One Mississippi, Two Mississippi

Since your wife died, how often have you been thoroughly confused by the kindness of women towards you? How often have you, even though you know it is wrong, thought there might be something there? I am not embarrassed to tell you that I had many such instances. For example, within a few months of my wife’s death:

· I went to pick up a grandchild at her daycare, and the owner (who knew of my loss) gave me a big welcoming smile and hug… and I was confused!

· I visited with my lawyer to revise my will, and she was empathetic to me, and I was confused!

· My dental hygienist (half my age) and I empathized with each other over our losses, and I was in love!

· A female greeter at the church repeatedly smiled at me and engaged in light conversation with me, and I asked her out! She was married!

And there were more instances of similar engagements and reactions. Why do we act this way? Why do we have no clue at all after our wives pass about how to interact with other women? How can we learn again how to filter thoughts that should stay in our heads before they are expressed in words or actions?

After our loss, our social filters are all messed up. These painstakingly developed filters tell us how to interpret the world around us. They tell us when to speak up and when to keep quiet, and they help us to navigate our complex human world. Filters that are particularly weak after losing your wife can include:

· Social filters – such things as what is appropriate and what is not appropriate to say out loud in the company of others, especially women… or how to react to perceived signals from others.

· Emotional – those inbred and learned behavioral filters that help us to interpret our emotional reactions to people and events around us… or how to interpret signals from others, particularly women. This can also include our ability to control our anger, anxiety, and fear.

· Intellectual – those “thought” filters that help you to not blurt out remarks that are not well thought through, that are based upon false or biased information, or that are just trying to fill the gap in conversations.

To illustrate this state of mind, I remember a wonderful skit in the Big Bang Theory comedy series in which Billy Bob Thornton erroneously interprets signals from almost every woman he meets. If they touch him in an innocent gesture (think hand on shoulder) for as long as it takes him to say, “One Mississippi, Two Mississippi,” he takes it as a sign that they are into him.

When I saw the show, I immediately recognized myself in my then messed up mental state. Billy Bob Thornton’s character carried this to comedic extremes and did not recognize the absurdity of his actions until two of the show’s female characters (Penny and Amy) confronted him about it.

Just like Billy Bob, every time a good-looking woman smiled at me, gave me a hug, or showed empathy to me… I was wondering if they liked me in a way which might lead to a relationship. This, often erroneous, thinking was further complicated by my erratic emotional and intellectual filters as well.

After speaking with my grief counselor, I learned to confront this thinking head on and to gradually rebuild my filters to the point where I was able to once again interact with women with more confidence that I was reading their signals (or non-signals) more correctly. It took months to regain this control so that I could reengage fully without fear of making fatally embarrassing errors.

So, if you find yourself in a similar situation, know that acknowledging the issue is half the battle. Then you can turn your attention to dealing with it, instead of sitting there condemning yourself every time you commit a faux pas. Know that this is not something to condemn yourself for, just something else we have to “address” as we move forward in our healing process.

© Copyright 2019 Fred Colby

All rights reserved

——————————————————————————Fred Colby is the author of Widower to Widower, which is available on You can find Fred’s column appearing here on WSN-MO every other Tuesday. Widower to Widower is available through your local bookstore, my website, and Amazon. Buy Widower to Widower through Amazon. (If living in Canada go to Widower to Widower – Amazon-Canada) See Testimonies and Reviews of Widower to Widower. Website: Fred Colby, Author

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