"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 said in an interview published in the March issue of Esquire. "Not the nurses. The patients. No one. And I've come all this way, and they won't let me see her."
Richardson suffered a severe head injury on March 16, 2009, while taking a skiing lesson at the Mont Tremblant Resort in Quebec, Canada. The 45-year-old actress initially seemed fine and refused medical attention, but hours later, she complained of a headache and was taken to a local hospital.
From there, she was transported to a hospital in Montreal, where her condition was upgraded to critical. Neeson arrived after rushing off the Toronto set of his movie "Chloe."
"And I'm looking past them, starting to push -- I'm like, 'F**k, I know my wife's back there someplace,'" he said. "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 continued. "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. And all these young doctors, who look all of 18 years of age, they tell me the worst. ... the worst."
From Montreal, Neeson flew with Richardson to New York City's Lenox Hill Hospital, where she died March 18.
Neeson told reporter Tom Chiarella that he coped by "running away some. Running away to work." He went back to filming "Chloe" almost immediately after his wife's funeral.
"I just think I was still in a bit of shock," he said. "But it's kind of a no-brainer to go back to that work. It's a wee bit of a blur, but I know the tragedy hadn't just really smacked me yet."
Since then, Neeson has also appeared in "The A-Team" and worked on a handful of other projects, including the upcoming film "Unknown." Neeson, 58, said training for physically grueling roles kept him sane.
"Listen, I know how old I am and that I'm just a shoulder injury from losing roles like the one in 'Taken' [his 2008 thriller]. So I stay with the training, I stay with the work. It's easy enough to plan jobs, to plan a lot of work," he said. "That's effective. But that's the weird thing about grief. 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."
Still, with their two sons and farmhouse in upstate New York, he's haunted by Richardson's death.
"It hits you in the middle of the night -- well, it hits me in the middle of the night," he said. "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."