Shocked finding out someone I loved died many years ago

Discussion in 'Grief in Common Updates, Questions & Answers' started by Rob67, May 15, 2020.

  1. Rob67

    Rob67 Well-Known Member

    Five months ago I found out that a girlfriend I had in high school, who I have had no contact with in the 48 years since graduation, died of cancer over 35 years ago at the age of 28. This is causing me such severe grief that I have to think there is something wrong with me. In all those decades I focused on the family I started, and have only thought about her very little, when some event reminds of "one of those times back in the day".
    The thought that she has been dead most of that time is killing me, even though she was never part of my adult life. It has been almost half a century since I have seen this girl (emphasize girl) who was 16 years ago when I last saw her. And I have been nearly obsessed by this for the five months since this shocking discovery. Is there something wrong with me?
  2. Rob67

    Rob67 Well-Known Member

    Feeling disappointed here. I don't have anyone to talk to about this. I just wanted a little feedback. That's all.
  3. ainie

    ainie Well-Known Member

    Hello Rob. You are grieving the loss of that early-in-life love. She obviously was in your heart forever. The fact that you haven't seen her doesn't erase that love. And it does not diminish your love for your family. Love multiplies- it doesn't divide. Allow yourself to grieve your loss.
  4. Rob67

    Rob67 Well-Known Member

    Thank you for your response. I very much appreciate it.

    It seems absurd that I would be grieving this deeply over a girl who I have not seen in almost 50 years, and was 16 years old at the time. I have only thought about her occasionally since then, mainly just hoping she was having a good life. The shock finding out that she has been dead most of that time, 36 years to be exact, at such a young age seems to have exposed an old wound. I did not realize that she enchanted me this much, and that she did, in fact, have a permanent space in my heart.

    After high school I wrapped my memories of her, along with most of my high school experience, in a nice pretty box and put it on the shelf. Over time that box ends up on a lower shelf, and then eventually ends up in the basement somewhere. As life goes on I did not really think very much her. Then suddenly the shock of finding out she has been dead all these years grabbed that box, reached in and slammed a picture of her right in front of me. All of my old feelings about her returned, as if I just saw her yesterday. It was all consuming, and then the overwhelming grief began.

    I don't know anything about Linda (the girl I loved) after high school. I would love to know anything. Anything at all. But I feel very awkward seeking information from other high school friends on Facebook, who experienced the sorrow of her death 36 years ago. I just don't know how to go about it.
    ainie likes this.
  5. ainie

    ainie Well-Known Member

    Hi Rob. It sounds like your love was always there. Maybe just like, I suspect, my love for Mike will always exist as I go on in life and learn to live without him. It has only been 8 months and I have already had brief times when he is not in my thoughts so with an almost 50 year absence of course she would be seldom on your mind. Our minds and our hearts don't run on the same concept of time.

    This Covid19 social distancing may give you an opportunity to seek out old friends from school who would have known her. I hear many saying that with staying at home much more they have heard from people they haven't talked to in years. I have gotten calls from some old friends I had lost track of. It was not at all awkward. I found it very pleasant to talk about old times.

    On the other hand you could make a specific call and straight out tell the person that you just heard about Linda's death and want to know more about her. I'm sure they would just think you were being thoughtful and then let it go.

    We all feel the need to say "Goodbye". Do you live near where you lived back then? Maybe visiting a special place for you two and talking out your feelings to her would help. Grief is a hard thing and everyone deals with it differently and that's a good thing as we are all different. There is no right or wrong to grief...someone you loved is gone and the loss hurts. Do feel your feelings and allow your heart to express the sadness.
  6. Rob67

    Rob67 Well-Known Member

    Unfortunately no. I moved 550 miles away.

    I think it would help me to move on if I knew something about her life after high school. I keep dwelling on that. I have tried researching her using Ancestry.com, and a number of other sites. I know she was married in Illinois in 1977, but I can find no record. Same with her birth record, and death record. Illinois' death record are not in the public domain. So I don't have much hope there. I do not have an exact date of death. It is as if she never existed. I can find a ton of imformation on myself and others I know using the same tools. It is really frustrating.

    I honestly don't know what I would really do with all that information. But somehow I know it would help me.
  7. ainie

    ainie Well-Known Member

    Did you have friends that you knew in common? Is there a high school reunion ahead? Do you have siblings that live "back there"? Reach out to people who knew her.

    I think the need to find a closing chapter is very understandable. Even with the relationship dormant for so long it would remain an open .... It would leave you wondering what the rest of the story was. A love from our formative years stays with us. Many reunite with a high school sweetheart if they divorce or become widowed. I wonder if maybe we are more ourselves in our teens before we learn to conform to what the world demands. Hoping you find some answers to help.
    Lori68 likes this.
  8. Sue M

    Sue M Well-Known Member

    I was searching about finding out years later someone important passed away and came across your post. I've been looking for my friend/ex on and off for years. Just last month I found out he passed in 2003 from an OD We were really close when I was a teenager. We were on different paths unfortunately. He ended up moving 2 blocks away from my house. I never knew it. I keep going thru all the What Ifs , what if I went and knocked on his door to reconnect, what if the last time I saw him I said more to him, it just keeps my mind filled. He was 29 when he passed away due to an OD. If they meant something to you at any point in your life, it will resurface and it sucks, but it shows how much they really meant to you, even if you didn't realize it at the time. I thought something was wrong with me to have this take such a toll on my emotions for a person I haven't seen in 30 years. I came across your post and realized its not wrong, our hearts just kept the feelings locked away so we could move on but will always be with us. It sucks it really does. I did find out where he was laid to rest, so I am going to visit him. I think it will help. Thank you for your post, it really did help me understand my feelings are ok :)

    Lori68 likes this.
  9. Rob67

    Rob67 Well-Known Member

    Hi Sue,
    I am sorry for your loss.

    It sounds like you are having the same angst that I have. In my case, the last time I saw Linda was 1972. She died in 1983 and I did not know it. I have learned that the time that has passed is not really relevant. It is the feelings you had for that person. It sounds that, like me, at some point in the past you had to sort of "encapsulate" all of your feelings and experiences toward that person and sort of compartmentalize them in order to move on. I also looked for Linda several times for the course of almost five decades.

    The discovery that they died was an extreme shock to our systems. One that will always remain with us . In my case, probably for the rest of my life. The discover that the world was suddenly not as we thought it was all these years and we were shattered the moment we found out the truth. Wishing we could go back and "do things over" and feelings of regret and sorrow all come with this I'm afraid.

    What I have learned in the 15 months since I discovered that Linda died 38 years ago is that what we are feeling is normal. It says we have hearts that care for others, not just ourselves. The time that has gone by, even multiply decades, does not make any difference. We cared for these people and always will.

    I am always available to talk.

  10. Sue M

    Sue M Well-Known Member

    Thank you Tim, and I am really sorry for your loss as well. Thank you for what you said, it does help. It is amazing to find someone that understands when you think its impossible that someone else thinks like yourself. I really appreciate it. It is like you can read my mind. You are 100% its about the feelings, not how much time. I really wanted to (at first when I found out) get in touch with his mom, since shes 2 blocks from my mom to let her know what I wonderful person he was , but decided against it. I had only met her a few times and its his mom, I dont want to bring up all those emotions for her again Again,
    Thank you! :)

  11. Rob67

    Rob67 Well-Known Member

    If having "normal feelings" meant time should matter I would be considered a basket case. Richard Nixon was President the last time I saw Linda. You might have to check the history books about that period of time.

    I am thinking that the secret of dealing with these daily feelings is to not try to feel like it should not be affecting you after such a long time. I am getting some relief in acknowledging that time does not matter and that my feelings are valid, but at the same time, putting my memory of her as having taken place in different reality (1972) than today. In doing so, cherishing her memory can be considered different than obsessing over her.

    The sorrow and loss we feel are genuine, and for me at least, is really the central issue. I lost a daughter 20 years ago so I can say from experience that this will fade somewhat over time. It will never be gone, but it helps you compartmentalize the whole situation so that the anguish is diminished and replaced with the love for that very special person in your life.

    The next step in grieving that we need to grasp is acceptance. Accepting that it has happened rather than the continuing feeling of anguish. I am not quite there yet, but I am working toward it.
  12. Sue M

    Sue M Well-Known Member

    I am so terribly sorry about your daughter. How wonderful you are though to be able to help others while going through everything you have gone through. Until you mentioned about replacing the anguish with love, I never thought about it that way. Sometimes I feel the need to think about everything so he knows he is still in someones mind. I just hate to think its been so long, people forget about others and that cannot happen. As long as we hold that special place for them and knowing its possible to see them again someday after this life, it helps a little. I hope you know you are helping me get thru this. Hopefully its helping you a little too by talking about it :)
    Lori68 likes this.
  13. Rob67

    Rob67 Well-Known Member

    It is incredible how we are going through the exact same experience. I also feel the need to think about Linda, as though I was communicating with her somehow. If I just "drop it", it would seem to me to be disrespectful. In my case I may well be the last one remembering her on this Earth. Her parents and the rest of her family are gone now. Those close to her at the time went through a some sorrow 38 years ago, but by now they probably have packed it away and think about her very little, if at all. So I sort of feel like I have a responsibility to cherish her memory. The keeper of the flame. And I also feel that our spirits will meet again.

    I am glad I am helping you. You are helping me as well. Just having someone to talk to provides much relief. I really can't talk to my wife about this. Linda was without a doubt the love of my life. It does not change my feelings for her. But I think it would be hurtful if she know that I was morning a girl from 50 years past. Going through this grief makes me feel so alone.
    Lori68 likes this.
  14. Sue M

    Sue M Well-Known Member

    I really feel I am talking with myself, you are right it is incredible how our feelings are so similar! Has she ever visited you in your dreams? 2 nights ago I did have a dream about him and we we walking holding hands and in the dream I was excited to be with him but somehow I knew he had been gone because I remember thinking in my dream, this is the time I can ask him everything I want to. That is all I remember of it, no conversation with him or any of the questions, but it did help knowing he did come visit. Have you gone to the cemetery or know where she is at? That may help to, to visit. I am going to visit in a couple weeks so hopefully I can get it all out and try to move on at least a little bit. Talking with you is the one silver lining out of all this. I try to also think of the Dr Suess quote... don't cry because it's over smile because it happened
    Lori68 likes this.
  15. Rob67

    Rob67 Well-Known Member

    I think I have dreamed about her, but unfortunately, I can never remember my dreams. Not even after I just wake up. But several times I have had the feeling I did because I would wake up and remember a short memory from 50 years ago. One thing I struggle with is that since it has been so long, so much of my experiences of her have been lost. I just can't remember as much of my experiences with her I would like.

    As far as visiting her at the cemetery, I believe she was cremated. I can't find it on the "Find A Grave" website, the old friend that attended her funeral does not recall a trip to the cemetery and a graveside service. Also, I remember a conversation with her in the fall of 1970 when we were discussing the funeral of one of my uncles that had just passed, where we both expressed our wished to never be "put in a box", and that we both preferred cremation. That is a a conversation I remember clearly. So I don't think I have the option to visit her at a cemetary. I am quite sure she expressed her wishes to be cremated, with is my wish as well.

    There is something very curative in talking about this with someone. I am thinking about going to some kind of grieving support group. And my conversation with you is a relief, where before I felt that I was grieving for an absurd reason. Grieving over someone I have not seen in 50 years, and who passed almost 40 years ago. But of course from my perspective the event happened just 15 months ago. I am sure there are many others going through the same thing.
    Lori68 likes this.
  16. Sue M

    Sue M Well-Known Member

    Its so nice I can relate to everything you say. Trying to remember the conversations too. Did you ever think if you think long and hard enough maybe you were wrong and they are still around. I think they visit in our dreams just to let us know they know we miss them. I realize I really didnt know much about his family, personal life, growing up, or much of anything. I was 16 when we met so maybe we just were not interested in any of that stuff. He was a "bad boy" I dont know what he did they never talked about exactly what they all did in the past but the last time I saw him he wanted me to hang out with him just being a friend which meant so much more than anything because I know he really cared about me as a person not just someone he dated if this is making any sense sorry, I start and go on and on . Maybe you can go to one of her favorite places since there isnt a cemetery and spend some time alone there to talk to her. I dont know what I would do without having you to talk to
    Lori68 likes this.
  17. Rob67

    Rob67 Well-Known Member

    When I think hard and long I tend to think about how I would do some things differently. I have never managed to achieve any level of disbelief. What happens is the certainty of her death and the associated sorrow comes back in full force.

    As far as going to those old, favorite places, I'm afraid that is no longer possible. I live over 500 miles away. And the home town has changed so much it is hard to navigate. Also, the high school we went to has been completely redesigned and rebuilt. If I were allowed to roam around in the building I doubt I would find much that would invoke any nostalgia. So any physical locations I could relate and associate to her are gone.
  18. Sue M

    Sue M Well-Known Member

    I used Google maps and navigated through the neighborhood we used to hang out in. It has changed alot too but the memories came back. Maybe you can try that. I reach for anything
  19. Rob67

    Rob67 Well-Known Member

    That is a major problem for me because those places no longer exist. Not even on Google map. For the last 2 decades, every time I came "home" for a visit, more and more changes were made. Old haunts are torn down and replaced. Even the home I lived in was torn down in favor of a new, larger house. And our house was built in 1962. It was not that old. The streets in my hometown have been torn up and rearranged. Hardly anything is the same.

    I have to rely solely on old pictures that I have of the school, the town, and of course, Linda. I find myself looking at pictures of Linda many times a day. It provides some instant "relief", but I think it is probably prolonging my grief. Maybe if I stopped looking at her pictures it would be a sign of acceptance of her death. But I just can't do that right now.
  20. Sue M

    Sue M Well-Known Member

    You are so fortunate to have pictures. We never took pictures. Im not sure why. I had his Great America pass til just last year and threw it away, not knowing he passed. I am so mad at myself for that. I even emailed Great America asking if they had old pass pictures, of course they didn't respond. I understand looking at pics could make it harder for you, but if need to look at them, you should. I went on vacation with my family and saw someone that reminded me of Mike, not sure if I even said his name on here. Same build, baseball cap backwards, around same age. Its weird I went on with my life without thinking of him for awhile, got divorced in 2000 wish I tried to look for him, but the internet wasn't what it is now. Someone he was friends with I found by asking on a group of the town if anyone remembered him, maybe you can try that, I was surprised 3 people responded. I hot to hear a few things I didnt know. They said they saw him in late 90s. he was very skinny , he was a bigger guy when I knew him and he was barely recognizable. That made me so sad. At least his pic from his pass is in my memory so I have that.