Grief and Loss: Death of a Partner

How Some Couples Dealt with the Loss of a Partner

The following three examples illustrate some of the unique challenges faced by people who lose partners when they are young.


When Grant died, Julia was devastated to have lost her best friend and partner. She felt tremendous sorrow about all the life experiences that he would miss out on. As she began to regain a foothold in the world she felt more and more out of sync with her friends and colleagues. They had begun buying condos and houses while Grant battled lung cancer. As Julia struggled with sadness and despair, they began having children. When she began to be interested in socializing, she thought of meeting for drinks and listening to music, while her friends’ interests had moved more in the direction of playgroups and children’s concerts. When they did include her in adult activities, her friends were always interested in pairing her up with an available man.


Gary and Miranda were high school sweethearts. They married young and she supported him while he went to medical school. At the time of his death in a car accident, Gary was a family practice resident. He and Miranda had been trying to conceive for four months. Although she felt intense sadness, she was used to being alone because of the demands of medical school on Gary. She began dating within a matter of months, but found that she was in a different place than her dates. Her interest was in having children. She had little interest in dating or prolonged exploration. She knew what she wanted. She was ready. But she couldn’t do it alone and none of the men she met were interested in moving quickly into marriage and parenthood.


When Maureen died of ovarian cancer at age 28, Frank found himself the sole parent of 2 children, ages 4 and 6. After the initial grief passed, his most meaningful time was spent immersed in being with his children. He barely got by, doing the minimum at work. In the shrinking amount of time he spent with his buddies, he had difficulty relating to their concerns about career achievement or their interest in sports.

Losing a partner when you are young has at least three added complications. It can:

  • jar you out of phase with your peers
  • put you in the position of facing a long life without your partner
  • with the passing of time, make it difficult for you to know who the lost partner might have become.

In “Moonlight Shadow” by Banana Yoshimototo, a young woman says good-bye to her first love who has died:

“I’ll never be able to be here again. As the minutes slide by, I move on. The flow of time is something I cannot stop. I haven’t a choice. I go… I earnestly pray that a trace of my girl-child self will always be with you.”

See our items with Questions and Solutions for Grief and Loss in the Circle of Life.

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