Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday, I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

When You Return

What if?

This post may strike you as strange, but I wonder about this now and then. I suspect that you wonder about the what-ifs in your life, too.

Two years after Evelyn died, I finally accepted the reality that she wasn’t coming back. Those of you who have lost people are nodding your heads. You understand. Everyone else is probably thinking, “It’s about time.”

I stopped expecting to see Ev come home after teaching, working at her desk, cooking in the kitchen, or smiling in bed when I woke up. I stopped hoping that it was all a nightmare, that someone had made a mistake and she wasn’t dead, she was just misplaced.

(photo first published in Modern Loss, http://modernloss.com/day-lovers-without-mine/)

Reluctantly, I began to create a new life. Now twelve years later, I wonder what would have happened if she had come back.


What if Ev had returned during the first three years? Not much would have changed. I lived in the same house, did the same job, and had the same schedule of activities. She could have stepped right back in and we would have continued from there.

AND YET, she may not have wanted to come back, if she had to add her new heart problem to her other physical ailments. She was already depressed and struggling to deal with the aches and pains she already had that wouldn’t clear up. But if the heart was causing the other pains, and the surgery had solved that, she might have been okay with the situation.


After three years, everything began to change. Her mother died, four of our friends relocated to L.A. I moved from California to Illinois, and I do different work. I also fell in love with Marcia and remarried. It would be tricky to have two wives. Over these years, I have learned a great deal about myself and about life because of grief.

What if Evelyn had come back but into my present? She would love to experience the changes because she had worked hard with me to communicate better. And if she brought with her all the insights that she had gained from wherever she had been, I would have been most curious.


A third scenario. What if Evelyn had survived and I went back in time from my present? With everything that I’ve done since then, all the ways that I have grown in wisdom and compassion, with being married to someone else, would I want to go back if I had to lose all this?

If we can dream the future into reality, can we dream reality into the past?

Related Post

Listening in Grief's Woods http://widowersgrief.blogspot.com/2010/07/listening-in-quiet-woods.html

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