The Widow or Widower Next Door

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Set an Extra Plate



As you begin to make your holiday plans.....Look around you. Who do you know who may be alone? Not sure? Don't assume. ASK! Then..."Set an Extra Plate" at your holiday table.  All to often, widows, widowers, grievers and singles spend holidays completely alone.  You can help. Set an Extra Plate.


Alone in the World?


An old friend from long ago asked me today if I was alone in the world now?

I think the answer depends on how you look at it. It's true, my family consists of 3 folks well (well) into their 80's and a 1/2 cousin I consider more of a friend (a very good friend) than a cousin, and all of them live several states away.

It's true that some very long friendships didn't survive the strain of my loss. Those friends are a few years older, hadn't experienced profound loss yet themselves. Pat's death made them mortal. They preferred to go back to sticking their heads in the sand.

It's true that very few of the new neighbors we thought were budding friendships (many also older and without profound loss yet) rallied, and certainly don't "get it".

It's also very true.....that when those folks walked out, some fantastic people walked in. That includes some friends with whom I've reconnected, after decades. A few more precious friends who never left my virtual side. They know that, while I climb new mountains every day, I'm still a little fragile.

The friends that I claim now, are among the most compassionate, caring, loving crowd I could hope to have. I feel kind of like the kid who's told she was the "lucky one". Mom & Dad CHOSE're adopted!

I AM the lucky one! I am not alone in the world. The glass is 1/2 full. Smiles.


For more reflections and thoughts on the widowed path, read Mary Lee's first book:

The Widow or Widower Next Door


"Reading Gives Us Someplace to Go When We Have to Stay Where We Are." Marion Cooley


I don’t know about you, but in the immediate aftermath of the death of my husband, I found it very, very difficult to read. I just couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t focus.  This was new territory for me. I’ve always been a book lover, and more often than not, I used have 3, 4 or 5 books going at once.  I mean, I actually read a bit of each one every day. I get lost in books and come back refreshed.


So, when I couldn’t read, it was distressing for me. I started reaching for books on grief written by other widows. I consumed them, as though they were peanuts. One after another.  Each of them grounded me in some feeling that what I was experiencing was both real and normal.  Always a strong and independent woman, I felt neither strong nor independent any more.  Reading about the journey of other widows assured me that I was both normal and that I would learn to stand strong and independent again. It was just going to take a lot longer than I’d planned.


Still, after reading at tall stack of grief books, I found most of them wanting. They were sweet and soft and calming, but nobody talked about the anger I was confronting.  Angry at my loss, of course, but stunned and angry at the stupid and insensitive people around me were behaving and saying. People who should have known better.  And then there were the practical aspects that were left ignored.

Things like, how to find help getting to sleep. Was grief counseling of any use? How to cope with feeding myself in isolation? And I stumbled across something else.  I read quite a lot of books and many of them were in agreement, but wouldn’t make more sense? Wouldn’t the message have more credibility if it were brought to us by a group of widows and widowers?  I thought so!


I gathered a group of local widows and widowers and we set about writing our own book, our own stories.  Twenty five widows and widowers answered twenty five questions about our journey. We talked about how our families got weird, how neighbors shunned us, what to do with our rings and how strangers, miracle people, really, stepped in to fill the voids left by people we counted on that disappointed us. That book, my first book, is called The Widow or Widower Next Door and is available on, as well as on this site in the store at  It’s in both paperback and in Ebook version. It opens with my own story of saying my last goodbye to my own husband. The story of how he quite literally holds my heart in his hand.


The Widow or Widower Next Door: 25 Widows & Widowers Answer 25 Questions about Losing a Mate by [Robinson, Mary Lee]


Writing that book lead to meeting a wonderful woman who dazzles me daily with her energy. Lynda Cheldelin Fell is the person who organized the first ever, National Grief and Hope Conference in Indianapolis in the spring of 2015. Her energy sweeps up and gathers everyone in the room.

Lynda Cheldelin Fell asked me, after that meeting, if I would participate in an idea for a new book series, exploring all facets of grief. Like my little book, she wanted to bring together the perspectives of many voices, many grievers.  She called the series The Grief Diaries.  Of course, I said “count me in!”    And so it began.

As of this writing in fall of 2016, there are now 16 Grief Diariesbooks that have been published, and 11 more on the way.  Like I said, Lynda Cheldelin Fell is a whirlwind, and…moreover, some of the books have won awards!




The first one I was honored to participate in was Grief Diaries; Loss of a Spouse.

Additionally, available right here on this site in the store, along with several Grief Diaries titles, at


I’ve also been lucky to join in on the one about parent loss, helping newly bereaved and heavenly signs. Soon to begin is one on “widow shunning” and those anger provoking behaviors.


One of the nicest features of each of these books, besides the perspectives of multiple folks who have walked in shoes the same style and shape as yours, is that they are structured so that you can easily pick them up and put them down, jump around the chapters and digest them, and not lose the message. Sort of like “group therapy in a book”, as co-writer Carol Scibelli says.



If you are struggling to find your way, if you’re new at this or it’s been quite a few years, I encourage you to get yourself one or two of these. You’ll find solace, validation, comfort and understanding within the pages. You’ll find yourself….and begin to find your new self.





I Feel Like We're an Incomplete Sentence


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Eating Out While Widowed; Learn How to Enjoy Eating Out Alone


How to eat out alone in easy steps


The loss of a spouse has a unique way of beating down our spirits and robbing us of our self-confidence.  Suddenly, we are left to explore the world all by ourselves. One of the most ordinary of experiences becomes quite daunting.  Here are some tips to turn that activity from one you dread into something you look forward to, or at least in which you can find some pleasure.


·   Bring a book, a newspaper, an Ipad or read your smart phone. It gives you something to do while waiting for service. It also makes you look like a confident business traveler.
·   Walk in like you own the place….because you do! At least your greenbacks are paying for your table space and your meal. Head up, crown on! This is an exercise in “fake it ‘til you make it”.


·      Starting at the hostess station…refrain from using the word “just”, as in “just one”. It sounds apologetic. Why would you apologize? You are a paying customer who has done nothing wrong.
·   While it’s not likely you’ll get a booth if the restaurant is busy, don’t hesitate to make a reasonable request for the table you want. Tables near a window are good. You also have an advantage at a diner if it’s crowded. You can opt to sit at the counter and be seated right away, no waiting.
·  Remember that almost everyone is too interested in themselves and their own meal to pay much attention to you. When you feel like everyone is staring at you, thinking “that poor dear!”, they aren’t. They are centered on themselves, not you. Most of that is your own imagination.
·        Sit facing the door. For some reason, it makes you feel more secure.

·    Eating alone publically is a lot like whistling in the dark. If you pretend to be confident and self-assured, pretty soon you are.
·   Often, the staff can be friendly. Let them! Engage in pleasant small talk, without telling them your whole life story. Too much information is a bad idea from a security stand point, and it’s off-putting. At the same time, don’t beat yourself up too much if you do just that. Lord knows, I told anybody with a pulse my story in the first 3 months.
·     If you find a place you like, a place where you feel comfortable and enjoy the food, frequent it often. Not only will you grow to feel quite at ease there, but the staff will get to know you and some casual friendships will likely start.
·     Tip well!  It’s a sure fire way to having the staff take good care of you.  If your budget is tight, go to less expensive restaurants, but never skimp on a tip. That’s just stingy, and it won’t get you good service next time.



OK, now that you’ve survived this dining adventure, you know that you can, and moreover, you can do it again. Go make a list of all the spots you want to visit. If you can’t find anybody to join you? Go all by your own self…because you can!



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Cooking While Widowed; or Making It as Simple as Possible

   This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I never recommend products I have not used personally and that I am not proud to endorse.


You know how much I hate cooking now!  Cooking for one (lil’ old me) isn’t nearly as much fun as it was when I was cooking for an appreciative husband. Eating is required; elaborate cooking no longer is. I’ve dogged a search for the many ways to make this as uncomplicated as possible, and still stay reasonably healthy and tasty.  From Mason jar meals to slow cooker freezer meals, Nutribullet smoothies and single serving portions, I’m trying them all!!!


As a resident of hurricane territory, I have long used some ideas from the Preppers. I imagine those who live in rural areas do too. I wanted to borrow an idea from Preppers and experiment with dehydrated foods stored in jars. I think it's a very practical idea for those of us living alone.


I found a neat cookbook to get started with. Meals in a Jar; Quick and Easy, Just-Add-Water, Homemade Recipes looked promising. Find it here: #ad for about $16.





Next, I found a source for dehydrated foods at Harmony House via Amazon. Their sampler pack, available here at  #ad for about $65, offered a really broad selection of 15 vegetables, “meats” and bases for the money.  Small packages of the many dried foods they offer were just perfect to give me the variety I was seeking for this trial.  Each of the small packages will contribute to 3 to 4 meals.










Jars were going to be a key part of this project. I started off with run-of-the-mill 8oz. Mason jars and found they were too big for my purpose. I wanted single servings and the dried soup mixes I wanted to assemble for big soup mugs turned into more than a large bowl worth; enough for two meals. That was one meal too many. I settled on the 5 oz. pretty Mason jars I found at and while they are a little more expensive, I liked how pretty they are and the perfect size. 4 oz. was just a tad too small, these are just right, I thought. They also will get used over and over.




One of the easiest recipes was Chicken Rice Soup. I combined rice, chicken bouillon granules, dried celery, dried onion, dried carrot, “chickenish bits” (a dehydrated meat substitute from Harmony House), some thyme, part of a bay leaf and a couple twists of a pepper mill.  Since the bouillon is a little salty, I didn’t add any additional salt.  Honestly? I was plowing new ground here, making portions for one, so I eyeballed the proportions without a recipe.  It’s hard to screw this up, but go easy on the bouillon.






After about two afternoons of time to assemble, I now have about 48 meals at the cost of about $2.50 each, counting the cost of the jars. They will be stored on my garage pantry shelves and will last for 2 years or more.  I’m set for the winter (and probably longer) with meals I can just grab off the shelf, put in a mug, add water, microwave and consume.



The best part for me? Even better than the cost? I have no-hassle meals on hand that will keep me from going out for junk food or reaching for preservative laden convenience foods.  Eating cheap, healthy and easy? Works for me!!!  And I still have PLENTY of dehydrated foods left to do this again. See those pictured in the foreground of the final photo.


For more recipes, cookbooks and storage solutions to begin experimenting with meals-in-a-jar, follow my Pinterest board at  If you have some ideas of your own, please share them with us on the board!  Find me, also, on Facebook at



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Mary Lee Robinson, Author of The Widow or Widower Next Door, Grief Diaries: Loss of a Spouse, Grief Diaries: How to Help the Newly Bereaved (all available on this site in the store),  and Certified Grief Coach







Reaching Back and Reaching Up

Reaching Back and Reaching Up



Who here hasn’t rudely awakened to the reality that our friends and family just aren’t going to be as loving and supportive as we expected? If you are one of the lucky few whose folks circled the wagons when you lost your spouse, well “bully for you” and know that is rare. Feel free to skip this blog entry.


For the rest of us (and we all recognize each other, don’t we?), our comfort has come from a variety of other sources. Church helps many of us, others not so much. Reading was a big help to me. Facebook and grief support groups can be a refuge.

More than anything else, though, the most help, solace and comfort for me came in the shape of people who had walked this path before me. Other people who had known a devastating loss, whether a spouse, a child…or someone very, very important to them. These folks listened endlessly, because they understood that healing comes in the talking it out.


They were not daunted by my infrequent tears, when those got away from me. They knew and understood, that tears were also healing. These veteran grievers opened their hearts and their ears, even knowing that to do so would take them back down some of their own dark rabbit holes again. To console a griever does not come without cost to the consoler.


They checked in on me frequently, knowing how fragile I was. They cheered and applauded my successes, as I took my tentative steps to climb out of my own dark rabbit holes. I cannot write this blog without giving a special nod to my cousin, Shelley, who has survived the loss of not only her spouse, but an adult child. She’s still standing, and has one of the most realistically positive attitudes about life I’ve ever encountered. She’s and incredible blessing in my life and a real inspiration.


I am grateful, beyond my ability to express, to each of those dear friends who reached back to pull me along. To those of you with fresh losses, I encourage you to reach up…to those who have walked a similar path. They will be your beacon of light and hope.


To those of you who are beginning to feel better; to see life in Kodachrome color again, don’t forget to reach back yourselves. Like the “pay it forward” concept, it’s essential to pay your bill by “paying it back” to others yourself.  It will cost you. It will bring back feelings and memories, no doubt. But it’s the right thing to do.


If you need some refresher material, or you want to be of help but haven't had an intimate loss yourself, you'll find some splendid ideas in the Grief Diaries book, sold here, entitled "How to Help the Newly Bereaved", written by top notch experts, grievers themselves. See details here:


And more than being the right thing to do? It’s the next healing step in your own grief journey. While in the depth of those soul discussions, you can’t help being a little anguished, that’s true.  It’s every bit as true that once you’ve walked through the storm again, holding someone else’s hand, you will feel a deep sense of reward. You’ll feel as though you’ve made a positive difference, perhaps for the first time in a long time, in someone else’s life. You’ll feel that way….because you have.


Don’t shirk the chance to reach back. It will be more satisfying than you can imagine.


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Eating While Widowed....or How to Stop Eating Canned Soup and Fast Food Without a Lot of Fuss

There were so very many things I didn’t know would change when my husband died. That’s the understatement of the century, isn’t it?


One of the gazillion things was the way my eating habits changed. In the very first weeks, I found it hard to eat at all.  My husband died suddenly and the shock rendered me nauseated for about a month. I forced myself to eat chicken broth with pasta in it. That’s pretty much what I lived on in those early days.




From there, I graduated to fast food. I tried to choose salads and grilled chicken, but it still wasn’t very healthy.  I then stepped up to eating out alone in restaurants. Not fun, but at least I’ve traveled for work enough that it wasn’t foreign. And the pounds crept on…


I struggled with that for over two years. A long time, I know, but I was busy grieving.  I used to really like to cook, but it just isn’t as fun with nobody to share it with, nobody to appreciate it the way my hubby did.


About a year ago, I began making nutritious smoothies for breakfast. Barbara Morris, R.Ph, guest poster here and editor of Put Old on Hold magazine,  ,turned me onto Nutribullet blenders.  I ran out and bought one, the nicest one with a heating element, like this one, available here: (affiliate link). It runs about $160, and I think mine is worth every penny.

Progress!  Now I was at least getting one healthy meal a day, sometimes two, as I made hot blended soups for lunch. I use fresh organic fruits and vegetables and milk or soy milk. I can find many of those in the freezer section, too. And the best part was, as Barbara Morris promised, clean up was a snap. Just one container, not lots of pots, pans and dishes.  Buying my Nutribullet Rx was a very good move. It gets used most every day, for healthy meals that are quick, no fuss, and good for on-the-go!




As much as I like my smoothies, and I like them a lot, I still yearned for something more?....well? Plate-able.  I wanted something that felt like a real traditional meal…on a plate. I wanted a way to do that and still have it be no fuss, no muss, few pans, no hassle EASY !!!


What would answer that need?  I knew a crockpot would do the trick, but the ones I have are all too big!  I looked high and low, all over the area in bricks and mortar stores for a small crockpot. A crockpot just for one, not an army.  All of the small crockpots I found in the stores were for keeping dips warm, not really designed for meal cooking, as they had no temperature controls.


Not one to leave any stone unturned, I was determined to find one. Eurecka!  I finally found this one online:


Available here (affiliate link), for under $20.00, it comes in about four different colors, has three temperature settings and a removable stone crock that goes in the dishwasher. Pretty neat, I think!  This too, gets used a lot.  I bought the blue one, and I love it.


I spent some time making up freezer crockpot meals, a few weeks back, and now I have about 2 months’ worth of dinners that are grab, dump and go.  All I have to do is dump the contents of my vacuum sealed freezer bags into the crock, turn it on, and a few hours later? I have decent, nutritious, portion controlled meals that aren’t much trouble and I actually want to eat. And I still only have one pot to clean.


I’ll be posting again soon, about some of the meals I put up in the freezer, but in the meantime, you can find lots of recipes and cookbooks for cooking for one, slow cooker or otherwise, on my Pinterest board:    


Check it out and, if you like the ideas you see there, follow my board. Be sure to look for the other Mary Lee Robinson Pinterest boards, as well, chock full of ideas for walking the widowed path and joining the Widowlution! Better yet, follow and pin some recipes of your own. It's a group board, and contributions are welcome.


Until next time, big hugs!




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Walking the Widowed Path…Join the Widowlution!


There are so many adjustments that must be made when we lose a spouse. Beyond the mere absence of someone we love, the way we do so many things will change too. Everything from how we travel now, how we prepare meals, the way we think about our home security, even how we approach defining ourselves in our appearance.


I’ve tackled a bunch of projects to help widows and widowers find their way, based on my own widowhood experience and my training as a Certified Grief Coach.  I’ve created this video to tell you a little more about them, and where you can find them.   Watch it here:



In summary, I have ideas, quotes, and posts on:


Pinterest – In the search bar, enter “Mary Lee Robinson” to get all my pins on the widowed path. You can opt to “Follow” me there.


Facebook -  “Like” the page to get the posts  

in your feed.


Daily Blog –Go to the Blog Page on my website at . Near the top of the page, see “Join the Blog!”to sign up for emails delivered straight to your inbox each time a new blog post is published. Don’t miss a single one.



I would love to talk to you at each of these outlets, and hear some of your thoughts and ideas and coping strategies. “Follow”, “Like” and “Join” and let’s get the conversations going!  See you there!


When Two Become One...



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