By Diane Kenney


What the hell.  I never planned to reinvent myself.  In fact, I don’t know what that means. Actually it’s a false premise to say anybody has to reinvent his or herself.

However, when your lifelong partner has to die and leave you behind, you have to make some changes; Invent new ways of doing old things.

This means allowing or encouraging or coaxing myself to change, even if I don’t feel like it and I mostly don’t feel like it. Friends have asked me how this is all working, am I okay? I don’t know for sure.

First of all, I don’t know exactly what I’m doing, what the plan is… or exactly what my “life purpose” is now. Also, I absolutely do not know what anyone else should do in a similar circumstance.  I look around me and I see the heroism of so many ordinary people, especially women, after suffering great loss. They get out of bed in the morning, for starters. They inspire me. I see them now in a way that I didn’t before.  I keenly recognize that everybody is missing somebody, even though everyone looks pretty normal in the grocery store.

Time, grief and loss all seem quite mysterious to me now.

So where does the reinvention happen?  It starts inside, but cannot stop there. I am no longer the person with a beautiful man steadily by my side. I miss him every minute and spend a lot of time alone.  Re-runs of Antiques Roadshow are not so bad at all… I go to art events in town and meet up with friends and usually feel so happy that I did, but, admittedly, it is often hard to make myself leave home.

I have to change my pronouns, from plural to singular-at least when speaking about the present or future. I am not reinventing language, just changing my pronouns; however, I do have to reinvent a lot in my life, as a single person. “How strange the change, from major to minor…” as the love song goes.

The challenge is to change and transform grief into gratitude, or at least recognize that they are joined together, my new housemates. My heart needs to catch up with my head on this issue.

From the sublime to the mundane, some things I have to reinvent are: How to get the trash out, how to stay on top of snow shoveling, how to shop and cook for one person (also, why should I bother), how to spend holidays, how to never have to back the car all the way down the driveway, how to carry heavy stuff, how to be in public alone. Who is my emergency contact when I have to fill out a medical form? How to ask for help without being needy or acting helpless.

Reinvention is too inflated a term for this ongoing transformative process. I made a decision to try to experience this new chapter of my life, as an observant student. I am trying to take note of the fullness of the experience. I am asking myself to pay attention like never before to this drastic life change. I am asking, “What is this like?” And this is where I have to say, I know that I am SO not alone in this kind of loss. I am not special. I am simply (suddenly it seems) an older woman whose husband passed away.

The part of this that has to do with reinvention, perhaps, is that this experience is fertile ground for other words that start with “RE”, like resilience, rejuvenation, rebirth, recollection, rethinking, remembrance and reinvigoration.  I am hoping for some reinvention in my own work as an artist. I also want to humbly practice compassion for others going through a similar process. I do not have answers, but I can share the journey.

“What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for one another?” -George Eliot


Diane Kenney is a long time Crystal Valley resident. She is an artist, teacher, active Carbondale community member and founder of the Carbondale Clay Center. She is currently trying to reconfigure her life after the death of her husband, John McCormick.

9 thoughts on “Re-invention

  • January 17, 2020 at 10:10 pm

    Diane…….” I do not have answers, but I can share the journey.” Warm wonderful words………..Love.

  • January 19, 2020 at 3:08 pm

    Diane… “How to ask for help without being needy or acting helpless.” To me, there is no such thing as being needy when asking for help. Feeling helpless is also okay. We all feel helpless at times. Extend the kindness you give to others – and that you gave to John – to yourself.

  • January 20, 2020 at 8:34 am

    A nice piece on your journey since John’s death. Well written, sincere, and accurate. So good to see you know your goals. Thank you for articulating your emotions and experience. Savor the good memories of John, one fine man.

    Peace and love sister.


  • January 20, 2020 at 10:46 am

    The George Eliot quote is perfect. You are using your wise voice. I knew you could.

  • January 20, 2020 at 10:50 am

    Thank you, Diane

  • January 20, 2020 at 1:07 pm

    Thank you for finding words about your ongoing journey. I often think about those challenges, both emotional and physical, even though I still have my partner with me. Like many things in life, there is not a way to be prepared, nor are there words to really describe this experience in life. You have found words of truth to share with us.

  • January 20, 2020 at 2:59 pm

    I remember the first time I met you, Diane (1985). You were at your wheel, throwing something. Your studio was filled with works in progress and it breathed gestation. You were conversating and creating at the same time with such clever hands and a calm voice. The radio was playing CPR, which I learned about from you. I had not yet met John, but I remember thinking how solid you were, how at ease in a creative universe. I wanted the same surety in my life. It must be that people close to their creative spark somehow have the resources to access ways to navigate life’s challenges. When I met John, and saw you two together, your creative potential was indeed magnified, but differently as his complemented yours. Your strong voice and clear intention have always inspired me. Even in grief you glow. I wish you joy in your “re-s” Sending you love.

  • January 21, 2020 at 9:33 am

    So well written Diane!
    Although they are different, most of these feelings are the same with unexpected divorce…the unknown…the disruption… the eating alone…the pronouns…the explanations…the uncoupled-ness of social life.

    With unexpected divorce, add in deep shame, confusion, guilt, unrequited love, relationship insecurity and the torturous yearning to repair what is irretrievably broken.

    So many ways we experience loss and so many ways to stand up, join our sisters (and brothers) to look loss straight in the eye and find a way to live fully, to live with purpose, friendships, solitude, and love. Oh what a beautiful, complicated mystery this life as a human being can be!

  • January 21, 2020 at 12:16 pm

    Thank you for writing this, Diane.
    It resonates so deeply with me, having just lost my husband of over 40 years.
    You’ve put into words thoughts that I’ve had, but hadn’t been able to express.


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