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Lack of meaning -- the world is unreal to me now

Discussion in 'Spiritual Growth & Development' started by bluebird, Jul 9, 2014.

  1. bluebird

    bluebird Major Contributor

    I'm sure I've mentioned this in other posts, but I wanted to specifically explain/clarify, and see if anyone else feels or ever has felt similarly.

    When my husband died, for me the universe shattered, became unreal. I know that the world, people, countries, etc., actually still do exist, but they don't mean anything to me anymore. It's like living in a Salvador Dali painting, or a nightmare, or a horror movie -- literally, nothing is right anymore, for me. Without my husband in the world, the world holds no meaning for me, my life holds no meaning for me, nothing holds any meaning for me. It's as if everything has become a cardboard cutout of itself, and i'm the only one who notices. Other people go about their lives as if nothing has changed, and I understand that for them that is the case, but for me everything has changed -- the world has tilted off its axis and fallen into a black hole. Not "just" my husband's death feels this way, though of course that is the most important thing and the cause of all this, but everything feels and is wrong to me now -- basically, existence is not what I thought it was -- the nature of life, the nature of god, the nature of everything is not what I thought it was. My entire understanding and perception were apparently wrong. My relationships to anyone and anything are not what they were -- I love my family, but I cannot spend much time with them, I cannot relate to them. If I cannot spend my time with my husband, i would rather be alone than be with anyone else ever, even my family whom I love. I cannot stand to have anyone hug or touch me, either -- if my husband cannot hug and touch me, then no one can or should. My husband's death has destroyed everything for me, because I love and miss him so much, but also because him dying when he did blew up my conception of reality, existence, life.

    I hope I've explained that well enough to show what I mean -- it's a difficult thing to explain.

    So. Has anyone else had this nightmare shift in perception because of the death of a loved one?
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2014
  2. LunaKat

    LunaKat New Member

    Hi Bluebird,

    I used to come here years ago and just came back. I know this feeling you are talking about. For me it was most intense like that right after the death. This feeling has happened to me with nearly every death I've had to go through whether people or pets. I'd look around and see happy people and thought, how could they be so happy? My whole world has shattered, the one I love is gone. It felt surreal and horrible. It was like looking at the world and not being part of it anymore. It felt so utterly fake.

    I don't know whether that is a psychological mechanism that takes over and part of us is in a state where we are so numb or what. For me coming out of that was very slow. The only thing that I can honestly say ever pulled me out of it was keeping them alive in my mind. Talking to them (not outloud where people would think I was crazy) as if they were still around. Mostly during the day when I'm by myself or at night before sleep. I know that sounds a little nutty. But within after death communication field it is said that they hear our thoughts. That we can direct our thoughts or our love to them and they hear it. The only way out of that surreal place you're describing was telling myself, they aren't here physically but spiritually they can and do hear me and we can still share love. When I send them love, I honestly and truly feel it coming back to me. I can explain more about that if you want. I had to kind of erase death in my mind. I had to erase that they were gone forever. I had to get rid of what we are taught about death being final. That teaching that death is the end is what causes all the grief and misunderstanding. I had to not let death rob me of my relationship to them. I refused to let death do that to me.

    What does the most damage imo in death is that it can cause us to feel like the relationship is severed. That is what we are told in this world. If ever there was an illusion that is it. We're never taught how to get beyond that. And what in my experience hurt the most of all, was bottling up the emotion of love that I so very dearly wanted to express but couldn't because of this thing called "death." I had it inside but no where to let it out or express it. The healing was learning to express it anyway. Send it to them, send all the love and feel it coming back.

    I don't know if it will work for you or appeals to you. Only that its all I know and the only thing that saved me.
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2014
  3. I think this is a common aspect of grieving, actually. Remember Auden's poem about how the forest and the stars and the barking of dogs were all no longer needed?

    My friend Don was also a coworker, and that made work especially strange for me after he died. Being in a meeting with other people who had known him felt wrong, because how could we not be talking about him? Being in a meeting with people who hadn't known him felt strange, like how could they even work here when they hadn't known Don? (He was quite influential at our company). Working on projects that he had been involved with is still uncomfortable for me. A memorial service for him was held in our company's main conference room. Five years later, it seems weird to me to go to a regular meeting in that room, even though I do it every few weeks.

    And the worst is going out with Don's husband, Ron, especially now that Ron is dating someone new. I'm happy that Ron has got on with his life, and I know that Don wanted that to happen. Ron's new boyfriend is a nice guy. But I keep having to suppress a little part of me that hates the new guy for not being Don.

    These effects are much smaller than what you describe, but I think it's the same type of thing.

    I wonder, though, have you experienced many other deaths of people close to you in your life? Because I have found that as I get older, and more people come and go from my life -- through death or just in general -- it does get easier. When I was 14 and my grandma died it was in some way more traumatic than any death since, just because I had not experienced a person being alive and then simply gone. Every death since then has its own degree of sadness based on my relationship to the deceased, but the idea that this can happen, that it happens on a regular basis, that it happens to all of us, is no longer in itself so traumatic.

    I also wonder how your concept of reality, the purpose of life, etc. in an intellectual sense, could change because of this event. You're a middle-aged person, and a thoughtful person, so you already knew that many people die in untimely and tragic ways, even if it hadn't happened to you personally. Did your understanding of reality not account for this? If, five or ten years ago, you had met someone who lost a beloved spouse tragically early, what would you have said to that person?
  4. janef

    janef Moderator

    Concept of reality does change when there is a mental condition/disorder. This can occur from severe trauma or stress. I can relate to the "unreal feelings" when I had a major depression and dissociation disorder. Everything seemed unreal. Only medication and therapy can help.
  5. bluebird

    bluebird Major Contributor

    Thank you for answering, LunaKat.

    For me it was slightly more intense right after my husband died, but lets say it was 100% then, it's still at least 95% now. At least a few times a day I suddenly think "He died, he isn't coming back, I don't know if he's ok, this isn't real", or some variation on that. I had this feeling when our little female cat died a few years ago, too, but not to this same extent (coincidentally, hers was a completely unexpected death as well).

    You said "I'd look around and see happy people and thought, how could they be so happy? My whole world has shattered, the one I love is gone. It felt surreal and horrible. It was like looking at the world and not being part of it anymore. It felt so utterly fake." Yep, that's exactly what it's like for me.

    I can't say that I'm numb, really. I was at first, off and on -- I kind of switched haphazardly between screaming/crying and sitting numb (with the help of Xanax). I was in shock, and I think I probably am still in shock and always will be, but it's as if barbed wire was wrapped around my soul when my husband died, and it was incredibly painful, and in the time since he died it has worked its way into my skin and is still incredibly painful and completely a part of me, rubbing and ripping me all the time.

    I appreciate you sharing that what pulled you out of it was keeping your loved ones alive in your mind. I can't do that. I mean, I need him to TRULY exist, and I need to know that he does. And dammit, I really need him to still be here with my physically, too. Just remembering him isn't enough for me, and I don't have faith in an afterlife so I don't know if he still exists there. I talk to him, but it doesn't help me. If I knew he still existed and could hear me it might help, I don't know. Anyway, it doesn't sound nutty to me that you speak to your dead loved ones, and i'm glad it helps you. I guess my lack of faith just keeps it from helping me. It's not that I do believe death is final, i just don't know either way. I hope it isn't. I am just not strong enough to do this.

    You said "What does the most damage imo in death is that it can cause us to feel like the relationship is severed." I agree with that, or at least that it is definitely one of the most damaging things. If there is an afterlife then i'm sure my husband is there and still loves me, but not knowing for sure is just killing me.

    In any case, I really do appreciate you sharing your experience with me. While I'm sorry you've been through this hell as well, it is a bit helpful to know i'm not the only one who feels this way. Thank you.
  6. bluebird

    bluebird Major Contributor

    Dammit, I typed out a long response, and my laptop ate it. Anyway...

    Thanks for answering, Celera. I have always liked that Auden poem, and even more so once my husband died. Oddly, Auden didn't actually write it about the death of a loved one, he wrote it satirically -- but poems often hold greater/different truths than only those intended by the poet, and this poem is definitely one of them. [If anyone is interested in reading the poem, you can do so here:

    I know what you mean about it being strange for you at work after Don died. I feel weird spending time with people who know my husband, because he should be there with us. But spending time with people who don't know him feels wrong, because they should know him. I spend all my time thinking about him, so how could they even be in the same room with me and not be thinking about him? I don't want to spend time in places where we were together, because he should be there with me. For example, it's hard for me to even go to the grocery store, because the night before our wedding we bought flowers from the floral dept. there to put on the tables at our reception (we had a very informal, rustic, outdoor wedding). But I don't want to spend time in places where we never were together either, because I don't want to be anywhere without him or anywhere he wasn't. I definitely don't want to go anywhere "fun", because I don't ever want to do those things without him (for example, we liked going to the Ren Faire, and did so for a number of years, but I can't go now, because I would only hate being there since he wouldn't be there with me as he should be).

    It must be strange for you to spend time with Ron, especially now that he's dating a new guy. Do you and Ron talk about Don? Does Ron's new boyfriend? I think it's normal for you to hate the new guy a little bit, no matter how great a guy he may be and no matter how well he may treat Ron.

    I have experiences a fair number of deaths in my family over the years, but while I loved those people in a general sense, I wasn't close to most of them. My paternal grandfather died long before I was born, so I never knew him. My other three grandparents, as well as my Dad's three older siblings, have all died, but while I was sad about their deaths, I was not devastated, and most of them lived to a ripe old age so their deaths weren't tragedies. The death of one of my Dad's brothers was particularly sad for me, as I was close to him and loved him quite a lot, and also because my Dad was very close to him and it affected him badly, so I felt badly for my Dad as well.

    None of those deaths have affected me the way my husband's death has, though. He is my heart, and when he died my heart was ripped out of me. I can't begin to explain how in love we have always been. Which is not to say we didn't have some separate interests, and we pursued them independently, but we both much preferred to spend time together, even if we were just sitting on the couch together reading our books. So not having him here with me has destroyed everything important in my life.

    I never thought my husband would die as young as he did. I never expected that. I thought that if there was a god it was probably a loving god, and would never allow that to happen. I was wrong, and so now I can't trust anything, can't trust any of my own perceptions or intuitions. I knew that people could die tragically and young, but NOT my beloved husband. I guess I was deluded, but that's how I felt. No, my understanding of reality did not in any way account for this.

    If I had met someone five or ten years ago who lost her/his spouse tragically, i'm not sure what I would have said to them. If we were close, probably something like "I'm so sorry; please let me know if there's anything I can do to help". If we weren't close, probably something like "I'm so sorry for your loss". I don't really know.
  7. LunaKat

    LunaKat New Member

    Hi Bluebird, you're very welcome --only wish it could of helped a little. And I'm so very sorry that you are going through this. The one thing I wanted to say about keeping them in my mind....it starts out that way but as I do it, the experience shifts into one where I feel the love coming back to me. Its the thing that makes me feel they aren't gone forever. I can go to this beautiful place in my mind (mine is very green and has a little river and places to sit) and we'll meet there. I invite whoever it is I wish to spend time with that crossed over, and for a short time we're together again. Imagination puts me in the scene where it can happen but then it develops on its own. That and doing little things like telling them something going on in my life and then sometimes seeing things fall into place more easily. Or little signs like I'll see their name, or favorite song comes on, or other things like that when I need it and I'll know they are around.

    I know it might not appeal to everyone. Its just the only thing I know. I wish I knew something that could help you. I'm sure your husband never would of wanted you to feel this way. I think it ok not to have faith in an afterlife. You're dealing with so much. I always say, I don't want faith. I want to know. Knowing is better than faith. So I try to keep open to things so that I can know. Open doesn't mean deciding really, its just being accessible. I'm like you Bluebird, I want to know and I think its fair for us to know...for all of us who have lost loved ones, we have a right to know. So we hang in together till we do :)
  8. bluebird

    bluebird Major Contributor

    Thank you for answering, janef.

    I don't think this feeling can only come when there is a mental condition or disorder, though my husband's death is a severe trauma, and admittedly I am completely and irrevocably depressed -- but I don't consider this particular depression to be a mental disorder, it is the only appropriate response to what has happened, as far as i'm concerned. But yes, everything does seem unreal. But medication/therapy wouldn't help with this, because, as I said, this depression is a completely appropriate response to my husband's death.
  9. LunaKat

    LunaKat New Member

    Bluebird I was reading what you wrote to Celera. Do you think you might have survivor guilt? I ask because it hit me when you were talking about not wanting to go places without him that you knew together, and then not wanting to go to new places because he should be there. Sometimes when we are grieving we can develop survivor guilt and we become unable to enjoy anything.
  10. bluebird

    bluebird Major Contributor

    I honestly don't think so, LunaKat. I know that my husband wants (if he is alive in an afterlife) or would want (if not) me to be happy, to enjoy my life. And I don't feel guilty for living, I simply don't want to be alive anymore. I am unable to enjoy anything because he isn't here with me to enjoy things, and because I am very, very depressed because he died.

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