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".

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 am nearly obsessed by this for the five months since this shocking discovery.  Is there something wrong with me?

Tags: Grief, loss, lost, love, shock, sudden

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There is nothing wrong with you.  More than likely you are grieving for how the relationship could have been or should have been had things been different.  The loss is real.  This is normal.  

Regretting this is certainly part of it. The tragedy that Linda, this girl that I cared about so much for, met such a horrible fate at such a young age is the cause of the bulk of my grief. The fact that I went traveling through all those decades not knowing it amplifies my grief. But I do not understand why I am experiencing this level of grief over someone I have not seen in 48 years. It does not seem reasonable to me. Nixon was President the last time I saw her, to put it in perspective. That is so, so long ago..During these last 5 decades, when I thought she was just going through life like the rest of us,  I have not been preoccupied with her at all. It actually seems like I "moved on" during high school when I was in love with someone else. She is the one I was carrying a torch for for years after those days in school.  It was the instant I saw that she died 37 years ago that all those old feelings for her overwhelmed me. It seems clear there was some unfinished emotional business with her that I packed away 48 years ago. I don't understand this.

First loves are important, and clearly this girl/woman meant something to you, and still does. There is nothing wrong with you; you are a feeling human being, and you are sad at the loss of a person you loved.

I suspect, from what you've written and the way in which you've written it, that it was the not knowing, the not being aware of her situation, that has amplified your grief. 

My husband died when he was not in our home (my sister and BIL were with him, as they were playing a band gig together); I was not with them that day, and the fact that I did not know what happened when it happened still haunts me. I loved and love him more than anything in existence, and yet my soul did not feel it when his soul left this life. What the hell is wrong with me?  <--That's how I felt, and feel. I think it's possible that you are feeling a version of that, in connection with the death of your high school girlfriend.  You haven't been preoccupied with her in the intervening years since high school because you had no real reason to be, but the sudden knowledge of her death years ago has made you more strongly feel the connection you share(d) with her, and made you feel that sense of loss (on her behalf).

I may be wrong, but this is how what you've written strikes me, based on my own experience.  Whether I'm right or wrong, though, either way I don't think there's anything wrong with you or with your response to her death.  Everyone's grief response is different, and often unpredictable.  Feel what you feel, and get help with feeling it if you think it might help, but don't beat yourself up over feeling grief and loss, don't beat yourself up for caring.

Rob, hope you have been able to manage your grief. I too have had a similar experience. An ex from my younger days died last week but unlike your experience I knew of her life and lived close to her. I had always kept hope for a chance meeting at a local store or event but now that is forever gone and somehow the future seems empty.  

I am sorry for your loss John. It has been 1 year now since I discovered that Linda died. It is somewhat more manageable because I have reached the stage where I accept what happened. But it still hurts a lot.Your experience is very similar. The shock I experienced was mainly that I found out she died in 1983, 37 years ago. I don't know if it would have been "better" if I found out she died recently. The regret of never seeing her again is overwhelming. There is nothing worse in life than regrets. I understand what you mean when you say the future seems empty. We just have to focus on the people and relationships we have now.

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