Liam Neeson: I Survived Natasha's Death by 'Running Away'

02/15/2011 at 06:30 PM EST

Natasha Richardson Death: How Liam Neeson Coped
Liam Neeson
At first, Liam Neeson didn't know how to cope with the grief that hit him after the death of his wife, Natasha Richardson.

"I think I survived by running away some. Running away to work," Neeson, 58, says in the March issue of Esquire, on newsstands Feb. 22.

But the distraction only helped for so long. "That's the weird thing about grief," he adds. "You can't prepare for it. You think you're gonna cry and get it over with. You make those plans, but they never work."

Nearly two years have passed since Richardson died at age 45 in a ski accident in Canada, and still, "It hits you in the middle of the night – well, it hits me in the middle of the night," says Neeson.



"I'm out walking. I'm feeling quite content. And it's like suddenly, boom. It's like you've just done that in your chest."

Neeson, 58, who next stars in the action thriller Unknown, also shares memories of the hours after Richardson's accident.

The Emergency Room

"I walked into the emergency – it's like 70, 80 people, broken arms, black eyes, all that – and for the first time in years, nobody recognizes me," he recalls. "Not the nurses. The patients. No one. And I've come all this way, and they won't let me see her. And I'm looking past them, starting to push – I'm like, 'F---, I know my wife's back there someplace."

"I pull out a cell phone, and a security guard comes up, starts saying, 'Sorry, sir, you can't use that in here,' and I'm about to ask him if he knew me, when he disappears to answer a phone call or something. So I went outside. It's freezing cold, and I thought: 'What am I gonna do? How am I going to get past the security?'

"And I see two nurses, ladies, having a cigarette," he continues. "I walk up, and luckily one of them recognizes me. And I'll tell you, I was so f---ing grateful – for the first time in I don't know how long – to be recognized. And this one, she says, 'Go in that back door there.' She points me to it. 'Make a left. She's in a room there.' So I get there, just in time."

From that moment, he said, his life changed.

"And all these young doctors, who look all of 18 years of age, they tell me the worst," Neeson says, pursing his lips. "The worst."

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