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Worried about Dying Alone? Read This Story

“You’ll die alone.” It is meant to be the ultimate scare story, powerful enough to frighten even those single people who dare to declare that they love their single lives. Back in the days of Bridget Jones’s Diary, Bridget put a witty spin on the the matter by announcing her fear that she would die alone “and be found three weeks later half-eaten by Alsatians.”

There is so much wrong with the “die-alone” threat. I’ve written about it, and so have guest bloggers, many times before (see the links at the end), so I won’t repeat all that. Instead, I’ll take a different approach this time.

Sometimes the most powerful critique is a real story from a real person’s life. Thanks to Kristin Noreen, we now have an amazing and moving story of a woman who died alone. Kristin posted it at a closed Facebook group and it really resonated. I asked Kristin if I could share it here, and I am so grateful that she agreed.

From Kristin Noreen:

This is for anyone who fears dying at home alone. It is about my friend Judi, my fellow volunteer at the animal shelter. Like me, Judi moved here alone and established a rich network of friends.

Her family was all out of state. She visited me when I was in the hospital and brought me gifts.

Judi didn’t show up for her volunteer shift on Thursday, and she didn’t answer her phone, so two staff members drove out to her home together. They suspected she’d died at home and wanted to be the ones who discovered her so they could handle it in a compassionate and dignified way.

Judi didn’t get found by neighbors tracking a smell, she was not eaten by her cat (volunteers are currently arguing over who gets to adopt Amber). She was missed by her friends and promptly found. I will be one of dozens of genuine mourners packing her memorial service.

Judi was not forgotten because she didn’t forget. Judi was not without friends, because she was a friend. She lived a great life and had a good death. She just went to bed in her home one night and didn’t wake up the next morning. It’s an exit to be envied.

I will miss my friend.

I love this story for busting the myth about the supposed tragedy of dying alone. Did you notice another myth that got upended along the way? That’s the one about how single women are “cat ladies” who live with a zillion cats and never see any actual humans. Judi, it is true, lived with a cat – one cat. Her cat was an important connection to other humans. Judi bonded with other animal lovers at the animal shelter, and they all – the humans and the cats – became important parts of each other’s lives. The humans who got to know Judi and Amber (the cat) were the ones who found Judi right away, mourned her, and cherished her.

Thanks again, Kristin.

By the way, Kristin has written several guest posts for this “Single at Heart” blog and now she has her own blog here at PsychCentral, “Hidden Disabilities.” Even if you do not have a hidden disability and you are not particularly interested in the topic, I think you will appreciate a lot of what Kristin has to say there. She is also the author of a terrific book, “On Silver Wings: A Life Reconstructed.”

 

Other writings on dying alone, mostly from this “Single at Heart” blog:

A contrarian’s view of dying alone: Guest post by ‘Think Again’

Dying alone is not a character flaw: Ann Neumann’s brilliant article in The Baffler

Who gets spooked by stories of older people dying alone?

The stunning appeal of a story about a man who died alone

My fear is that I won’t die alone!

Are you going to be an elder orphan? Part 1: The odds

Elder orphans, Part 2: What people are already doing to live well in later life

More about: Single people and their pets

Worried about Dying Alone? Read This Story

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard; Academic Affiliate, Psychological and Brain Sciences, UC Santa Barbara), an expert on single life, is the author of several books, including "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After" and "How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century." Her TEDx talk is "What no one ever told you about people who are single," https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyZysfafOAs. Dr. DePaulo has discussed singles and single life on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and her work has been described in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and magazines such as Time, Atlantic, the Week, More, the Nation, Business Week, AARP Magazine, and Newsweek. Dr. DePaulo is in her sixties. She has always been single and always will be. She is "single at heart" -- single is how she lives her best and most meaningful life. Visit her website at www.BellaDePaulo.com.


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APA Reference
DePaulo, B. (2018). Worried about Dying Alone? Read This Story. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 15, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/single-at-heart/2018/07/worried-about-dying-alone-read-this-story/

 

Last updated: 29 Jul 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 29 Jul 2018
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.