just because

The sucker punch came when I turned the blue card over. The blue card is for the kids’ school and lists all their vital information for the school’s records. It felt wrong to leave his name blank, so I scribbled it in and wrote “deceased” in parantheses. Then I turned the card over, and my body deflated as I stared at the blank spaces that needed filling in for the emergency contact. A numbness settled into my heart at the reality, yet again, that my emergency contact is gone forever.

That one person who always picks up the phone when you call. Never ignores a text or puts off answering an email.

The one person who just knows and senses when you’re not yourself.

The one person who carries the burden when the weight is crushing you.

The one person who even in the depths of silence hears you.

The one person who makes you feel less alone in an often lonely world.

There are so many moments left to encounter alone. At this point in the “process” most friends have gone about their life as usual. The group of people who were there in the days and weeks after August 7th have dwindled down to a mere handful. There’s my core group of women and one of Mikey’s best friends who diligently check in on me, and for them I feel blessed and thankful. I’ve always weighed my friendships for their quality, not the quantity. Still, it takes its toll especially around times like the girls’ recent birthdays and Mother’s Day.

It’s hard to not feel a twinge of anger at the celebratory wishes, acknowledging how hard it must be on such ocassions. My instant thought is how every day is hard, and a note out of the blue would be the more welcome sentiment. I know how easy it is to feel confused by that comment. After all, everyone fears saying the wrong thing, but what matters most when you feel this lonely and isolated from love, is just knowing that someone is thinking about you.

Out of the blue, I got a surprise from someone I don’t even know last week. She reads this blog and sent me an email with the title “just because”, and inside it read “hugs, because none of us get enough”. It truly eased some of the heaviness in my heart. My advice if you have a friend going through a loss like this is don’t wait for what you think is a tough day to reach out to them. Just drop a note, send a text or pick up the phone—just because. It may very well be the boost they need to get through the rest of day. In fact, it’s the most thoughtful act of friendship to show anyone you love—just because.

I’ll be back in a bit with a new recipe for these crispy chewy walnut cookies. Tonight, I just needed to release these thoughts to make room for the many others cluttering my mind these days.


  • Sunny

    I don’t remember what pointed me to your blog that day, but you had just posted of your loss. Your words touched me enough, your pain, that I bookmarked your blog on my iPad, choosing the photo of Mikey as the button. I now see his face everyday as I open the folder of blogs to read, and I think of you and him and your children and the life you had together. I’m not wonderful with words when the pain is so raw, but please know this rambling is from a stranger that cares.

  • Denise @ Creative Kitchen

    How devastating. The reminders over and over must be the hardest part. Words can and never will do justice…..you are never out of my thoughts, never out of my prayers. You and your precious girls reside in a place in my heart, and are a constant flutter. I cannot forget, I will not forget…..I cannot know, I do not know…..but I CARE, and I pray!!

  • Maria in NJ

    Hi Jennie, just wanted you to know that I am still here too and still thinking about you and the girls…how is the book coming? and I wanted to ask you something…did you ever post the recipe for the white fluff filling that you put in Mikey’s cake that year, I have looked on your site for it and I have not seen it…is it just 7 minute frosting or something different…
    JP’s note: You know Maria, I never did. It’s similar to a 7-minute frosting, but with a twist.

  • wendy

    Only someone living this painful path can give such good advice. There are so many people thinking of you so much of the time. I wish you to feel comforted and loved and connected each day. Take good care,

  • Kim in MD

    Wow…just when I think things are getting a little easier for you. Sending virtual hugs your way.
    JP’s Note: It gets easier in some ways, and harder in others. That can likely be said for many aspects of life. There will always be a sadness in my heart for what my life was supposed to be, even if I do one day meet someone else. I think it’s just the reality of being a young widow. This is one “what if” I have no control over.

  • Jan Veenstra

    Jennie – You have once again touched my heart with your post. I have been experiencing the same thing you describe. It’s been almost a year since I lost my husband and although people are there for me I feel sometimes like they think I’ve moved on to a place that I don’t think I’ve come to yet.
    JP’s Note: Jan you get what I really mean by this post, and sadly only because you’re traveling a similar path. It’s not to say that our friends are living “normal” lives again. I know they are forever changed too because of his death. The best way they can remember him, though, and still feel connected is to stay in touch with me and the girls. He genuinely lives on in all of us this way.

  • Tracey Alvernaz

    You know there are people that love and care for you now. I am one of them. I know we don’t “know” you, but we care deeply and wish we could take away some pain. I think I wrote this before, how it amazed me how people (our friends) just went on the way they were, while we are stuck or just treading water. It is a time of pain, suffering and doubt. How can they leave us behind? How could Mikey leave you and the girls behind?. Talk to him today (I know that is a duh)Ask for a sign again.The signs never can come too much—but it is a sign of love and reassurance.Wishing you hugs and rainbows….
    Come to S.D.

  • Tracey Alvernaz

    Ok. This is a P.S.S.I would send you a card, or a hello, but I don’t have your address!!
    !http://roadrunner.pacprod.com/cgi-bin/GRCard.exe So here is the link…pick a card with the hug on it! That is from me! You know, I pray for you all the time and think about you too.Wishing you hugs, rainbows and a smile…

  • Jenny

    I think of you and the girls often. I thought of you when I had my first PB & J doughnut at the Doughnut Plant. I think of you when I want to strangle my husband – in of course of loving way and decide I’m lucky he is still here so I won’t knock him upside his head. 🙂 I think of you whenever I see a recipe for a pie that has peanut butter in it. I think of you whenever I read a jam recipe – or see a post about fresh pasta or when someone tells me how wonderful my orange marmalade is -because you are the reason I had to the courage to try making it. I think of you when I look at all the cool wooden boards my BIL made me – because they are similar to yours. I don’t feel comfortable bombarding you with tweets or messages – but just know even if I’m not letting you know – I am thinking of you – and you and the girls are in my heart.

  • kim/hormone-colored days

    Jenny, I’ve been bad about commenting here, though I do chime in on Facebook now and then, but I think about your family almost every day. Really. I’m sure there are many others who are doing the same, but we’re too uncertain/lazy/socially awkward/completely clueless to reach out.
    Also, some of us could use your mailing address (hint, hint).

  • CAKaren

    I was thinking of you last night since it had been a while since your last post. Last night I thought I should just post a “hugs” post but didn’t as blogs are a curious thing where a stranger becomes part of your life. . Kudos to the poster who did post and hugs and prayers from CA, thinking of you often.

  • ima

    Hi Jennie,
    I found your blog last September and have been tuning in whenever I can. I cried many times reading some of your posts. You write very well. I sometimes think of one of your posts during the day when I’m at work or doing some chore or household errand! I think that speaks volumes of your writing ability and how you can elicit such a range of emotions from your readers. Of course I am so sad to hear of your loss, but I am also amazed at your honesty and proud of you for how you are handling everything. I hope your core group of friends continue to be there for you. Like your other reader, I too send hugs, together with respect and admiration for you.

  • lynne

    Hugs to you. I to wrote desecased in the spot where his name is suppose too be. Now everything comes with my name and desecased. Really sucks.
    JP’s note: Oh crap Lynne, I didn’t even think of that.

  • Miranda

    If I am lucky enough to have my version of Mikey in my life, I promise to remember this and apply it.

  • Rebecca

    Hi Jennie,
    I know you don’t know me but I’ve been following your blog for awhile now and really enjoy reading your posts. I can’t imagine what you’re going through and I’m not going to pretend to, I just wanted to say that you give me courage to keep going and to be strong on days where nothing seems to go right. Ever since I began reading your blog, it’s really made me step back and examine my life in a way I never did before. Anytime I don’t appreciate what I’ve been given enough, I think of how brave you are each day and it encourages me to stop complaining and be like you. You should know that as your reader, I admire you and your ability to persevere through it all, so don’t ever feel like you don’t have anybody in your corner. I bet most of your readers will agree, we are all here for you and keep you and your family in our thoughts!

  • joyce m goodwin

    Hi Jennie, I have been wanting to write to you for a while, but just could not muster up the courage; what to say that might be meaningful, but the point is that you are meaningful in my life and I return to your blog again and again….it is your honesty that resonates with me and I sense that I am a part of your world and you a part of my world because we share that same honesty as I am sure so many others do to, but Jennie, you are willing to put it out there for all the world to see, and it is this willingness that inspires me. Thank you again and again. jmg

  • Jennifer

    Thanks for saying this! Sometimes it is hard to know what to do or say to someone going through a hard time. Wether it be a death or a life threading illness…. I think it makes us face our own mortality; and makes us fear we may offend or bother the person in there grief, I will now be more diligent at remembering to make sure people know they r in my thoughts!

  • Debbi Smirnoff

    I totally get it. Thank you for your post. You reach so many with your words and help so many you will never know. We each think we go through our pain alone, yet we all experience it. It is a comfort to hear I am not alone in my struggle.

  • Jeanne

    I read Sunny’s comment and thought, that’s me. I came to your blog soon after your loss and I’ve checked in on you almost daily ever since. When you don’t post for a while, I wonder what’s going on in your life and I pray that you have people close to you, really walking with you, holding you up when you need it and sharing warm, loving hugs.

  • Diane

    This post brought tears to me eyes …
    I had never thought of “my emergency contact ”
    being gone for ever( for you).
    Your so right anytime I have a problem or need any kind of help I know all I have to do is text or call or my husband and he will drop everything to come help me!
    We have been together since the age of 15 so 42 years now and back when we were dating his “song” to me was “Ain’t no Mountain High Enough In case you don’t know it, it’s about always being there for someone and nothing can stop you to get to me By Diana Ross.
    I have to say that I can not think of one time that he has not been there for me no matter what.
    I can so understand how things like that would be so hard to deal with daily..
    Even where at times a simple but powerful Hug can just make everything better so from me to you a stranger who found your blog through a “Peanut butter Pie For Mikey” I send you many “Hugs” to call upon when ever needed.

  • Beth

    You share your grief in such a raw,gut honest way. It should become a how-to manual for comforting the bereaved. I am sad for you and think of you & your dear girls so often. I am thankful you are brave enough to share this experience with strangers. I hope I can use your insight to help those in my own circle. Blessings & peace.

  • katie k

    jennie, i am a frequent visitor of your blog and like many of the other commenters, i, too, think of you and your girls often. please know i’m sending lots and lots of hugs, hope, and good thoughts your way.

  • Tins Cruz

    Hi Jennie,
    I just came across your blog because your peanut butter pie was on Pinterest and I decided to see where the image came from.
    That day when you had to fill out the blue card for your daughters’ school reminded me of when my dad died in September of 2009, 10 days after my birthday.
    I was always the one tasked to do the unthinkable because during my Dad’s wake, i always had this facade that I have to be strong for my family. I had to be the one to check whether the “cargo” was my Dad (because we had to fly out from another city), and I was also the one tasked to fill out the information for his cremation. I had a difficult time filling in the space after “Name of Deceased:”.
    It’s almost 3 years since he left, and I still sometimes, for a fraction of a second, get excited about the thought of visiting my mom and seeing my dad, and the feeling immediately gets shadowed by a hollowness in the pit of my stomach when I remember that he won’t be there.
    It’s always going to be difficult and painful, facing each day without the ones who matter; I can just imagine how much more difficult it is for my mom losing her life partner, as you have. Always keep in mind that they’re in a better place, where pain is nothing but a mere thought.
    Hugs all the way from The Philippines.

  • Tara

    As ever your post brings home just how lucky I am to have my emergency contact still by my side. I’m another stranger who’s happy to send you a hug through cyberspace whenever the need arises I just wish such acts could help to fill the gap he’s left behind but know that nothing will ever come close. You’re in my thoughts. x

  • Grace

    Jennie, with every post you remind me to be grateful for what I have.
    I know that after a loss, people are understanding at first and then don’t want to hear you talk about it. There are so many of us here who get it, though. We get that the pain doesn’t end when the flowers have withered and that the grief goes on long after the funeral is over. We are all hugging you, holding you in our internet strangers who care way.
    I wish you well, Jennie. I wish you healing and I wish you happiness, but most of all I wish you will continue to express yourself here, where so many people, even though we don’t really know you, care about your feelings.

  • Deborah

    Remember that you are always surrounded my hugs–real and virtual. Every time that you post I send hugs from the West Coast. You are held and embraced by many.

  • Shannon Caleval

    Thanks for the reminder. Melanie lost her husband Rob in November and you are so right that we tend to remember her on those tough days. I’m sending her an email now “just because” Thanks Jennie.

  • Kristen

    It is so strange that I’m reading this today as I just got off the phone with my sister in law last night and we were having a conversation about a college form she had to fill out for one of her kids. She’s still, acceptably, having a really hard time with my brother gone but that form yesterday really put her over the edge, back into the spiral of grief she has been desperately trying to climb out of.
    I never thought about how a simple form, where something so significant had changed, could be so powerful. There are so many hurdles for you and I’m sorry he’s not here to jump those with you.
    Hugs to you…

  • Sandie

    I’ve often wondered if it’ll get easier. I understand your first year without Mikey. The first Christmas, the first wedding anniversary, first anything that used to matter. I wish I could tell you that it gets easier. I can only say that you get used to it. That’s how I can explain it-how I’ve felt these almost 6 years. Some asked me the other day, how I was doing. I told the truth. I go day by day and just keep moving forward because there is no other choice. Mikey is with you but I know how much you want to talk to him and hear his voice answering back. To just hold his hand. Keep moving forward, day by day. You have a lot of people thinking about you and saying prayers for you and your girls.

  • Patty Jensen

    Jennie, I, too, don’t remember who pointed me to your log and your request to make your Creamy Peanut Butter Pie. All I do remember is that my heart broke for you and your sweet family. Your words seem to reach right out and touch my heart – both with sorrow and joy. You have a wonderful gift and I am so grateful that you are willing to share your life with us. Just last week I made your pie for my co-workers and shared your story with them. I think this is the fifth time I have made it to share with family or friends. And each time I think of you. Please know that when you need it hugs and prayers will be here for you whenever you need them.

  • STephanie

    Thank you, Jennie, for this important reminder. I hope you can feel the love EVERYday of all of the many people who have been touched by you and your story – even if we’re not telling you as often as we should.

  • debra/eatquestnyc

    you continue to inspire and hang it all if you don’t hit the right notes every single time. big death/loss anniversary this last week and i feel like you just sent me a card that changed my day. thank you. as everyone else has said – know that i’m doing the same for you somewhere out here.

  • Julie@sweetgumbakery

    Hi there Jennie,
    I have only recently started to read your blog and I have filled with tears many times at your posts. I can only imagine the ocean you have cried since your beloved husband passed.
    I just want to say your posts are beautiful and you are right, with grief friends can drift away but I’m pleased to read you have several people who are still checking in.
    For what its worth I’m sending a hug from Australia and my thoughts are with you and your girls.
    Julie x

  • Holly Barnwell

    This is the first time I am posting, although I have read your blog for awhile now. It saddens me to hear your pain and confusion in your posts. I am over 3 years out since the passing of my husband. Only people who have gone through a similar situation can truly understand or get it. All your feelings that you eloquently put into words express the many range of emotions that I believe all grieving widows/widowers experience and I often find myself just wanting to reach out and hug you during your difficult moments. You never truly get over or through losing your best friend, spouse, lover, confident, emergency contact ever! You just seem to learn to deal with living a different life. I total agree with you about holidays/special occasions. I remember telling and still telling everyone that yes, the holidays/special occasions definitely are hard because those are the days you should be sharing with the one you love, but I believe that every day is a challenge especially in the beginning and for me the morning is the worst. When I wake up each new day and am reminded again that I am alone. The first time I had to check widow for my marital status was a rough day. I am doing much better these days and have realized that I need to live my life as I know my Husband would want and for him. Be grateful for the friends/family that have stuck by you as they are your true friends. I have had support and love come from many that I would never had guessed and then disappointed by the ones I thought should. I wish you peace in the days ahead for you and your girls!! Thank you for your blog. I enjoy it! (((HUGS)))

  • CarMarH

    This reminds me of that time, two years after my dad died, that I had to apply for federal aid for grad school. There must have been some computer glitch, because it REQUIRED me to fill in my father’s name, address, profession, work address, and phone number even though I had just clicked on the option for “deceased.” As I was filling in the fake phone number, I thought to myself – man I wish there was actually a phone number to call him!