How to survive the loss of your spouse: for Peter Davis, who has lost his Linda Lou

by CynthiaYockey on July 18, 2013

Peter and Linda Lou Davis, of Resume Speed, Texas, circa 2003. Linda Lou passed away on June 26, 2013.

Peter and Linda Lou Davis, of Resume Speed, Texas, circa 2003. Linda Lou passed away on June 26, 2013.

[If you can’t see the donation widget raising money to help Peter Davis, click here.]

My friend and favorite commenter, Peter Davis, of Shakey Pete’s Shootin’ Shack, lost his wife, Linda Lou on June 26 to pneumonia and MRSA. Over the last few years, Linda Lou had struggled with injuries from falls, broken bones, recovering from knee replacement surgery and infections, until infections finally claimed her life.

I hope my dear gentle readers will read their story below and donate to Peter by clicking the GoFundMe button above. The donation goal is $1500 with the hope that if he doesn’t need it to cover the costs of Linda Lou’s final care and cremation, or the skyrocketing costs of his own prescriptions, that he can use it to buy a much-needed new computer to stay in touch with family and friends. It’s not easy for Peter to do that by phone because he is hard of hearing, what with all those decades of shooting firearms. I’m hoping that for all the years of service to his country and in law enforcement protecting strangers, that strangers will thank him with a donation to express their gratitude and help him heal from his loss. (I have set up this GoFundMe account especially for Peter and all the proceeds will go to him.)

Peter is a Viet Nam war veteran and Texas sheriff’s deputy retired on disability and coping with Parkinson’s disease. Peter loves German shepherds — police dogs — and Linda Lou loved pugs, so they had both, until May, when Peter had to find a new home for his beloved Cochise Apache Princess because she was getting to be a bit much to handle with his Parkinson’s. Peter is left with Bingo T. Pug (formerly known as Lt. Commander Fatboy).

I lost my own life partner of over 20 years on Dec. 7, 2004, to complications of multiple sclerosis. So, for Peter, and everyone who is facing the loss of a spouse, or who is newly bereaved, here are a few things you may need to know about how to survive the loss of your spouse:

  1. No matter how much time you had to prepare for the loss of your spouse, you will feel like every nerve in your body has been torn when it finally happens. No one can tell you how long the feeling of being ripped and raw will last. Crying helps. So does laughing with loved ones about the good times you had. Sometimes the crying and laughing go together. Don’t expect to have a lot of energy — you are recovering from a wound.

2. Rescue Remedy, a Bach Flower Remedy, is a homeopathic remedy that soothes the shock and pain of grief. The liquid form is preserved in brandy, but it also is available in non-alcoholic currant-flavored pastilles. (I mailed four tins of the pastilles to Peter and he’s enjoying them.)

3. The second hardest time of the day is when you remember your loss as you are falling asleep.

4. The hardest time of the day is when you wake up. That’s because it is likely to be several months before you wake up remembering your spouse is gone. Until then, you will wake up thinking he or she is still there, and then you will remember and be bereaved all over again.

5. It is normal to be absolutely furious with your spouse for dying and leaving you. This is because the loss hurts, and for a lot of us, pain triggers anger. (Note to married persons putting off getting that lump/cough/mole/chest pain checked: your widows/widowers will be the angriest of all.)

6. It also is normal to be overwhelmed with guilt, especially if you were angry and/or frustrated with your spouse for not doing enough to prevent his or her own illness and death. This one is a good reason to see a bereavement counselor for at least a few sessions. People who were indeed neglectful don’t often feel guilty about it. But bereaved spouses who did their best and now are second-guessing themselves to shreds will benefit from the specifics about dying and bereavement that really good bereavement counselors can provide.

If that’s not affordable, then try writing a letter to your departed loved one using the love letter technique, which I learned from John Gray, of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus fame, before he was famous. Write one paragraph expressing each of the following emotions: anger; sorrow/hurt; fear; guilt/remorse; love, clarity, understanding, forgiveness, release, gratitude, happiness and/or joy. There’s a good example here, but do NOT follow that author’s advice to write a page for each of the five emotional states because most people get too tired to finish. If you don’t get to the final section of love and clarity, you will stay stuck in the negative emotions, so don’t clean house, instead, peel the onion. If you don’t clear everything with one letter, write another one. Just be aware that your healing process has its own schedule, which can’t be rushed, and you will heal quicker if you are patient with yourself.

7. There is no such thing as closure. Ignore people who think there is.

8. The loss of someone you love will always hurt. It hurts the most when it is new because then it fills your entire horizon. But if you let life carry you on, gradually, in a natural way, the loss becomes a part of your horizon, but not all of it. It will hurt whenever you put your attention on your loss, but most of the time, your mind and heart will be occupied in your present.

9. Wear your wedding ring as long as you want. The right time to take it off is when YOU are ready. (See “Monk” and “The Mentalist.”)

10. Peter reminds me at his blog that when anyone in recover hits a rough patch like the loss of a spouse, that’s the time to go to AA meetings again, if you’ve stopped, and even double up on going to meetings.

I asked Peter to tell me more about Linda Lou so I could write about her in this post, but I can’t do better than Peter’s reply:

Yes, I was Linda Lou’s third husband, she was my third wife. We met on Feb. 2, 1988, it was my turn to set up for the 6 PM [Alcoholics Anonymous] meeting. She showed up wearing clothes too light for the winter weather, homeless and about to lose her job at the Post Office, and you know how hard it is to lose a post office job. It’s kind of funny, the Employee Assistance guy at the P.O. was a casual sorta friend of mine, he told her to stay clear of me because I was (and am) a loner by nature and such men don’t stay sober. Linda Lou and I went to his funeral after he died of an OD.

Her elderly daddy had bought her a cheap motel room near her job and she was set to go into treatment, paid for by the USPS. We started dating shortly after Linda Lou got out of treatment. Not long after that she chased off the other women I was dating.

I was then sharing a house with another divorced guy, out of the edge of town. We called it Morality Manor.Well, what else would you call a house with two divorced guys? Linda Lou started spending nights once in a while, then weekends. So I gave her a drawer in my chesterdrawers, so she could have some clean underwear, and a little space in my closet.

It should have dawned on me that something was amiss when I noticed her new kitten was there, complete with litter box, but then, nobody ever accused me of being too bright. Then one morning I woke up and looked in my closet for something to wear and there was nothing there but her stuff. I stumbled out and got a cup of coffee and asked, “Ware my clothes?” The answer was something along the lines of, “You guys walk around in your underwear, so I moved your stuff in the hall closet.”

That’s when I knew I was in trouble. A few months later I was sitting around trying to read my newspaper and having my morning coffee when Linda Lou started in about how she’d feel better about herself if we were married and how her health insurance was so much better than mine and all those other advantages to being married. Well, I wanted to drink my coffee and read my paper so I said, “Yes, dear, anything you say.”

Well, she wanted to have a wedding anniversary that I couldn’t forget, so we got married on November 10, 1989, on the Marine Corps’ birthday.

We got married following the Friday night Birthday meeting in our old home [AA] group. As luck would have it that group met only a few blocks from where the Rolling Stones were having a big concert in the Cotton Bowl. So the preacher said, “I now pronounce you man and wife,” and ever since then I can’t get no satisfaction!

Linda loved to read. Some time shortly after we moved out here to Resume Speed, Texas, we discovered that the field mice kept invading our house. This was well after her cat went out and never came back, so Linda Lou went to the pet adoption at PetsMart to collect a cat to be a mouser. The cat scratched her, so, being Linda Lou, she brought home Bentley, who soon became Captain Fatbob, The Black Pug Of Doom. Thus began Linda Lou’s lifetime love of Pugs. I don’t think Linda Lou ever forgave me when Lieutenant Commander Fatboy (aka Bingo T. Pug) decided that he was my Pug.

Linda Lou was born in Topeka, Kansas. I, on the other hand, was born in northern California in a railroad town. My momma was an Okie, actually from Herrington, Kansas. She went out to California as a girl during the Dust Bowl. It is a family joke that I had to go clean to Texas to find a Kansas woman to marry.

Hope this helps, love, Peter

Peter wants me to add that Linda Lou was proud of staying clean and sober since her rehab in 1988. Linda Lou Davis was born on November 23, 1945, the daughter of Emit Elmer and Jesse Mae Henderson. She passed away on June 26, 2013, and in addition to Peter, she is survived by her sister, Martha Wilson, and her children from previous marriages: Andy Romero, Robin Corner, Michael Corner and Stephanie Rosnett. And, as Peter writes, Linda Lou was “Granny to nine hairy legged boys and two beautiful girls. Wife to a guy who never did deserve her.”

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