How Grief Distorts Time

Losing your love throws the earth off its axis. It fundamentally shifts your entire universe. Your whole world is ripped apart, the ground beneath your feet shaken so hard that you don’t even know how to stand anymore. Losing your love so early in life is beyond words… your past, present and future has vanished in the blink of an eye. There’s a seismic shift so beyond words that even time itself is reconfigured. It’s not only the earth that’s out of sync, you fall out of sync.

Time doesn’t move and flow in the same way after loss. We are used to time being linear but death rips time and space apart at the seams. You’re stuck in the moment it happened yet it feels like it was an entire lifetime ago… yesterday, yet five years. It’s so raw yet you’re sometimes unsure if it really happened at all. Two seconds ago, yet you’re frozen in time. A discrepancy starts to appear in the fabric of time for you… how does it feel like it just happened yet so long ago?

Grief lives in the everyday. It lives within us… becomes a part of our DNA. Grief isn’t a one-time event where we feel sad and recover, it’s not an anniversary or a funeral, it’s a whole-body experience and we carry it everywhere we go. Grief lives in the day-to-day missing of them, the vacuum their loss has created in our lives… so maybe this surreal feeling of time being changed grows out of that; the space between living grief every day and realising it has been years that you’ve been living with it. Grief lives in the moment their food is no longer in the fridge, the moment when we can’t text them at work, when their toothbrush is missing. Time and time again. Day after day. Grief is fluid, it moves and changes with us throughout life… it is so much more than the initial shock, it reverberates through every part of life, nothing is left untouched… even time itself.

You fall out of sync, out of time, out of belonging. When something as fundamental as time itself shifts… it’s hard to find your footing again in life. When my love died, I was 26. I’m now 31 and yet a lot of me still feels frozen in time, stuck at the age of 26. My life stood still for such a long time that even though the universe keeps moving, keeps unfolding at rapid pace… I’m stuck in the middle of the haze. You try to steady your feet, to find an equilibrium, but the fact is your life has changed, the core of your entire universe has altered. Grief even changes your basic senses. You won’t eat the same again, sleep the same again, breathe the same again. Your life becomes divided between before and after loss. You will regain a lot, as time moves forward your grief will too and it becomes intertwined within you but very much a part of you. We rebuild. We search for new foundations… but we also have to acknowledge that the foundations that grief destroyed weren’t just our home. Just like René Magritte’s painting… it was the universe that was thrown off its axis. We have to rebuild the sky, the clouds, the very stability that our world was built on.

I write this in the hope to not only speak to those who have lost their partner so you know you’re not alone… but for those close to us too. Many of our friends think we’re rebuilding a house, a home that was bulldozed.  We’re rebuilding the whole sky… from scratch.

(Picture – The Universe Unmasked, René Magritte)


20 thoughts on “How Grief Distorts Time

  1. That’s all so true, thanks for sharing makes me realise that what I’m feeling is normal. Was thinking that I was going mad with it all. One year in x

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I cannot thank you enough for how your words have validated me. My husband died suddenly. It was 11 years ago. Time moves along sideways and is defined by “before” and “after”. Everything you’ve written here makes sense in my world.


    1. Thank you so much Linda. I’m glad my words can hope you feel less alone in this grief, left alone with these thoughts can make us feel like we’re losing our minds but sadly it’s just the trauma of how huge this loss is xxx


  2. This is so well said. It’s what I’ve often tried desperately to express after my beloved died nearly fours ago. Thank you for this beautiful portrait of how our worlds have fractured and crumbled beneath us, above us, and within us.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you so much for your words. These are exactly how I feel. I lost my husband 23 days ago. It felt just like 5 minutes ago but at the same time it feels like eternity. I am just learning how to ride the waves ( of grief) . Today, I am barely above water.


    1. I just realised my comment is almost identical to yours. I’m sorry for you loss and everyone else’s here and that you are going through this.
      Look after yourself and stay as strong as you can.


  4. I read this article in an issue of WAY. My wife passed away just over a week ago and I’ve been thinking similar things, even though it is still raw, it feels like yesterday, a lifetime ago and that it hasn’t even happened and I don’t know what to do about all that.
    I wanted to thank you for the article. Take care.


  5. Hi, just wanted to say thanks for writing this. I lost my wife just under five months ago. People have gone from ‘How are you coping?’ to ‘how are you doing?’. It’s subtle but feels like they’ve assumed I’m beginning to move on now, when in actuality, I’m still waiting for her to walk through the door.


  6. “Many of our friends think we’re rebuilding a house, a home that was bulldozed. We’re rebuilding the whole sky… from scratch.”

    Exactly this. Thank you for articulating my grief experiences so well. You give words to that which I can never explain to others or even myself many times.


  7. OMG …..This explained Everything I feel ….wow
    I lost my best friend my world my hero my mom suddenly the Covid November 2020…. I see 3 counselors and I am completely numb and lost


  8. Just read this, very good piece, lots of things resonate with me. Lost my wife in October 2022. Struggling thru everyday just about


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