My Grief Journey Continued...As I Suddenly Faced Growing Old Alone

I met Dave in 1993 when he asked me to dance. He was a cowboy and at 6’2”, I was intrigued. Plus, growing up I always loved westerns and dreamed of living on a farm so the attraction was not a stretch.




Of course, we had our issues just like any couple but I believed that this was the man I was going to spend the rest of my life with and we  would grow old together. I had been single since my divorce, over 10 years ago, so it took me a while to come around to getting married again. But this relationship was going to be forever and we decided to get married in September of 2006.

But in March of 2006, Dave got sick. It didn’t seem serious and it certainly not life threatening. He went to the doctor, was diagnosed with bronchitis and put on an antibiotic. It was the usual treatment, you know, “Take the medicine and if you are not better in 10 days come back.”

At the end of the 10 days, he was not better and he even admitted to me that he was feeling depressed which surprised me.

So I started getting ready to take him back to the doctor and then go to work…….because I had things to do. 

You see, I was busy. 

I was a workaholic. 

I worked long hours in Corporate America and had a high stress job

 with a large team of people. I didn’t learned the lesson from my Dad’s death; 

remember to appreciate the people in my life by spending more time with people than work. My need for busyness took my focus away from important relationships.

I had no idea what was about to happen and unfortunately, for many of us, this is typical. We never consider the possibility that we could lose a loved one so unexpectedly.  

As I was preparing to take Dave to the doctor, we had a brief conversation. I wish I could remember all that was said but I cannot. I had no idea it would be the last time Dave and I would talk. 

I left the room to gather my things for the day. Dave was getting dressed and then moments later, I found him collapsed on the bathroom floor.

I performed CPR.  I called 911. (sound familiar? My previous post about my Dad describes this same scene) Dave was already gone by the time I had gotten to him.  I could not, did not want to believe it. I was in shock. Unlike the death of my Dad, I didn’t see this one coming.  

I was not prepared. Why would I be?  He was young. We had plans. And in a split second my world once again would never be the same. 

I didn’t know what to do or how to move forward but I did know how to busy myself, once again. I knew how to do this really well. It was familiar and comfortable.  And even better, I didn’t have to feel the pain of loss or loneliness. There was absolutely no room for grief. 

I was getting stuck in my grief but I didn’t realize it yet.

There are Six Grief Myths and we all cling to different ones and many of them overlap one another, as mine did below.

  • Don’t Feel Bad - In trying to comfort us, we are told things like; “It will be okay.” Translate to “Don’t Feel feel bad.” Grief and loss are just darn hard & uncomfortable. But has anyone ever told you;  “Don’t feel good.” 

  • Grieve Alone - We know we make others feel uncomfortable when we are grieving so grievers tend to isolate themselves too much. (See “Don’t Feel Bad”) 

  • Be Strong For Others - We believe we have to take care of everyone else and that we don’t have the “luxury” of grieving. 

  • Replace The Loss - “It will be okay...at least you can another child..or “You are young and I’m sure you will remarry.” or “It’s okay, let’s get another puppy today!” All statements are mostly given to comfort grievers yet unknowingly prolongs or buries the pain. 

  • Give It Time - “Time heals all wounds” goes with “don’t feel bad.” It’s not just the passing of time but what we do with the time.

  • Keep Busy - We want to ignore the pain...

I’ve lived all the myths but my “favorites” or go tos are Keep Busy and Grieve Alone: 

KEEP BUSY / GIVE IT TIME

By this time I was an expert at keeping busy. I can now see that I was that classic “workaholic”; getting into work by 5:30am, not taking a lunch or any break during the day and not leaving until after 6pm. This became my substitute for sitting in the grief.  I would volunteer like crazy on the weekends and believed if I could just get through the “first year”, I would be better. I mean…”time heals all wounds”...right? So I created a routine of work, volunteer, prepare for the next week. Notice there was no fun.

I was stuck but I didn’t know it. I was so set in routines that I could not do anything outside of  them. It was easy to fool myself into thinking I was ok because in my mind I was living by functioning.

GRIEVE ALONE

A week after the funeral I went back to work because I was the boss, responsible for a team of over 20 people. I believed myth, the lie, that I could not cry or appear “weak” in front of my team. If I did need to cry I did it behind closed doors. 

I didn’t realize until later, they knew and wanted to be there for me. But I struggled for way too long (and sometimes still do, let’s be honest, this is a process) to let anyone be there for me. I thought I had to go it alone.

_____________

It has taken me many years to get “unstuck”. And it doesn’t happen overnight. A fairy Godmother or “Tooth Fairy” will not, no matter how much we, I, wished it could be true, come to us, wave a wand and make it all better. 

I will forever miss Dave and remember our time together. I have learned how to recover and heal from this huge loss in my life because my greatest fear was growing old alone. 

My Grie 13 years later, while I’m still alone, I am okay. I have a full life with friends, family and even dancing.

I was tired of being “stuck” and the clock was ticking. I decided something had to change. It’s that old saying, “When the pain of remaining the same outweighs the pain of making a change”...is when you get moving, get help. 

There is life after loss. 

It’s different. You have to decide to live it. 





GriefMichele Woodall