How did I become a widow? It started in the basement. One night my husband fell asleep in his recliner watching TV in his man cave and sometime soon after he and his Dewar’s bottles took up residence downstairs. He was a high functioning alcoholic – which is a clinical-sounding way of saying no one knew he drank scotch before breakfast. He was living the life of a happily married university professor by day and a passed-out drunk at night. A close circle of friends and family were helping me help him. His doctor and therapist never said anything about Robert being deathly ill. Never. Then suddenly he spiraled a few months after his 50th birthday and was given the diagnosis of having two weeks to live. All the frustration and anger of living with an alcoholic was suddenly transformed into devastating heartbreak. Nineteen days later, Robert was dead. My story doesn’t end there; my new life began.

paulaMY BOOK

My memoir – Last Call: Surviving an Alcoholic – explores life with an alcoholic, widowhood and second chances. It traces my transformation from trusting wife to prohibition officer, how our happily-ever-after days got hijacked at the bar, eventually revealing the ugly underbelly of our often admired marriage. If my life was a passport, I saw the pages stamped: “Married to an Alcoholic,” “Survived an Alcoholic.” Turn the page, where would I go next?

Last Call speaks volumes about life unexpected, love, loss, romance, dating and second chances. From shopping for a coffin at Walker Funeral Home to buying better bras at Victoria’s Secret. Negotiating with the stonework supervisor at the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn to allow a Wizard of Oz reference on my husband’s headstone to writing my Match.com profile. (Dating is a lot more fun than dealing with a dead spouse, though not without its glitches and middle-age angst.) Unlike Carole Radziwill, widow author of the beautifully-written What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship and Love, I didn’t pick up the prefix Princess when I married and I don’t have a Kennedy connection – I’m like you. And as you turn the pages of my memoir and read my blog posts, you will be nodding your head in agreement, finding peace and comfort in the camaraderie of grief and survival, crying ugly and laughing uncontrollably. Don’t miss the publication date of my book; click here to keep informed.


As Joyce Carol Oates wrote after losing her husband, “for all who are grieving, there is no way to survive except through others.” Here at Widow 2.0, you’ll find sisterhood in widowhood – noteworthy sites, books to read, movies that move us, blog posts and comments from other widows, information to share – but mostly a community that understands what it is to be a widow. The Year of Firsts. Silent phones and quiet homes. Half beds. Long nights. Empty seats. Fresh tears erupting with new condolences. Life unraveling like a video rewinding. Feeling guilty? Feeling angry? Feeling alone? Bring a cup of coffee to your keyboard in the morning or settle down at the end of the day with a glass of wine. Whether you share or read, keep connected. Eventually we stop surviving and start living.


My name is Paula Ganzi Licata and I was widowed in 2009. I am an award-winning reporter and essayist, a member of the American Society of Journalists & Authors, and hold an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Hofstra University.  I’ve contributed to Newsday and The New York Times for years, and was a featured columnist in the Times’ Modern Love column with an essay about designing my late husband’s headstone. As a writer I’m a professional observer and found myself documenting the transformation of my life – at first the discovery that I was living with an alcoholic, then the wicked spiral of Robert’s devastating 19-day hospital stay, and finally navigating my way through widowhood. A feature article in Newsday (“When We Becomes Me”) chronicles the change from wife to widow. In an essay in The New York Times (“When I Was Left to Speak for Both of Us”), I’m romancing the stone, doing everything I can to perfect Robert’s gravestone. And an essay in Newsday (“Life-At-A-Glance”) takes a glimpse at our life through my day planners of the past decade. I live on Long Island and am very much in love with the man I met two years after becoming a widow. Life does get better.Billy_1_018

15 thoughts on “ABOUT

  1. Your article in the NY Times was the only lifeline for me after my husband died at age 47 from alcohol and drug abuse. It took me a year after that to speak publicly about the “real” reason for his death, and your words were the primary motivation for me to be honest with my world. While I received support and encouragement from those who barely knew me, his family reacted with rage. They have struck me and my children off the definition of family and insist that I’m disparaging my husband and causing them great pain.

    Our 20 years together seems to be nothing to their distant and cold relationship with him over the years, and they feel entirely justified in telling me that I don’t deserve to call myself a widow since we weren’t together at the end. (I was forced to get restraining orders and file for divorce to protect my kids and my finances.)

    I would like to know if you experienced any backlash for being frank and open about someone who “is not here to defend himself” (their words). How do you deal with those who just want you to be quiet, suffer in silence, and whitewash the grave?

    Many thanks, for everything!

    • Karen, I can’t offer any advice, but I can tell you that I had the same experience of being attacked by my husband’s family after his death — to a degree that really beggared belief. I’ve since learned that this is very, very common in the death of an alcoholic, so you are not alone here. In my case, their behavior was disturbing enough that I cut all contact as quickly as possible. I sometimes wonder if their behavior was indicative of the dysfunctional environment in which my husband was raised.

  2. Here I am, right after Christmas and the wee hours of new year eve morning (3am CST) and I found your article on the NY Times. I found it because I am preparing myself to be the widow of an alcoholic at 36 years old. My husband isn’t even dead yet, but it’s ticking. He is 35 years old, has cirrhosis of the liver, and suffered an esophageal varices in June. That was over a week in the ICU. 2 years ago he had his first episode of pancreatitis. So as you can see, I am soon to join this club I don’t want to be in. I really don’t even have the wits to form questions but if anyone has any advice or a way that I can save him please tell me. I’m scared, I don’t know what to do. He is aware that he is dying and still drinks. He refuses treatment. We have young children. I don’t know anybody who has been through this. I don’t have anyone that I can talk to about this that can relate. This is something that I can’t even speak about because of the shame and embarrassment that I feel. The judgements.

    • I’m so sorry for what you’re going through and have emailed you directly with a more detailed response that I hope will be helpful. The shame and embarrassment can be crippling, but please try to understand that you have nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Your husband’s choice to drink – abusively drink – is HIS choice. Your story sounds all too familiar. You feel like you’re caught up in a vicious cycle, you’re helpless to stop the downward spiral and can only watch your husband destroy himself. But the only person who can stop the spiral is your husband. It took me a long time to truly understand and accept that HIS drinking had NOTHING to do with ME. Please believe this. It will help you heal and help your children. It sounds as though you’ve done all you can to help him. Perhaps reach out to someone else in his life – such as a parent, close friend, sibling – who might be able to persuade him to seek treatment. But if your husband refuses help, there’s nothing more you can do. Focus on YOUR well-being and that of your children. Try an Al-Anon meeting. If you can’t get to an Al-Anon meeting or any other in-person outreach program, there are online forums. If you don’t want to confide in friends and family – though that’s generally an excellent idea – seek professional help by asking your physician for his suggestions, perhaps for a therapist for you to help you through this difficult time. There’s no such thing as too much help.

    • Elaine,
      Are you still here? Is your husband? I am writing because I lost my husband to alcoholism in November, and since then have learned things I wish I knew before it was too late. There is a drug that is commonly prescribed in (I believe) the Netherlands that is available in the US, but less widely used. It works on brain pathways and takes effect quickly. The article I read about it (in The Guardian?) was very encouraging. It’s too late for me, but it might not be to late for you. Believe me, you do not want to join this club. My heart is broken into pieces, and I am crying as I type this. I am sorry that I did not retain more specific information, but it was a very painful read which filled my head with a thousand “if onlys.” If you read this message and are not able to track it down, please reply here and I will find it again.

  3. I read your NYTimes piece and so much of it rang true for me that I had to visit this site. My husband died at age 57 in April 2013, 16 months after being diagnosed with cirrhosis. It feels harder now than it did right after it happened, when I was just trying to put one foot in front of the other. Now that time has passed and the reality that he is gone has set in, I find myself so so sad and angry that a good, smart man basically killed himself with alcohol. There is also guilt but I didn’t want to be his mother and I didn’t want to fight–I just wanted peace.

  4. I am not a widow “yet”, but a big part of my story deals with the slow suicide of alcoholism.
    I’m networking for the inevitable!

  5. I was moved by your piece in today’s TIMES. It was honest, heartfelt and compelling. I understand the emotions. I am the adult daughter of a man who committed suicide 26 years ago, and @ times I still struggle with the shame and inclination towards dishonesty as an easier route than disclosure.

  6. I read your piece in the NY Times, and it strongly resonated with my experience, especially the notion of alcoholism as a “slow suicide”. It is a tough decision–staying with your partner as they sink to bottom or walking away knowing the inevitable. Thank you for sharing your story. I look forward to reading your memoir.

  7. I just read you article on the New York Times website, Thank you. I can not relate to being a widow but a daughter. My family has been hit HARD with an unbelievable tragedy. Our dad is still alive but lost a limb in the accident. AGAIN, I say THANK YOU!!!!

  8. From one fellow widow to another, thanks for doing this! A wonderful site, a great new voice, & a welcome place to share our stories. Speaking of fellows, will there be a page here for widowers to chime in?

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