Friday, March 9, 2012

Through the Looking Glass

(Click for source.)
I’ve now made it through her birthday, both our anniversaries, the 3rd Christmas, 3rd Thanksgiving and 3rd Halloween. And I’m coming up on the 3rd anniversary of my sweet wife’s Angel Day. I feel like these are wins in some ways… and losses for us both. But what stands out the most is that I have a new perspective that I’ve begun to recognize. The perspective is neither good nor bad but that familiar widower guilt is stubbornly attached.

I see, or rather, feel two worlds now. The first world is made up of ‘us’ and extends backward for 10 years back to when we met. The new world is mostly ‘me’ and goes back not very far, actually, maybe only six months. (Oddly, I don’t really know what exists in the in-between years. I call those the “dark days.” All several years of them.)

When I think about the first world, the ‘us’ world, it’s like looking into a fogged mirror. Actually, it’s as if I were standing above a deep, still lake looking into the water watching my former life play out underneath. It’s sort-of clear but the visions are warped. While many moments are clear, other (poignant) moments are dream-like, especially the last weeks with my sweet wife.

When I reflect on the new world, the ‘me’ world, I’m struck by how emotionally dry and uneventful it is. The new world has less taste, less color, less smell, and less everything than the old world, yet it’s more familiar to me now. It’s like the “awesome” has dialed down. Maybe the awesome was never actually there and life now is the way life should have always been. Maybe I was just imagining things.

The best I can describe the sensation is that of just exiting an amazing sci-fi movie and re-entering the world of the real. Where there were flying cars, now are just cars. Where there were fantastic creature of wonder and mystery, now there are just cashiers and pizza delivery folks. Dramatic orchestral soundtracks are replaced by wind and road noise. And deep, emotional climaxes have been replaced with simple tasks like paying electricity bills and taking out the garbage.

The two worlds exist in different planes of reality and it’s hard to get my head to accept that one of the starring roles in the last world is the same two-bit actor in the world of the ‘now.’ And when I do get it, I feel guilty. (Ah, yes, that widower guilt - guilt for being happy, for living life, for NOT being sad or for NOT being completely and utterly obsessed with the old world.)

But because I can see two worlds that can only mean one thing – that I’ve begun to rebuild my life as a new person beyond my grief. I’m definitely re-engaging in life and creating a new world for me. Good lord, it’s about time. It’s been almost three years. Good grief. Part of me feels like a complete failure that it’s taken me this long. Another part of me feels terrible for even seeing two distinct worlds. And another part of me just wonders when all this will be over. A big part of me sees what the old world looked like and wonders how the hell I ever made it through all of that with any sanity left.

Geez. I wonder what today will look like through the looking glass next year.


  1. Wow! you described exactly what I feel. Amazing, thank you.

  2. Chris,
    I like your description of the two worlds where you're in the starring role in each, aptly describes my life. I look back at that other person and can't imagine that carefree life anymore. I'd much rather still be there, oblivious to this other "after" world I'm in. But that is not to be, I don't have a choice.

    I, too, cannot believe the amount of time it's taken to get this far, I'm at just over 2 years, and I have so much farther to go. Seems like it is a never ending traffic circle, I just keep going around and around, and can't find my way out of it.

    I want this trip to end, but I realize it is my reality. My only consolation is that I am not alone in my journey, even though I'd rather not have anyone else experiencing a life gone awry like this. You are a gifted writer, thanks for putting this into words.

  3. Almost exactly the same time I lost my Rick, March 16, 2009, so I know exactly your feelings. Well written. Thank you

  4. Chris, love your description. According to the above I'm now in the dark period. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Great post. So true, exactly how I feel too. I lost my Mike 2 1/2 yrs ago, and feel the same. I feel my journey is in baby steps. One thing I was told and learned was the deeper you loved and the longer you loved, the harder and longer it will take to move thru the grief. That helps me, because I loved my husband with all my heart and soul for 30 years my whole adult life, I don't expect to be OK with just "me" now in just 2 doesn't make sense. So it's one day at a time one small step at a time, and many times I stumble and that's OK too.

  6. Thank you.
    Like two worlds.

    It is now possible for me to think also of my spouse as part of my past life. not always but more frequently.

    And never easy.

    But nothing I think could ever be as hard as the last few years.

    My hope is that it gets easier. Healing takes time.

    I am thankful the healing has begun.


  7. It's so amazing when something that is too big to be contained by language is actually described so well. Never fails to blow me away. The "leaving the sci-fi movie for the real world" analogy finally made something I've been trying to express so much easier to describe. Thanks, friend.
    So proud of you, by the way.

  8. Chris,

    Thank you so much for yet another great blog. You have yet to write a post that I didn't find spot on. Thank you for sharing your well written thoughts--you have a gift for capturing so many raw emotions in just the right words. Know you are not alone. All the best--

  9. I already feel two worlds.
    My husband died three weeks ago.
    We were married for 37 years.
    We were still in love.
    I worry about this year and the next and the next.
    What do I have to look forward to?
    Yes, bills and garbage.