Happily Even After: Why Don't I Feel Better

In her book, Carole Brody Fleet discusses how to get through the grief of widowhood.

A woman about to get a massage

“My husband died [a few] years ago and I’m in more pain now than I was the first week after he died. I’ve remarried, but this pain won’t [go away].”

“I have been a widow for [several] years now and it is still very devastating.”

“I am just ‘going through the motions.’ It has been years and I still can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

“I feel like I’m going backwards. You think that in time it will get easier but it just ‘gets different.’”

“The first year was hard but I found the second and third years even worse. It seems like the longer they are gone, the more you miss them.”

Have you ever had any kind of dental work? Of course you have. What happens after the dentist is done drilling or pounding or extracting and that anesthetic starts to wear off? It hurts—a bunch!

One of the reasons that you may feel worse as time passes or as though you’re “going backward” is that the fog that we just talked about—the “anesthetic” that has cushioned you against the shock of your loss—has begun to wear off. Just as happens when that dental anesthetic begins to wear off, the anesthetic that has numbed you against your loss begins to wear off as life slowly begins to resume. The fog begins to lift and the pain becomes more acute—more real. Furthermore, things like legal and financial matters, transitioning your children into a life without Daddy, and returning to work can all serve to postpone the facing of your own grief, with which you may just now be starting to cope.


Another reason that you may be feeling your emotional pain even more acutely with the passage of time is that you did not allow yourself adequate time to heal initially. There is no shame in that of course, but as my mother used to tell me, “If you skip over any part of your life, at some point in time, you will go back to retrieve it.” This is what you may be experiencing now.

(This is also the explanation used to rationalize ninety-year-old men with bad comb-overs wearing diamond studs in their ears, shirts unbuttoned down to their navels with obligatory gold chains, and driving fire-engine-red sport cars).

For whatever reasons, at the time of your loss—whether it was too difficult for you to be alone; a friend or relative told you that you should be “over it” and you believed them; you busied yourself to distraction with work, children, or both—you were not permitted to truly grieve and accept that which had happened to you.

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Carole Brody Fleet
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