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I Swear, It’ll Never Happen Again

We all do it– make the same mistake, twice, if not over and over again. The thing is, we know we’re doing whatever it is,  but we somehow can’t help ourselves from inserting a happy ending fantasy by giving it one last try. And another. And then even another. Sometimes you can go on like this for years, ignoring reality.

In one of my cases, at least I know the fantasy that my husband was really and truly not dead was simply an initial coping mechanism.


It even says it right here in the “Seven Stages of Grief.” It’s number one on the list, in fact:


You will probably react to learning of the loss with numbed disbelief. You may deny the reality of the loss at some level, in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This stage may last for weeks.

And it actually did. I kept Mark’s shoes by the front door, exactly where he’d left them, in hopes he’d walk back into our lives. I also slept in his underwear, which is truly weird. (As far as I can tell, there’s no stage for that.)

Still, Albert Einstein said it best.

Imagine if he were on Tinder?

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

We do it with our kids.

“How many times have I told you– HANG UP YOUR CLOTHES!”

Sus room

The closet is only one foot from the pile. It even has hangars in it! What’s a hangar, Mom?

We do it with our pets:

“Come. Mesa come. Come here, Mesa. Mesa, come. Here Mesa, Mesa, Mesa!”


I guess this is called taking the dog by the horns!


We do it with our relationships:

“I will never go out with him/her again. I mean it this time. I don’t care how many times he/she calls me. After last night, it’s over!”


Thank God for girlfriends. Good, solid girlfriends. The ones who know you inside out and can tell exactly what you’re thinking without having to say a single word– the ones who can make you laugh hard and out loud.


I love this photo of Ann and me. It captures our 26 year friendship perfectly! Oddly enough, we met at a funeral.

Those are the ones who you go to lunch with on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, sipping seltzer and chowing on fried oysters sandwiches when you should really be pulling weeds or painting the hallway. When a friend is in need, you go.

After about an hour of listening to her (not Ann) drone on and on about the same relationship she’s had problems with for years, I wanted to jump off the deck at Bar Taco straight into the Sound. But we’ve all been there, stuck in a rut. And so I listened.

“Why don’t we think more positively instead of ruining this beautiful day by bringing him to lunch with us?” I said, joking that we should have gotten a table for three. I handed her a paper placemat, instructing her to write down all the things she never wants to do again. I was hoping she’d say get a new life by breaking up with Derwood (that’s what I call him), but she didn’t. Everyone understands.

I’ve tried really hard not to grieve all over my friends as well. A breakdown here or there, sure. We all have them. Otherwise, that’s what Amy the psychologist was for.  Also bereavement group helped A LOT. Just when I got it together, I did need a boost and I thank my friend Lisa for helping me through a relationship that I overreacted to by resurrecting the grief I felt over losing Mark.

“It has nothing to do with him,” she told me one miserable day. “It has to do with YOU second guessing what you know to be true and right.”

Through that experience, I learned to trust my judgment again. Either it works or it doesn’t. Don’t insert a fantasy.

As my late husband always used to say, “It is what it is.”

Soon, we actually asked people from other tables to join us in creating a top 10 list of things we never wanted to do ever again.

It started out funny:

  • Buy another Subaru– the next car will be sexy and sporty! (That’s mine.)
  • Pay retail for Christmas ornaments.
  • Use a sunlamp or a 70’s foil reflector for tanning.
  • Do the Ice Bucket challenge.
  • Eat an oyster without smelling it first.

Then people got more serious:

  • Make excuses to myself for myself and for others.
  • Avoid real relationships for fear of getting hurt or choose someone less able than you as a shield to true intimacy.
  • Compromise your standards in order to stay in a relationship. (This one was mine.)

Soon, our table grew to include the 25-year-old waiter,, two women who work in PR and their boyfriends. Actually one was with her ex-husband with whom she now enjoys a platonic friendship after being widowed just one year ago.

They said their list would include only one thing.

Ready for this?

They both said they would never be a couple again, and wished they hadn’t dragged each other through the dirt in the first place when they knew they were not romantically right for each other.

Amen Einstein!


  1. Barbara says:

    Does it work? If you write it down on a paper placemat is it more likely to stick? I’m heading to Costco to pick up one of those packs of 1000 paper placemats. There’s a few things I should write down twice.

  2. Mel Goldstein says:

    Laura, I don’t know what to say. This philosophical stuff is too much for me, ’cause I don’t have any good answers. Keep on moving forward though.

  3. Trudy Byrnes Vilches says:

    Laura, I think this is great so on point. I met you at St John’s church in Getty Square when you where in Chuck’s office. I liked our short conversation and have been following you ever since. You are a very powerful lady yet very tender and loving. I have liked you ever since and am following you every step of the way. I know Mark meant so much to you and was a great man. Never knew him until after his funeral at St. John’s. God Bless you and the girls.

  4. Kate Flanagan says:

    Deep thoughts…. Nice article! I can totally see you and I having everyone in the restaurant outing something on that paper and not letting em out until they do… He and thanks for posting the break up lines geeze… When the majority apply guess what time it is ….
    Nice article!

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