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Short and Sweet Summary: The confusion that follows you around every day is part of learning to adjust to a new reality. It’s really freaking hard to go from one reality to another completely different reality and expect it to be a smooth transition. Living in a parallel universe is an unfortunate side effect of widowhood.

I live in a parallel universe. One is real the other isn’t.

In my real universe, my husband is dead. His brain tumor killed him one year after his diagnosis. I’m a widow raising our two boys. I work. My obligations as a solo parent are so overwhelming that no one other than solo parents can understand.

I have a boyfriend now and he reminds me so much of my husband it’s scary.

But, in my parallel universe, I’m still married. Our family is intact and we’re taking Disney vacations. I can transport us to Epcot and we’re sipping Sake at the Teppan Edo restaurant in Japan watching our chef stir-fry vegetables and make smoke come out of the onion stack. 

My parallel universe implodes into a searing mound of scorching ashes when I hear my younger son crying in his room that he misses his dad.

Dammit. I really thought I was in Epcot.

But I’m not.

I’m home and my husband is dead.

Two Universes Vying for My Attention

When we talk about widow brain, the confusing forgetfulness and lack of brain power that accompanies grief, we don’t take into account that our brain is trying to process our alternate realities. We think we have widow brain because we are grieving and grief brings a whole host of side effects with it. And while that’s certainly true, we’re also forgetful and confused because we’re trying to understand how we moved from one reality to another. How one day our family was intact and the next day it wasn’t. The current reality is so scary, confusing and painful, I retreat into a parallel universe where my husband is alive and we’re happy. I go there to give my mind a rest from its tumultuous daily activities.

I understand this universe. The one that doesn’t exist anymore.

But, my boyfriend is here in this universe. You know, the real one. When he strokes my leg with his calloused hands it reminds me he’s real and healthy and he doesn’t have a brain tumor.

This universe confuses me. How come I have a boyfriend when I’m married? Why am I kissing another man?

Dreams in My Parallel Universe

I had a very vivid dream one night in which my parallel universes were competing for my attention. It was night time and I was literally in the middle of a road with my husband, Mark, on one side and my boyfriend, Tom, on the other. I kept looking back and forth between the two and didn’t know which way to go. I was so happy to see Mark alive! But, I was also so happy to have found Tom. The pull to Tom’s side of the road was so strong. I couldn’t figure out why I kept inching closer to Tom, but that’s the way I was going. 

My dear sweet husband Mark, looked at me and said, “It’s OK. You can go.”

My dead husband gave me permission to get on with my life. He always wanted the best for me. And, in my parallel universe, he still does.

I had another dream where I was at a work plant and there was lots hustle and bustle and hi-lo’s milling about. Mark was alive in this dream as well and I had to tell him I was leaving him for Tom.

Mark didn’t get mad or upset. He just looked at me can if he knew this was coming. He tilted his head to the side and smiled at me. You know an I-can’t-be-mad-at-you kind of sympathy smile?

It worried me what everyone at work would think. What a rotten person I was for leaving my husband! Rain poured down outside as I tried to exit the building my boots got stuck in the mud. I couldn’t get my boots out of the muck. Mark opened the door and pulled me straight out of my boots back into the building. After he dragged me inside he gave me a kiss. Almost like he was stealing a kiss. I just wondered how he could be so nice to me after I told him I was leaving him?

And then I woke up.

It occurred to me that in my dreams where I’m literally stuck, whether it’s in the middle of a road or in the mud, Mark releases me. In my parallel universe, he’s still taking care of me.

What I’ve Learned in My Parallel Universe

I’ve learned that when I need a break from my current situation I can retreat to my parallel universe to relive what I’ve lost. I know it sounds morbid and probably a bit cuckoo, but I like to let my mind go back to when we were a smiling, happy family of four. I don’t ever want to forget that family. It was a great family.

I know it’s not my reality. I’m not bat-shit crazy. But, I often drift off into the universe where everything was perfect.

Until it wasn’t.

When I drift off into that perfect place I’m reminded that:

  1. I will love my husband forever in every universe.
  2. My grieving will continue as long as I’m breathing.
  3. I’m one of the lucky ones who was loved deeply and unconditionally. That love propels me every day.
  4. My husband watches over me and releases me when I can’t release myself.
  5. He would be so proud of me and what I’ve accomplished since his death.
  6. I can ask for his guidance when I need it. We might meet up in another dream in another place and time.

When my day-to-day shit gets too heavy, I just need a minute to pull myself together. That usually means wandering off to a forgiving place where things made sense.

Widow Wrap Up

The confusion that follows me around every day is part of my learning to adjust to a new reality. It’s really freaking hard to go from one reality to another completely different reality and expect it to be a smooth transition.

Existing in a parallel universe is part of being a widow. We have our world before death and our new world after death. If you find yourself in a parallel universe and wonder how you got there, just take a deep breath and have a look around. Pay attention to your surroundings and listen to messages.

If you don’t see anything or hear anything, ask for guidance.

When you’re stuck, you just might be released, too.