I Miss You

January 21 2019 | by

DEAR DR. POPCAK: I am a professional researcher at an American University. This is the fifth year since my wife Laura’s death. I loved her deeply, but she was taken away from me by lymphoblastic leukemia in just two months, leaving me with two wonderful sons who are now 7 and 15 years old. In these five long years I have been living as if suspended in an inner void, and I have tried to escape from it by devoting all my time and affection to my two children.

Two years ago I began a relationship with another woman, but after a while I grew tired of her, and the relationship ended. Laura ‘comes to visit me in my dreams’ almost every night, and I often have the impression that she is beside me. In the first year after her death I was counseled by a psychologist, but Laura is still very much alive in my heart.

Is the Lord, and Laura, trying to tell me that I should remain single?


To lose a spouse is a particularly painful trial and, despite what some people may tell you, there is no particular time period by which you are required to be “over it.” 

I can’t possibly tell you whether God wishes for you to marry again or not, but I can offer some thoughts about how you can begin to more clearly discern God’s plan for the next chapter of your life.

Most importantly, we need to begin with looking at what grief is and what it isn’t.  Most people think that grief is the process of “letting go.”  It isn’t.  Grief is the process of searching for healthy ways to remain connected to the person who has passed on. People often become stuck in an extended state of grieving when they feel trapped between the pressure of friends and family to “let go and move on” and the overwhelming—but perfectly understandable--guilt that comes from feeling that doing so would be a betrayal of the person who died and all the things we shared with them.


We often respond to this sense of “stuckness” (between the desire to ‘let go’ and the need to hold on) by developing an obsession with the person who has died.  We find ourselves constantly distracted by intrusive thoughts of the person. Rather than being a source of comfort and connection (as they are with healthy grief), these thoughts can be a source of torment and confusion.  We can feel as if we are being haunted. On the one hand, we wish these feelings would go away, but then we feel even guiltier, because thinking these thoughts can make us feel as if we wished the person would be dead and gone for good.  Of course, there is no part of us that really wants this, so we end up clinging to the grief even more intensely as a kind of penance for the perceived betrayal of our loved one’s memory.

The only way to resolve this experience of obsessional grief is to actively cultivate healthy ways to remain connected to your wife and to make her a healthy, positive part of your daily life.  The Christian has a particular advantage in this regard because we believe that those who sleep in Christ are more alive than we are (cf. Rom 14:9, 1Ptr 1:3). While death does represent an unnatural separation of body and soul, those who have died remain alive in Christ and anticipate the resurrection of the body at the end of the world.

You can begin this process by spending some regular time in prayerful reflection about what your wife’s life meant to you.  Take out your old photos and thank God for the good times you enjoyed together. Write down the most important things she taught you about yourself and about life.  Talk to Laura.  It isn’t crazy.  She is still part of your life and she still loves you. Pray for her soul. Ask her to pray for you and your sons.  Ask her advice about your daily decisions, including your struggle to know whether you are meant to marry again someday.  Don’t rush.  Take time to let this new phase of your relationship with Laura develop.  It may sound odd to think of it this way, but it is important to remember that, for the Christian, death is not merely part of life.  It is the next stage of our life in Christ. 

I don’t know if you will marry again or not. Although you are certainly not obliged to do so, there is nothing in our Catholic faith that would prevent you from finding love again. What I can say is that you won’t know what God—and Laura—wish for you and your children until you have resolved your grief, not by letting her go, but by finding healthy ways to make her a meaningful and life-giving part of your life moving forward.
For more ideas on discerning God’s path, check out my book, The Life God Wants You To Have.


Updated on January 21 2019