There is no right or wrong to everyone’s grief.
    You need to grieve in your own way at your own pace that’s the only right way!
    I love your post with or without recipes 🙂
    Many hugs to you and you girls.

  • Lolly

    I walked along the ocean in Eastham today, reflecting on your post, as I know you love this place. I took a moment to wish you joy in life and strength in life, in equal measure.

  • Lynn

    We are so blessed to be able to read your journey and share your thoughts. I find you an inspiration as you are a very strong person who dearly loved her Mikey with her heart and soul. Your doing a wonderful job with your girls be proud of yourself.

  • Tara

    Jennie, make no apologies for yourself or how you are grieving with your girls. Never let anyone make you feel like you need to. You are absolutely correct in saying this journey is yours and no one else’s. I can’t even imagine the strength you summon to continue each day- of course you continue because naturally, life goes on. It’s in those sad moments, the moments after you do have a big cry…that you get up and keep on going. That is amazing, courageous, and beautiful. You are an amazing woman. Mikey knew that too, of course. Just don’t forget it. Continue to be the grand Mama that you are and don’t forget to find joy in the small triumphs. : )

  • jennifersauntie

    Jennifer, as you say,..”acceptance, and a renewal of strength to want to keep going on this journey because turning back just isn’t an option.”
    You have learned that already. Michael would NEVER have accepted you going back. He urged and encouraged you to “follow your dream,” and you’re doing just that. It’s not just what Michael would have wanted, but it’s to fulfill what’s in your heart and soul.
    You’re on the right path. Just stay on course, focused and steady, and with patience you’ll continue to move through the journey. Here’s hoping the wind on your sails treats you well. Love ya, xoxoxo

  • Patty Ann

    My husband died 97 days before his 52nd birthday – 3yrs & 9 mos. ago. The tidal wave of sadness is now a part of me. I manage it, but sometimes it manages me. My daughter and I seem to be able to talk more about him this year without carefully measuring our words, so not to cry. I use to wish it so very desperately, but now I just think that a miracle may be possible – a glimmer of hope I know will not happen – when a car like his goes by and I think I just might see him in the driver’s seat. I think I’m a bit crazy and then I think it was a nice opportunity to think of his face and his being, and his love. Feelings work in funny ways. No Jenny, no one else will ever be him – nor would you really want them to be. The acceptance will come. I look forward to your writing. It nurtures the soul – yours and ours. And I do love your recipes. I try to make them mother/daughter time.

  • Debbi

    Jennie, You write so beautifully, I wish you would write a book on your travel with this burden. You have no idea how many people you touch in your grieving, and help so they see they are not alone.
    You are not alone either, even though it feels like it.

  • Candace T

    I don’t personally know you but I want you to know that my heart is SO full of love for you! YOU INSPIRE me to be better, to love harder to make living a priority! I think of you often and send my love!

  • Cate

    You are doing what you need to do and should be doing. Honestly, if I were in your situation, I’m not sure I could even think – let alone PHOTOGRAPH and BLOG ABOUT FOOD! I can barely cook for my children when my husband is away on business trips, and I LOVE food! You are an ispiration and I am truly heartbroken for you every time I read a new post. xx

  • Miss Viv

    Wow – this is the first post that you haven’t counted the days since. That’s a HUGE step, and I know that even though the number isn’t sitting at the top of the blog post, it will forever resonate in your heart. I admire your journey. That probably sounds terrible in that grief should not be honoured in such a way, but I admire your strength in gliding through each day, and desire to face the world head on. I wish I had been so brave, or gracious in my own times of grief. Instead I screamed and raged with the world. I’m not sure I yet believe in time being the healer of all wounds. I don’t think things get easier per se,I think it’s more that we get stronger, resilient almost, and infinitely more patient with whatever comes our way … and that’s what translates as being ease in life. It is all the little things, and I wish an abundance of beautiful, light, loving ones your way.

  • Lynda Agen

    Love and hugs to you, Jennie, and don’t ever feel you have to FEEL anything a certain way – just BE.

  • Grace

    No one can feel your feelings but you, Jennie.
    I can easily see how the little moments hit you harder than some of the landmarks. You are braced for those, expecting them, so maybe they are easier to handle? The unexpected little moments when something makes you remember, or you turn to say “look at this”…yeah, Jennie, I can see how they would sneak up and overwhelm you.
    I think you are incredibly brave to share your journey with us.
    Now, what on earth is Italian Fried Rice?

  • Shari K.

    I can totally relate to your feelings. My own husband died ten weeks ago, shortly before Christmas. I dreaded his approaching birthday on February 19th, but I actually got through it okay. I had pizza at home with my son and toasted my husband’s memory with a glass of wine and wished him peace. The grieving and healing process amazes me every day.

  • mary pat

    thank you for reminding us what is important… the stronger your love, the stronger your grief. it would be a dishonor to our loved ones not to feel pain when we are reminded of things they miss or times we shared. it won’t always cause you to crumble and become innert, but your heart will always hurt. don’t you feel far more empathy to others now? sometimes I am amazed at how well people cope in the enormity of grief.

  • Jodi

    I’ve never posted a comment but have been reading for a while. Thanks for sharing your heart. You have a gift for expressing your thoughts. Today, because of your post, I will again purpose to soak up those little moments. Hoping you find strength and joy and peace today. You and your precious girls are so blessed to have each other.

  • Jenna | The Paleo Project

    Your words move me to such emotion every time. They are so rich and pure and honest, similar I assume to the love you had for Mikey, so how else could you write!? But anyway, I think it’s safe to say your grieving is yours and no matter how you cry or look or feel on any given moment, it’s so evident that you are tremendously mourning. So, have your days without tears and tell people how you’re doing, you know. He knows. That’s all. Have a good day, Jennie.

  • Patti

    The rice is delicious. We had it last night. I kept going back to the refrig all evening and taking spoonfuls. Thanks for sharing

  • Dd

    My husband died 8 1/2 months ago, also very suddenly, age 43. I read early on from another writer that somehow, thru the grieving, her love for her husband actually grew despite his painful absence. I feel that. Some days. I wish that for you too and would like to thank you for sharing your grief and humor and recipes. And I’d also like to thank the community of commenters. It fills up my heart.

  • Jacqueline

    Thank you for sharing. You have reminded me of the gift life is and not to take it lightly.God Bless you.

  • Mel

    People can be so pressurising sometimes. At different points of my life I have felt guilty for not feeling happy/laughing abundantly on my birthday, or at similar occasions – or not crying at a funeral of someone I love. But no more. I have decided that emotions are real but they come and go as they please, and just because I am not laughing or crying as much as I “should” at the time is not indicative of how much I actually care. I have decided that my face is mine, not subject to human expectations…
    Jennie, thank you for persevering with life and writing and honesty and courage…!

  • Dell Anne Hines Afzal

    I was looking for a recipe for peanut butter pie and quite by accident I ran across your story.
    I am new to the blogging community and have published a story of my Grandmother’s life and the tragedies she suffered. She suffered through the loss of two husbands, both in very heart-breaking ways, leaving her with young children. She persevered through all that heartbreak and held her head high. I only found my voice late in life to tell her story. Her story is one of success in living a gracious life and achieving much in the way of life, love and the pursuit of happiness, regardless of the pain she suffered.
    My heart breaks for you but I invite you to witness the life of a lovely lady, written by a loving Granddaughter. Her life lessons made a great difference in our lives. From the stories you have so courageously documented, I commend you on your strength and your willingness to share your innermost feelings and pain. She would have loved you and I’m sure you would have loved her.
    I would love to introduce you to ‘TREASURES in the ATTIC: GIFTS from a WOMAN of FAITH’ available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and many other outlets. If you feel comfortable enough to send me your mailing address, I will gladly send you a signed copy if you so desire.
    I send you my heartfelt gratitude and congratulations on building your life with your precious children. Strive to listen for the music of his voice in the wind and see his face in nature; it will bring you comfort.
    Blessings and thank you so much for sharing…