Before and After

Not long after my wife died, I started seeing a counselor. It was a good thing, I think. It was something I did off and on over the next few years.

I thought most of it was good. And helpful. But there were a few things I didn’t agree with.

One thing that always struck me was the phrase “starting a new chapter in your life.” I’m sure I’d heard that phrase before, but it seemed different now somehow. And the first time a counselor told me that, I thought about it for a long time. books

And what I finally realized was, that wasn’t accurate at all. Losing someone you love, someone close to you isn’t like starting a new chapter of your life.

It’s like starting a whole new book.

In a way, it’s like everything is the same. And yet, nothing is the same.

And I don’t mean the obvious: the person is gone, you miss that person.

To borrow a line from Vinnie in Pulp Fiction, “It’s the little differences.”

You don’t just go to the store to pick up a few things. You coordinate your shopping trips.

And you don’t pick up something that you know that person likes. And no one picks it up for you.

The smell of the house changes. (Yeah, I know, I know. I should clean more. No! I don’t mean it changes that way).

Things around the house that were important to your loved one? With time constraints and personal preferences, you kind of let those things go. And you find that you actually liked them after all.

Over the last few years, I have found myself looking back not at my life, but at my two lives. The life before my wife died, and the life after. I look back on the time before, it seems like that life was just a few weeks ago. Where did 10 years go?

But then I also look back over these past 10 years . . . Sometimes I feel bad about poor decisions I’ve made, or the many times I’ve come up short in parenting or careering or whatever-ing.

But other times I can’t help but feel a little proud of the person I’ve become. Of the way the kids have grown up, and the people they have become, and the bright futures before them. I sometimes marvel at some of the adversities we have overcome together.

A new chapter in our lives?


But when we encounter tragedy in our lives, all we can do is pray. Persevere. And retain the hope and strength to start a new book in our lives.



  6 comments for “Before and After

  1. July 31, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    This post made me teary…not only at the poignant sadness of those little things that changed, things I never thought about know I would miss, but also at your recognition and pride in who you have become.

    • August 4, 2014 at 11:46 am

      Thank you. I think it’s been a learning experience on my part. Some of those things you don’t really have time to notice, but then they kind of sneak up and surprise you.

      Thanks for reading. I hope you and your family had a good weekend.

  2. July 31, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    I felt a similar way after my divorce – it was way more than a new chapter. It was different place to live, losing some friends, wondering if I had to toss the good memories … We all have to find our way, and 6-10 years is what it seems to take to do so.

    It sounds like you’ve traveled well in circumstances you wouldn’t have chosen.

    • August 4, 2014 at 11:44 am

      Thank you, Sammy. And thank you for sharing. It is like a whole new life, isn’t it? And sometimes that’s hard to comprehend, and sometimes confusing.

      I hope you and your family had a good weekend.

  3. David Wood
    August 4, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    Mark, you helped me see part of death that I had not seen. I understand about somethings being important that you let go. I know Gail has changed me for the better. But I also know that when she is gone, even for just a week, this house is not the same. It is hard to imagine the change that her death might bring. Your comments remind me of so much in my own life that I too often take for granted. I loved hearing your heart. Thanks.

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