From Grief to Goodness, Bereaved Husband Making a Difference for Others in Wife's Memory
“If I can emotionally get through the next few minutes, it will be another chance to honor Dee. And if I don't get through the next few minutes, I will get “the look” one more time.” Said Ted Coyle to a crowded room of friends and family who gathered in the honor of his wife's passing.
Throughout the duration of the funeral on that day in August of 2021, Ted's goal was to ease the tension in the room, which he thought would be the best way to honor his late wife, Dee. While Ted maintained a positive persona throughout the funeral, he struggled with a significant amount of grief and the heavy effects of the loss of his soulmate. After forty-six years of marriage, Ted explained that Dee would not accept dark mourning, nor would she tolerate any moping. Imagining “the look” that Dee would sometimes give him, Ted knew in his heart that it was time to heal.
Beginning to heal through the tragic loss was by no means easy for Ted. Dee and Ted met at Stockton State College as undergraduates, where the two instantly knew they were soulmates. The two were married by their junior year of college, “We were kids, there was no doubt we were kids. We very quickly knew that we were the ones for each other.” Ted reflected as he held a photograph of Dee.
“I'm in a world that I didn't know existed,” Ted explained regarding the emotions of losing his wife to cancer. Dee was a passionate scholar; she was someone who devoted countless hours of her time studying various topics before sharing that material with her students. In her free time, Dee would volunteer at her church where she would work with Ted in youth and young adult ministry. Being compassionate and a great friend to the people that Dee encountered was of great value to her. Ted struggled to envision a life without Dee, who spent her life taking care of and encouraging others, but ultimately knew he would take on this role in her honor.
Ted watched her condition deteriorate over the time of her illness and started to grieve long before Dee passed away. Dee was a private person; she took care of others just as much as she took care of herself. However, as Dee's condition worsened, Ted realized she needed more care than he could provide. To his wife, Ted expressed that he needed help from others saying, “I made sure not to say, “This is what you need to do', rather I said, 'I need you to do this for me.”
Dee struggled to accept outside help, which caused Ted to devise a team of people who were close to Dee. This included their pastor, a trusted doctor, a trusted friend who was also a medical professional, and family. The family physician suggested the couple look into Angelic Health for assistance in palliative and hospice care. With the support of this team, Ted was able to comfortably assist Dee in her journey. After two months in palliative care and five days in hospice care, Dee passed away peacefully in Ted's arms.
After Dee's passing, Ted struggled with day-to-day responsibilities due to his grief. Noting a specific instance that helped him heal, “I was having a bad day and needed to go through scrapbook totes and was drawn to one specifically. I thought I had known the contents of the box to be pictures of our son, but when I opened it, it was every card that we had ever exchanged with one another. It was a time capsule of memories.” Ted expressed that going through these boxes felt very healing, he was able to reminisce on moments that the two shared with each other.
A friend of Ted's gifted him a journal and recommended he join a bereavement support group, which allows those who have lost a loved one to share their everyday struggles and advice with others who have experienced a similar loss. Ted joined a bereavement support group through Angelic Hospice led by Margaret Pancoast, a bereavement coordinator. Pancoast encouraged Ted to write, regardless of the content, and journal his daily thoughts.
“Ted's writings seem to revolve around honoring Dee and that's exactly what he is accomplishing when he puts his words and thoughts down on paper as well as sharing with others,” she explained. “He is in touch with his healing process and is helping both himself and others on this journey of grief and loss.”
“I forced myself to write, I was writing things that worked for me,” Ted said adding that for him to understand and explain complex things, he had previously learned how to boil them down to much smaller components. He wanted to use that ability to help him to understand how his wife's passing affected him, and to write about his grief journey in a way that would hopefully help bring some strength and encouragement to others. Through his writing he began to feel happy, sad, pain, and encouraged and more connected with his healing process.
Looking for a structured education on grief, Ted joined a local GriefShare Group lead by another Angelic Bereavement Coordinator Ken Jackson. During his time in the GriefShare, he experienced a deeper understanding of his grief, the healing process, and what will help others in their bereavement. “From my perspective, it is exciting to see Ted's progress of healing aided by paying attention to his grief and recording it to help others work through their loss,” said Jackson.
Since losing his wife, Ted had days that were very difficult to get through and other days that gave him peace. However, the thought of Dee never strayed from his mind as her presence was found in everyday occurrences. Writing has given him the chance to express the lessons he has learned about grief and healing and a platform to preserve his memories and emotions.
Currently, the Pittsgrove, NJ man is spending his days writing a book with the intent to assist others based on what he has learned. Like Dee, who spent her life educating and caring for others, Ted hopes his writing will have the same effect. He learned that even with a successful career, a wonderful family, and many positive memories with those he loves and cherishes, life cannot always be fun. Today, Ted Coyle is on a mission to help others by sharing his experience. And you can bet that Dee is right there with him, with a proud look that he is turning grief into goodness.