There are a few moments that I remember very clearly in the first few weeks after Howie died.
One instance I remember was my first trip to Shop Rite. I had been dreading going to the store that day. I hated running into anyone back then. It always felt like people were staring at me like I was some kind of circus freak. But we had to eat – so I had to go.
The first half of the store went fine. I was concentrating on what I was doing and I luckily hadn’t run into anyone that knew me. When I got to the cookie aisle I saw the Stouffer’s cookies that Howie had loved.
That was when I got a pit in my stomach, a lump in my throat and felt tears in my eyes.
As I walked down the rest of the aisles I noticed so many other things like that – food that Howie liked that I didn’t have to buy anymore.
The realization of that made me so sad. I wanted to abandon my cart and run out of there but I knew I would eventually have to go back, so I tried to quickly make my way through the store acting as normal as possible.
My acting job must not have been going so well. Suddenly, someone was calling my name while I was in the frozen food aisle. When I turned my head, I saw a woman standing there that I didn’t recognize. When she introduced herself, it turned out that she was someone who had recently reached out to me by email. She had been in my position ten years earlier when her husband had died in 9/11.
She said that she had seen me walking and was pretty sure she recognized me and that I looked upset.
“It will get better with time,” she said. “I’ve been there.”
I was a little embarrassed at being seen in the state I was in. I was also a little thankful and amazed that someone was standing there that knew why I was in that state and understood.
Fast forward to this past Sunday. It was the five year anniversary of the day Howie died. I’m not sure how we were “supposed to” spend it. I think it is easiest for all three of us to acknowledge the day with each other but try to make it as normal a day as possible. So that was what we did.
Texts, phone calls, messages from friends and family were coming through my phone. Even some old friends that I haven’t spoken to in so long had remembered. It does help to have the day recognized by so many.
The girls seemed ok. They had only been complaining about something totally unrelated. They believed there was “no food in the house”. It was a rainy Sunday so I figured I would go to Shop Rite.
It was so crowded, which was to be expected on a rainy Sunday. Plus, Amanda had given me a huge list of things that she desperately needed so it was taking me quite a long time to get through the store. One of the items she requested was Campbell’s chicken noodle soup.
I was standing in the soup aisle listening to a very sad Celine Dion song which was playing in the store. Then I noticed a certain can of soup that Howie loved.
It had been years since I had gotten that feeling in Shop Rite. But there it was, back again just like years before. A pit in my stomach and just sadness.
But this time I was able to take a breath and compose myself a lot faster and easier. I continued through the store but kept thinking about why this had happened today, after a million trips through Shop Rite over the past few years. Probably because of the day it was.
I decided to do a little something to celebrate Howie without making a huge deal about it. I obviously happened to be in Shop Rite so I thought about making something that Howie loved for dinner for Amanda and I (Lily does not usually eat what we eat – her choice of dinner is typically chicken fingers – which hasn’t changed at all since Howie died which he would think was funny!). I bought all of the stuff to make lasagna (I happen to make a pretty good lasagna for a Jewish girl) and baked apples for dessert. I came home and told the girls my and they thought it was a good idea – even Lily who wasn’t going to eat it.
So that is what we did – ate lasagna and baked apples and tried to put a bit of a positive spin on such a negative day.
What happened that day and that same pit in my stomach made me remember the girl who stopped me in Shop Rite all those years ago. We actually still communicate sometimes and even had lunch once a while back.
I remember her telling me that it gets better although you don’t forget. She was right. She was one of the people who understood how I felt and helped a little. I am hoping that I am paying it forward and am able to do the same for someone else who may be walking around right now with that pit in their stomach.
Stacy was a stay-at-home mom/part-time preschool teacher whose life was turned upside down in 2011 when her husband passed away suddenly of a heart attack. She is raising her two fabulous daughters, now ages 18 and 20, who are turning into wonderful young women. In 2016, she started a blog about her experience as a young widow, The Widow Wears Pink. This led her to write for other publications including Huffington Post, Today.com, Scary Mommy, Grown & Flown, Kveller, Modern Loss, Thought Catalog, and many more. In 2018 she started Living the Second Act with fellow writer Mimi Golub. Today, Stacy and her daughters are happily living their “new normal” while always keeping her husband’s spirit alive.