Catching glimpses of a loved one lost

Our wonderful Grief Support Services volunteer facilitator, Lynn (picture above, right), lost her partner Edmond (pictured above, left) to suicide, and now supports other loss survivors through our program.

The first time I saw Edmond after he died was a few months later.

Of course, it wasn’t really him. But seeing a doppelgänger of the person loved and lost is an experience most survivors have at least once. The wish to see that person again is so strong that sometimes we wish it into happening.

Some have been known to follow a person around a store. Some have seen “their” person on the subway, staring from behind sunglasses, even getting off at the wrong stop to keep watching as long as possible, unwilling to lose the loved one again. I’ve heard many stories.

Mine happened at a “farmstand” salad bar – one of those “World’s Biggest and Best!” types. In those early days, my mom would stop by the office to bring me out to lunch, trying to cheer me up, or perhaps just keeping an eye on me. Buying me food was something people did consistently after Edmond’s death. I understood – there wasn’t much else they could do. And everyone worried because I wasn’t eating.

Mom and I were standing in line when I heard his voice behind me, “How exactly do they police the salad bar? I mean, how would anyone even know?” He is referring to a handwritten sign I had not even noticed, “Children under the age of 12 are not allowed at the salad bar.”

Sign at salad bar reads "Children under the age of 12 not allowed at the salad bar. Thank you"

What I am struck by when I spin around to see who posed the question is that not only does he look like Edmond with his glasses and scruffy chin, but the ease of his friendly banter is uncanny. Same approximate height, age, muscular legs.

My mom keeps talking about salad but I am focused on him and him only. He pays and leaves before us – I’m anxious to follow. When we finally sit outside at the picnic tables, I scour the parking lot for him. It’s all I can think about.

I had waited for a long time for love. I’d put off relationships while raising my daughter alone. Edmond was unlike anyone else I had ever met. He was handsome, smart, witty, and (best of all) adored me. He loved me for all the reasons I wanted to be loved. I have been told this is rare, that I am lucky to have experienced it at all. But I wasn’t ready to lose him – it wasn’t a thing I knew could happen.

When I did lose him, suddenly, I kept talking to him every day for at least a year. There was almost nothing I wouldn’t have done to see him again, even just a glimpse.

Sometimes I wonder if my mind had exaggerated the resemblance. After all, my mom hadn’t seemed to notice. I went back to the salad bar at the same time on numerous occasions, hoping to see him again, but I never did. This kind of experience can be heartbreaking to a new survivor in particular.

Three years later, I’ve never forgotten the experience, but when I look back on it now, the pain is less sharp. When I look back now, I realize what a gift I was given.