Did you watch Grey’s Anatomy last night?


Greys screenshot.pngI was watching and tweeting along with Shonda Rhimes and @GreysABC

Meredith Grey (played by Ellen Pompeo)was explaining to Nathan Riggs (played by Martin Henderson) why she couldn’t date him.

“I’m married!” she said.

Twitter lit up with emotional comments from followers. 

As a widow myself, I remember the day I realized that in my head and heart I was still married. Married to a dead man. I knew he was gone but I had let go of the marriage. It was, as Riggs told Meredith later in the episode, time to let go.

 Here’s an excerpt from my book, Building A Life You Love After Losing the Love of Your Life. (Copyright 2016, Myra McElhaney)

 Book coverChapter 9: Married to a Dead Person

            Two years after my husband died, his mother lost her husband. A few days after his funeral she asked me to help her look over some paperwork from insurance companies, social security, and other stuff. I picked up a piece of paper requiring a signature stating that “the marriage ended in death.”

            The marriage ended in death. The words were a punch to the gut. I re-read them several times thinking of my own marriage. The marriage ended. Yes, I knew that my husband had died. I knew that we’d married “until death do us part.” I knew that my legal marital status was no longer “married,” it was now “widowed.” Yet until that moment I did not fully and completely feel what it meant that my marriage had ended. Up until that moment I’d been married to a dead man. I had let go of him being around but I had not let go of our marriage.

            I once read the memoir of a well-known woman who had lost her son. In talking about it she said that she had been his mother and that since he was gone she was mother to his memory. She talked about creating a memorial to him, about visiting the grave daily and talking to him and about doing things in remembrance of him to keep his memory alive. After seeing the words, “ . . . the marriage ended in death” I realized that I’d been doing that too.

            In the first year there is so much to do after the funeral—handling probate, changing names on accounts, transferring car titles, and other tasks that are about losing a husband. I was sort of like a trailing spouse. Often when corporate executives get transferred they move on to temporary housing at the new location to start the job. The spouse, usually the wife, stays back at the old house to get the kids through the end of the school year, ready the house to sell, oversee the sale of the house, and close accounts for utilities and other services. At the same time she’s looking for a new house, preparing for new schools, and opening new accounts in the new location. And all this before moving day.

            Handling the paperwork associated with someone dying and taking over all the stuff Phil had handled, like managing our investments and overseeing the lawn care and home maintenance, seemed like a full-time job. Without him there to guide me I had to figure out a lot of things on my own. There was a big learning curve. Still, it felt temporary. Like I was getting things ready to go be with him.

            You often hear of couples, especially older couples, where one dies shortly after the other. When Dana Reeve, wife of actor Christopher Reeve, died in 2006 I remember thinking that she’d gone one to be with him. You’ll recall, he became a quadriplegic after an accident in an equestrian competition. For nine years she was the face of love and strength beside him as he lobbied for causes related to spinal cord injuries and stem cell research. They started the Christopher Reeve Foundation and were involved in various projects bringing attention and funding to find new treatments for paralysis. She was diagnosed with lung cancer less than a year after he died and within eighteen months after he passed she was gone too.

            I truly did think that I’d die a few years after Phil. Believing we were soul mates, I just couldn’t see life without him and figured I’d follow him on to the other side quickly. My doctor must have been concerned about my health too. After my annual physical he sent me for various test including a heart scan. Hundreds of dollars later, they discovered I was simply overweight and middle-aged. Guess that won’t kill you. At least not quickly.

What about you? Did you, or do you still feel married after your loss? Do you know someone who’s still ‘married to a dead person?”


Myra McElhaney, writer and speaker is author of, Building A Life You Love After Losing the Love of Your Life available on Amazon.com. You can learn more at http://www.MyraMcElhaney.com


2 Responses to “Did you watch Grey’s Anatomy last night?”

  1. It’s been two years and I still feel married. I’m offended when men show interest but remember that legally I am “single”. I had to re-order my marriage certificate so it could say “Marriage ended in death”. That was a blow to my heart. I think I will be married to a dead man for a while to come..

  2. Slice of life, I totally understand. Seeing the words, “the marriage ended in death,” was what did me in! Afterward I wrote a letter to my late husband telling him that I know our marriage is over and it’s OK for me to date but that I’ll always love him. It’s been over 7 years for me now. I’ve dated a little and feel that I’m ready to be in a relationship when the right one comes along.

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